Tuesday, August 16, 2005

News from Crawford

I haven't gone to Crawford yet. I wanted to go as soon as I heard about Cindy Sheehan's vigil, but things have not worked out. Here are exerpts from a report from someone who is there.

Camp Casey started with Cindy’s lonely resolve but has blossomed into a spontaneous convergence of the “collective conscience.” Since the beginning of her vigil, thousands have come to join her, putting Camp Casey and the tiny Crawford Peace House on the map and in the national eye. Camp Casey itself is a strip of tents, memorials and non-profit group tables lining the side of a small country road about a mile from the Bush ranch. The Crawford Peace House sits about 4 miles away in downtown Crawford, where it has sat mostly unnoticed for the last several years.

Last week, the Peace House had $0 in the bank. The phone service had been disconnected. This week they not only have phones, they have wireless internet, DSL, and $85,000 in the bank, with which they plan to pay off the mortgage. It has become the staging area for Camp Casey operations, the welcome center for new arrivals, the donations drop-off, the telecommunications center and the media convergence area.

I met a woman yesterday who had driven, with her son, 17 hours from Ohio. A few hours later they were getting ready to make the long drove home again. “I have to be back to work on Monday,” she explained. Another woman told me Camp Casey has become sacred ground.” It feels like it, with rows of white crosses, crescents, and stars lining the side of the road, each bearing the name of a fallen soldier.

A Texas State Representative spends the entire day shuttling visitors between the Peace House and Camp Casey. Long-haired vegans chop buckets of vegetables in the tiny kitchen. A 10-year old girl works the crowd, surprisingly articulate as she patiently explains who Amy Goodman is and why everyone should sign the petition to get Democracy Now on the radio in Dallas.

An Argentinean man introduces himself to me. His son was killed inAfghanistan. Now this man travels the country speaking to high school classes, warning students of the realities of war and lies of military recruiters. He shows me a big card a class has sent to him. The students have written notes like, “you really opened my eyes,” “I will think twice about joining the military now,” and “Your son really is a hero because he inspired you to come here and speak to us.” “My wife,” he says, his eyes reddening, “She is devastated and only cries. But I...I have to do something.”

People smile and cry easily. They embrace strangers. The phone rings again. Someone wants to know how to get here from McGregor, Texas. It rings again. An artist specializing in aerial photography offers to create a shot of a huge human banner in a nearby field. It rings again. A female soldier is calling just to say, “Thank you.”

Come to Crawford. Come to soak up the optimism and the camaraderie. Come to pay your respects to the dead and your respects to the living. But don’t come empty-handed. Bring a case of toilet paper, a box of instant oatmeal, a stack of trash bags or a bag of breakfast bars. Bring your own ideas and your own optimism. Bring your belief that people working together are stronger than people standing alone. -----------Maia Thomas


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