War Breeds Stranger Bedfellows

It’s the wrong time of year for swooping Vs of migrating geese to be landing in Mobile. But that’s what it sounded like for three hours on Saturday afternoon, March 17 at a midtown Mobile park as a constant honking chorus of support sprang from passing cars. While thousands marched on the Pentagon that day, dozens of familiar faces from Citizens for Peace and the Mobile chapter of Veterans for Peace, plus several new folks, lined the perimeter of the park with a generally welcomed anti-war poster parade.

When W launched his war on Iraq four years ago, the air around this park was thick with hostility. Some drivers stopped in the street to scream curses and call us traitors. Now it appears the majority are traitors, although most of Alabama’s supposed representatives in congress continue to shuffle along in a zombie conga line behind their Pied Piper.

A year ago this same park was the first pause on a national Veterans for Peace march that began in downtown Mobile and ended in New Orleans. Their banners and buttons said: Every Bomb Dropped on Iraq Explodes Along the Gulf Coast. The march called on America to devote its talents and resources to rebuilding the hurricane wreckage instead of wrecking another country.

This year Veterans for Peace came to that park again. In mid-March a caravan began at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina en route to a volunteer rebuilding project in the zone still lying in ruins a year and a half after Katrina. They stopped at several military bases along the way.

After spending Saturday the 24th at civil rights history sites in Montgomery, they pulled into the Mobile park about noon on Sunday. The caravan comprised a motorcycle, several cars, and two painted busses: one festooned in American flag colors, the other in doves hovering around scenes and poems of peace.

The usual crew from Veterans and Citizens for Peace was there to greet them. Reinforced by the caravanistas, we lined the edge of the park with signs and received the usual response of honks, answered this time by rumbling basso blasts from the busses’ horns.

Then we shepherded the caravan through west Mobile’s mallville sector, giving agog shoppers something to contemplate besides bargain sales of shoddy merchandise. The destination was the Mobile office of Rep. Jo Bonner, where the caravan would picket with us for a couple hours before departing for their reconstruction project.

Bonner has fervently endorsed W’s every shifting explanation of the reasons for the Iraq war, every appropriation he desires, and every escalation that sends more soldiers to be maimed and killed-while claiming to Support the Troops. And he’s not inclined to meet with people who think otherwise.

Last July Citizens for Peace began calling his Mobile office requesting a meeting. But somehow he could never find time to talk about stopping a war, although his grinning face often appeared in the news convening with others throughout his district about all manner of other topics.

Then a couple weeks ago, after nine months of mulling whether he ought to speak with those he represents, his mental womb labored and brought forth a finger capable of dialing the president of Citizens for Peace. But he reached her on the job at a moment when she couldn’t halt to talk with him. So we didn’t know whether he was calling to offer an appointment or to fudge and dither further.

Besides, after waiting since July without a response from him, we’d already decided to go to his office with Veterans for Peace. Nobody would likely be inside on a Sunday, but we figured that didn’t matter, since he hadn’t met with us on any other days either.

We hoisted signs along the street in front of the office complex housing his suite. The bus horns echoed the familiar serenade from passing vehicles.

The picketers included Vivian Beckerle, who ran as the Democratic candidate against Bonner in the 2006 election and may do so again. Also present was a resident of a FEMA trailer from the swath of Katrina waste along the shore south of the city.

Her involvement with last years’ Mobile ­ New Orleans march by Veterans for Peace had brought her into contact with various local groups working on hurricane recovery and environmental issues. They later helped her gather materials and volunteers to begin rebuilding her ruined house. As a result of all these links, she left church early to join the others at Rep. Bonner’s office that Sunday.

Her individual story is an emblem of what’s happening statewide, slowly but steadily. As the war in Iraq continues and bulges toward Iran, as it consumes ever more lives and money, as local needs are neglected to nourish imperial urges, people who scarcely knew each other previously and rarely or never worked together are now doing so.

Their loose coalitions are coming together stitch by stitch. And the consequences of this are becoming evident in the political maneuvers at the capitol in Montgomery.

This is merely a trend, hardly a movement with momentum yet. But, like global warming, it could be inching toward a tipping point. Then the honkers driving by will stop and join the pickets.

We gathered into an irregular column and threaded through the complex to the locked door of Bonner’s dark quarters. The tinted glass of the door had a mail slot.

In went an Appeal for Redress brochure about the legal right of military personnel to convey their views to their representatives in congress. It calls for “the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

The slot was also wide enough for one hand to enter. In went a rolled up poster. By an act of prestidigitation the hand unrolled the poster and fluttered it face up to the floor. From outside its bold lettering was legible: DROP BONNER, NOT BOMBS.

DAVID UNDERHILL is a member of Citizens for Peace in Mobile, Alabama. He can be reached at drunderhill@yahoo.com






DAVID UNDERHILL lives in Mobile, Alabama. He can be reached at drunderhill@yahoo.com