If by socialism you mean the kind of world that officer’s kids enjoy, then I’m pretty much for it. It’s the kind of world I grew up in. Free health care, pretty good job security, cheap movies (that I could afford to attend every night in a row), swimming pools, bowling alleys, shooting ranges, craft shops, safe streets, and no private property to speak of. The toughest day on base was the day you “cleared quarters”, when a soldier with clipboard would come to your house and tell you whether you had to spend another day scrubbing the most out-of-way corners of your home so that it could be turned over to the next family. Of course, if you passed that dreaded inspection, you were off to see the world, living somewhere far away in quarters recently cleared.
So I have spent the better part of a day trying to figure out what is making me feel so anxious throughout my body as I think about the day the socialists got kicked out of Camp Casey Two, arrested actually for the crime of not having better relations with the camp’s organizers. Like me, some of these camp organizers have learned their socialism in ordinary places and have fully enjoyed the writings of great socialist thinkers such as Karl Marx.
In fact, the first place I found “the best of Karl Marx” was on my grandfather’s very short bookshelf, in his study at the back of that beloved home in Highland Park, Texas. His name was Russell Moses and I was named after him, although from an early age everybody decided it would be better if people used my middle name so as not to confuse me with him. But like I say, the bookshelf was very short, and right beside the Reader’s Digest anthologies, grandpa kept an anthology of Marx.
I don’t know how America got to be so juvenile since then, but there was a time when a Southern boy with one glass eye could go to West Point, get a good job in the Army, retire as a Colonel, dedicate his retirement to teaching, vote as a Lincoln Republican, and die in East Texas with a mind open enough to see that Marx is simply one of the best reads going. I mean, even if your only interest is quality writing, why would you not have some affection for good ol’ Karl right next to (because it’s never in) the best of Reader’s Digest. Too bad grandpa died before I finally re-read Marx more thoroughly. We might have had a quite wonderful chat about that. In terms of pure writing, I’d have asked grandpa if he’d ever read Adorno.
From the very beginning of the post 9/11 debacle, socialists have been quite reliable opponents of the Bush juggernaut. They predicted more or less where this was all heading, and they hit the streets early hollering about it. Some of my best sources of news these past years have come from lists organized by socialists. Moms of dead or endangered soldiers might find out they have more in common with socialists than they would otherwise think. So I hope the parties work something out. In terms of world history, America is sadly missing out on the great secret that socialism is a mainstream movement, adopted by base commanders everywhere as the best way for officer’s kids to be raised. Not to mention land grant universities such as my alma mater, Texas A&M.
Meanwhile, when Cindy Sheehan attempted to re-center herself at ground zero of a peace tornado that blew up overnight over the Texas prairie, she pointed our browsers to lewrockwell.com, which is not socialist but libertarian. In Texas, if a libertarian stands a far better chance than does a socialist of coming out and not getting beat up, it has nothing to do with anyone’s considered opinion of the issues. It’s just the way our contradictions work down here. But libertarians also have been pretty reliable opponents of the so-called war on terror and right up until Saturday, even in Texas, the libertarians and socialists have stood in solidarity against the extremist initiatives of the Bush administration. Now is not the time for either side to provoke a sectarian sideshow.
If the ISO would consider it, a simple compromise may be possible. Do your tabling on the county road at Camp Casey One. It is public property. You have as much right as anyone else to be there. Even libertarians must agree with that. Plus, you’ve worked as hard against the war as anyone and for just as long if not longer. Showcase your own veterans. If PETA could work something out in the middle of all these meat farms; then it can be done. And if you need a volunteer next weekend, give me a call and a ride from Austin. I’m not (nor have I ever been) a member of the ISO, but I’ve always enjoyed your book tables.
Now if you’ll just bear with me for another 860 words, I’d like to tell you about Saturday night under the big tent. The libertarians were there of course, and the Democrats, the carnivores and the vegans, I can’t imagine that some Republicans didn’t sneak their way in to find out how to keep their kids and partners from being killed. And if we must know, the radicals were there too, even long after the arrests, even if they were not pushing those sectarian newspapers that you see at nearly every public rally these days, yes Virginia, even in Texas.
Our homespun sage Steve Earle said at the end of the evening (and this much has been previously reported) that we have to do two things: proceed with respect for others, that’s number one. And second, we have to respect our own views of things by refusing to self-censor. In this age of emerging transparency, nobody hides for very long anyway. Why get caught trying?
And I think this need for raw honesty was the artistic motivation for why James McMurtry played his Oklahoma tom-tom song (the same one covered so well, so well on Ray Wylie Hubbard’s new CD). This just ain’t the time to sing like we’re living in Disneyland. Just as slick talk and censorship got us into this godawful butchery, raw talk is going to cut the path that gets us out. Under the listening tent, we have to put it just the way we feel.
On stage Saturday night under the listening tent, although I can’t find news of it anywhere, not even in the so-called alternative press, there was a long line of emissaries from military families, including Iraq veterans themselves, all of them bringing open messages from within the ranks of the military. Fight like hell to end this war! That’s what they want us to do for them. That’s what we have to do anyway. So there are a lot of people, them and us included, who we cannot afford to let down.
My personal favorite was Eddie Boyd who on Friday flew all the way down from Baltimore and who Sunday would be flying all the way back in order to try and keep his job. When they asked if anybody wanted to speak from stage he said hell yes I do, and he said it plain. He said:
“I was one of those guys who fell for the con. I was one of those guys who believed we were out to defend democracy and bring freedom to Iraq. Besides in the neighborhood where I come from, there were not too many options. Eight out of ten of my best friends back home died from a life of crime.” (Back in his neighborhood, kids weren’t treated like officer’s kids.) Eddie was at Camp Casey to support Sister Sheehan and he wanted us to know that there are lots of honest, hard working people who feel this war is insane.
“And do you want to know what terrorism is?” asked Eddie. “Terrorism is being the richest nation on earth and letting 43 million people go without health care. Terrorism is giving money to large corporations for contracts in Iraq while refusing to put money into schools and hospitals. In Baltimore cameras are watching you 24 hours a day, and they say they are protecting our rights. They say they’re fighting for your right to speak. But ever since this war started I got less and less rights. I’m pissed off at this administration.”
“Right over there,” says Eddie pointing next door. “Is a president on Va-Ca-Tion! We’ve got wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the Philippines and other places. And this man,” says Eddie pointing, “decides to go on vacation! Today the line must be drawn.”
“When I came back from Iraq my mom could not understand where I was. Yes, physically I was all right. But mentally and spiritually I was dead. If we love our kids so much why don’t we keep them from putting on uniforms?”
“And what about the female soldiers who get into the military and face sexual harassment and assault. Don’t they too deserve every right to live in peace? If you want to find a terrorist, look at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that’s where the terrorist lives! And we need to do something about it!” As I scribble to keep up best I can, I think, Eddie Boyd has earned the right to say these things, and he has already paid too high a price. Will he be able to keep his job after all in the land of the free?
I take notes on sheets of paper folded into eight squares, which is sixteen squares of notes per sheet, if you count both sides. What I have just reported from Eddie Boyd is three and a half squares of notes from a 24-square evening of speeches. And I’m not finding any of this stuff online. Socialists looking for something to do? Why not come here and listen? With all due respect for those who bring literature, there is a crying need in the world today to get the words spoken from this tent out. What do you think Marx would be doing out here? Reading or writing?
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: email@example.com