You just never know how your day is gonna go; like last Monday, at o-dark-thirty, cruising down the interstate, straight into the belly of the beast. And that was just the start.
It all started with a weekend call from Fox News, asking if I’d take the liberal side in a debate on their morning show Fox and Friends. Innocent enough, except that the producer was looking to serve me up to their cave dwelling demographic as red meat, a Veterans for Peace member and co-sponsor of Bellingham, Washington’s GI Sanctuary City Movement.
It’s just good clean fun, you see, to gang up on a lefty over coffee. Taking the other side of the issue, our county GOP Chairwoman and Anne Coulter BFF – who ended up being a no-show, by the way.
I should have known better, but when the producer said they were going to pick me up in a limo and drive me to their Seattle studio, ninety minutes away, for a 3 minute gig – well – that sealed the deal.
My driver Mark showed up 15 minutes early and paid little attention to me at first. After all he had just taken a Seahawk home from the airport, and just who was this schmuck anyway? But he was curious, and cordial.
“What’ll you be doing at Fox?”
“Fox and Friends wanted to interview someone who supported the GI Sanctuary City Movement in Bellingham,” I said. “I’m a Veterans for Peace co-sponsor.” I waited…dead air. Sanctuary for AWOL soldiers after all is not the greatest icebreaker I could have used.
“You know I’m retired military…23 years. I don’t support not living up to a contract. Kids nowadays are always looking for the easy way out,” he emphasized.
“Well,” I said, “Mark, we gotta talk.” And we did just that. Beautiful, civil discourse between two Vets, from different wars, on totally different pages.
By the time we got in sight of the Emerald City’s shimmering skyline, I thought that we just might be reaching a consensus.
We spoke of lies, suicides, and walking wounded. Duty, honor, freedom, liberty. Multiple tours, homelessness, and stop-loss. Dirty bombs, WMD, and Saddam. My own son’s private, personal demons after two tours in Iraq.
After pulling up to the Plaza Building on 4th Avenue, Mark turned to me and said, “I can’t say that I totally agree with you, sir…it’s the contract thing.”
“I get it, Mark,” I said, now wondering why I hadn’t been prepping for the show.
“But maybe we’ve got to figure out a way to show those AWOL soldiers some…some…”
“Yeah, compassion…a little compassion. Good luck, brother. I’ll be right here when you’re done.”
An anticlimactic half hour later, I was heading home. No debate, no feeding frenzy, and no shout down coming from the missing right-winger – I like to think I scared her off. Just enough time for a couple of elevator speeches in support of GI Sanctuary to a national audience, and undoubtedly my last limo ride.
Towards the end of that long, long day, I found myself beside a 20-foot-long banner displaying NO SANCTUARY FOR TRAITORS in front of Bellingham’s Municipal Court, with Fox and Friends the hot topic among the flag-wavers.
“I don’t even think that guy on Fox this morning lives in Bellingham…I Googled him.” Another picketer, “He must be related to Karl Marx.” Another, “Just a VFP traitor.”
Not a good sign.
The public forum sponsored by the City Council, to discuss the pros and cons of a sanctuary ordinance, droned, and spewed, and jeered on for nearly four hours. And it was clear to me, after addressing this crowd of Rambo wannabees and peace-time soldier patriots through a cloud of testosterone, I wouldn’t be on any non-supporter’s Christmas card list.
Garrison caps, flags, Support America picket signs in full view; the shell-shocked movement supporters were easily outnumbered 4 to 1 – it might have been Custer’s Last Stand but this time the 7th Cav was going to win.
You’ve got to hand it to the GOP and wing-nut organizers though – an outstanding job of peeling off Bellingham’s veneer of Liberalism for good. This well-coordinated “shock and awe” campaign also scared the bajeezus out of some City Council members who failed to show, after a unanimous show of support two weeks earlier.
One councilman, a Vietnam veteran, refused to attend the meeting, saying he didn’t support the Sanctuary City idea and believed his presence would “add legitimacy” to the issue. Ah, yeah. Sounds like someone has to, well, let’s say “get over himself.”
One received an email – one email among dozens – indicating “something could happen” and kept a low profile. And I’m not talking profile in courage.
“If you vote unanimously to convene a public forum, you need to come and listen. That’s your job,” said Councilperson and VFP member Terry Bornemann, who held down the fort and took the heat to the bitter end, listening to both sides. What a bizarre concept.
The good news, once the dust settled, media bylines from all over the country, regardless of the spin, were accurate and, thank God, plentiful.
Bellingham A Sanctuary City For AWOL Soldiers? Tempers Flare
A Community Meeting Was Held At City Council Chambers For The Controversial Proposal
Fox TV Seattle, June 9, 2009
Washington State, both red and blue, was saturated – Spokane, Kennewick, Richland, Pasco; Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma.
Shouting disrupts Bellingham sanctuary meeting
Fort Mill Times, Fort Mill, SC, June 9, 2009
Fort Mills, South Carolina! Are you kidding me!
And don’t forget Raleigh-Durham; Missoula, Montana and Portland, Oregon.
The word got out, and in spite of all the slings and arrows and gnashing of teeth, it was a win-win. The Right got their last stand and the Left got their press. We’ll be back.
And you gotta love that Fox News.
GENE MARX is a Vietnam Vet and member of Veterans for Peace. He lives in Bellingham, Washington.