IN THE HEART OF CRAWFORD ----(page
THROW DOWN CHILI
How quickly a scene grows.
weeks or so ago, Cindy was essentially alone out here at the crossroads. Now,
even with her away, there are two Camp Caseys, tens of thousands of people have
come through, there's many hundreds camped here every day to show that her message
for Bush, to "Meet With Cindy," is from her but is also a message from
America - that the president ought to meet those who disagree with him, not just
play before those who agree with him.
of Bush supporters, a handful of counterdemonstrators have set up camps too. Lining
Prairie Chapel Road, are pro-Bush slogans "Get along home Cindy" til
you get to the crossroads.
Chapel Road, by the way, that's where the stand of 'Our Lady of the Ditch' is
felt most profoundly. Cindy's encampment awaits her return, dozens are camped
here, just off a triangular patch of grass that was declared 'off limits' by the
local authorities, essentially down in the ditch.
a mere handful of Bush supporters are here on any particular day, all over Crawford
you find anti-war vigils. Camped at the Peace House. In the ditch. And on a parcel
of property provided by a neighbor who took pity on them, an area of flatter land
but no shade, there's a huge tent erected there, big enough to handle three New
York Bar Mitzvahs or one big gathering of anti-war vigils.
course this is Texas, it seems tiny on the huge prairie horizon. But like I say
how quickly a scene grows. The media with nothing to do is there for Cindy and
despite the fact that Bush operatives have tried to expand her message and then
'git' her, and despite the fact that the normally effective smear and discrediting
plans have been put into vociferous action, she won't go away.
people come, they drop everything and leave their kitchens or their work.
main story here is Cindy, who has as they say 'put a face' on the opposition.
The main story here is mothers of fallen soldiers, the dead and the injured. The
main story here is soldiers who have yet to go, families of soldier, peace activists,
people compelled by the simple decency and sincerity of her question to come,
veterans of former wars who know better.
main story here is America standing with Cindy.
plant myself down in Cindy's ditch, holding signs and taking
those there. The Oregon wife. The Chicago veteran. The Arizona mystic The Iraqi
is a kind of a throw down chili. There are spinners, quilters and guitar pickers.
Poets, priests, politicians. There's a banner maker from Homer Alaska, she's brought
dozens of colorfully painted peace banners with her and has them on display.
the wife of an active duty soldier about to be deployed, all bravado and brass
along the side of the road, she confronts me to make sure I'm not one of 'them'.
After a moment though, that changes. She has accepted me into the group, and takes
me to a collage of photos of soldiers in Iraq. She points to a dead soldier, covered
in chalk-like dust.
can't look at those," she chokes, and falls into an inconsolable weeping.
I can't look at them either.
and who and who. There are conscientious objectors and Vietnam vets. There are
mothers whose sons have died and mothers whose sons are still living. There's
a woman from Lake George who had been following the story and just couldn't stand
by and let something like this happen. There's a former Russian orthodox priest
who worked soup kitchens from San Francisco to New York City, who sees this as
'a spiritual thing' (he's assigned to 'waste management' at the camp, on one morning
alone I help him shift more than 100 bags onto a trailer - it's one thing to attract
support, it's another to feed and clean up after it.)
Ann Wright, a 29 year Air Force veteran who is 'second in command'-ing the camp
in Cindy's absence. There's the 20 year old from Tulsa with a Celtic tattoo on
her chest to 'catch evil,' who just had to drive on down here - and on the way,
picked up two folk singers in Abilene." There are folk singers and playwrights
and poets. There's a Mama Cass class torch singer in a flowing purple dress.
The Pix To View
"Chappy's Sound Off"
a playwright from Venice Beach California with perfect hair, and a gal named Chappy,
a roaring performance poet from Austin who brings the crowd to their feet with
The Pix To View Rick Burnley's "Vampires of War" VidClip.
there's a bedraggled mystic ditch warrior from the woods of Arizona named Rick
who whispers his fourteen stanza poem - which he says he 'channeled' - in anybody's
ear, a surprising powerful cadence despite the sing-song and overt focus on the
authority of Jesus, somewhat odd in the ear of someone from secular 21st century
New York: 'the president has told us/that Jesus changed his heart/but if he's
really read the Bible,/it seems he's missed one part/I know he'll hate to hear
it/because it's a bitter pill/but the Bible's fifth commandment is/thou shalt
then there's the African-American mom, saying what many are saying - never mind
draft, this is poor people fighting a rich man's war. Her son was killed during
the invasion, the first from Georgia. 'Bush knows it was wrong," she says.
"We know it was wrong. The point is to get them out. My son died in a unit
that went the wrong way, the day Jessica Lynch was captured. It was supposed to
be a 41 day war.'
hasn't met with her yet.
stage a succession of individuals offer testimony to their anguish and their determination,
well into the dark hours of the night, the Texas plain giving back some of the
heat it has absorbed all day. Individuals whose lives have been moved, shaped,
altered or irrevocably bound up in the trauma of the war in Iraq.
is Jeff Keys, a Marine Lance Corporal who plays taps over the improvised graves
when the sun goes down.
told, it is a moving vigil. Simply stated, deeply felt, and
I retire to the
tent I have set up on the perimeter of Camp Casey (my sign: Peace. Poetry. Tent).
I've taken my turn at the podium, I've read and delivered my poem for Cindy. I
have shared poems from Poets Against the War to those who stopped to talk with
me, and poems sent to me by friends who want them read out. I've heard story after
story from those who could not fail to come to Crawford, as I have, and be part
of this thing Cindy Sheehan began.
tired, and hot, and dirty, and a tent is just the thing. At night
me and Texas again, Scorpio rising in the August heat. So quiet. I can hear a
horse neighing, a ranch or two away. I can hear some cows engaged in some flagrant
cow ecstasy. Silence conceals so much, reveals so much, and profiles much more.
A rooster crows
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