CAMP CASEY, TX (Aug 11)
Thursday is only a few minutes young, but Cindy Sheehan is already running late. Rumors are percolating that police will swoop into Camp Casey at midnight to arrest everyone, and she dare not be late for a date like that. So she says, “I really have to go now,” and takes her leave from the soft light and murmur of the Crawford Peace House lawn. Before she goes however she does have time to say that her fever is getting a little better.
Among the dozen or more activists who remain at the Peace House, Sandy sits on the front porch looking toward Cedar Rock Parkway, the two-lane highway that runs East-West. About 12:30, Sandy sees a cop car speeding West, then another at 12:37, but the rumors and signs add up to to zero as other activists ask, “did you see the cop cars at the convenience store?” Apparently the law enforcement professionals were speeding to their coffee break.
The wee hours of this August morning are pleasant enough for the Texans who gather in a tight cluster of chairs on the porch, occasionally brushing away a June bug or a fire ant. A tube of fire ant medication makes the circle, and Sandy’s companion Rusty sqeezes a modest glob of the gel onto his bare feet. The temperature is falling slowly through the 80s, but the humidity is stubbornly high as a threat of rain passes overhead.
Sitting next to Rusty in our clockwise review, Melvin is telling a story about how he was working for Dick Cheney’s company Brown and Root when they dropped a machine on him, crushing his body from jaw to pelvis. With cane in hand, he talks about his home in the oil patch of SouthEast Texas and how his mama don’t like Republicans either.
Mark Green, one-time Democrat candidate for Congress from the Fort Worth area, tells us that next time he runs for office he wants a party behind him, and that’s the focus of his activism these days. He tells us by the way that former Speaker of the House Jim Wright is still active as a teacher in the Fort Worth area. Thinking about the ethics investigation that resulted in Wright’s abrupt resignation from Congress in 1989 makes the 80s seem like the age of Scout’s Honor.
Pulling up a chair from the lawn to sit at the top of the porch steps, Tom likes to joke that he drove all the way from Portland. Portland, Texas, that is. Tom is the entrepreneur of magneticpeace.com the alternative choice for folks who want to wear yellow magnets on their cars, but who would prefer peace signs to ribbons. He’s looking for the owner of the car with the slogan written on the back window in wedding white shoe polish: “Jesus is Prince of Peace not God of War”, because the car sports one of his magnetic peace signs, too. He tells a real interesting story about trying to locate a manufacturer. The folks who make the yellow ribbons said they wouldn’t make those peace signs even if he paid them to. And you thought those yellow ribbons were not pro-war?
Dot from Dallas sits against the wall that divides the porch from an adjacent room, wearing her t-shirt from the Dean campaign. It was Howard Dean who kicked her into gear politically after seeing the man speak in Dallas during the summer of 2003. Green says he was there, too.
Dot’s turn to tell her story gets interrupted about one o’clock in the morning when up the short sidewalk from the highway walks a woman barely middle aged. She has just driven in from Iowa. Her son is a soldier stationed in California. She figures she has a year to stop the war before he completes his training. He wouldn’t like it that she’s here, “but we all have to do what we must,” she says softly.
A man and woman are walking up the sidewalk now. “This is a military spouse,” says the man to Peace House host Hadi. And Hadi takes the woman inside to her sleeping space. The man is “reservist turned activist” Tim Goodrich, one of the co-founders of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He wears an IVAW t-shirt and says, “it’s like a sauna out here.” Before too long he also takes his leave, opens the door to the Peace House, and turns in. After some time chatting the woman from Iowa enters the Peace House to get some sleep and I climb also into my bunk, the passenger seat of a Honda.
Easing the seat backward to catch a nap, I flip down the sun visors to see if they will block the light from the porch. Over my right shoulder to the East an amazing star shines so bright I think it must be a planet, maybe Mars. But no, John Walker’s website “Your Sky” informs me that my overnight companion is Altair, Southern anchor of the famed Southern Triangle. As Jim Kaler writes: “The Arabic name ‘Altair,’ reflective of the constellation itself, comes from a phrase meaning ‘the flying eagle.’ ” The star calls me out. I have to get up, stand in the middle of Cedar Rock Parkway and watch that eagle glisten. Tiny frogs sing in all directions.
Overnight the pilgrimmage to the Peace House continues. A delegation from Louisiana. A pair of travelers from Dallas. A peace movement comes together before my opening eyes.
As soon as the sky lightens up into the faintest shade of blue, I rummage the trunk for my toothbrush. Soon I’m back on the porch with my back to the front window, checking out a little animal carrier tucked underneath a chair. Out from the Peace House comes a man with a sign that he slides behind my back onto the window sill. “Expose the 9/11 Cover Up.” I move down a chair so that the sign might be read by others.
Turns out the little animal carrier came in with the Louisiana delegation carrying a 9-week-old kitten named Smudge. Leaping into a sprawling Rosemary bush, Smudge looks up at me with eyes of great adventure. And someone is placing a huge cup of coffee under my nose. “Here, please hold this,” says Cindy Sheehan before she scoops up Smudge kitty for a little face-to-face schmooze. And Sheehan introduces me to Smudge’s mommy, Annie who in turn tells me that the kitten has been with the family for about a week. I try to imagine this whole world as a nine-week-old kitten would see it, as Smudge leaps and pounces in the freshness of the day.
GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org