Sunday, August 28, 2005

LIVE from Crawford

I'm sitting in the big (nay, HUGE) tent at Camp Casey II on the outskirts of Crawford, Texas. Cindy Sheehan is somewhere around, although I haven't yet met her. Reverend Al Sharpton made a personal appearance to give his support on this 42nd anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C.

Our morning began with an ecumenical service, with speakers representing Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Moslem, Buddhist, and Unitarian beliefs, plus an outreach to people of no particular religious faith who also stand for peace, followed by Kaddish (traditional Jewish prayer of mourning for the dead) and Rev. Sharpton.

I got to speak with Nebeil Al-Uboudi, an Iraqi-American who was one of the two Muslim speakers. He was wearing a Houston Astros t-shirt, for his new hometown team, but he spoke of the values of peace and compassion that are at the root of his Islamic faith. Moslems believe that God commands them to respect people of other faiths. In the 15th century, a pretty dark period in European history, Jews found refuge in Moslem lands. Even today, non-Muslims can opt out of mandatory military service in many Islamic countries, although many choose to serve anyway. In Najaf, when the people went in to clean the bodies of the dead insurgents to prepare them for burial, they found many men who were not circumcised — they were Christians who fought alongside their fellow Iraqis against a foreign occupation.

A rabbi opened with a few observations about the commendation "Blessed are the peacemakers." The Protestant speaker, an ordained Presbyterian minister, echoed those words, adding that the Presbyterian Church has ruled the Iraq war to be illegal, as has the United Methodist Church, of which George W. Bush is a member. [In fact, Bush is still a member of Highland Park U.M.C. in Dallas, the very church in which I was confirmed three decades ago.] Next the Catholic priest spoke about the Church's commitment to peace and justice.

Yesterday, I spoke with Jeff Key, a United States Marine, in every respect the sort of Marine you'd expect to see on a recruiting commercial. I didn't have to ask how much he can bench press to tell you he's in excellent physical condition, but he's also a thoughtful, intelligent, patriotic American. When America does need defending, he's one of the people I want in the thick of things. Trouble is, he's gay, and he said so on CNN. He currently has "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" proceedings pending to kick him out with a dishonorable discharge. He is also getting vocal about his view that the Iraq war is the wrong war, being mismanaged by people who don't know what they're doing. Of course, what does Jeff Key know about the war in Iraq? After all, he just served there. He didn't fly in to carve turkey for Thanksgiving or stand on a stage in front of a black helicopter, he just wore a uniform and fought.

I also met up with some folks from Victoria, Texas, a town one county over from my mother's ancestral stomping grounds. It's about as "red" as "Bush Country" gets, with the few (shh!) Democrats mostly too intimidated to let their presence be known. There were two of them with a sign, though, so if you're a Democrat in Victoria County or the central coast area of Texas, I can tell you personally that you are not alone!

Last night, as things were beginning to wind down, a thunderstorm (a "blue Norther'" as we call them in these here parts) was lurking in the vicinity. After several hours of treating us to some spectacular lightning shows off in the distance, but otherwise leaving us to our barbecue and iced tea. Suddenly, the temperature dropped from almost 40° (104°F) to about 25° (77°F) and the wind kicked into high gear. Not Katrina gear, thank goodness, but high enough to knock over some of the smaller tents along the periphery of the big tent. People who had been sitting in post-brisket torpor leapt up to help batten the hatches. A lull in the wind came just at sundown, allowing for a moving "Taps" ceremony amidst the field of crosses representing the fallen soldiers of this war.

I claim on this blog that I am neither Left nor Right, but I'm decidedly opposed to the Right-wing extremists currently in power in the United States. Still, I don't stand in opposition to everything they (claim to) stand for. On the way into Crawford, I saw signs announcing "Support Our Troops!" and "Pro-AMERICA Rally," but I didn't see one single person in Camp Casey who doesn't support the troops, or who doesn't love America. Indeed, it is precisely our support for the troops and our love of country that motivates us to come out into the sweltering heat of August in Texas. I believe that there are situations where war cannot be avoided. I think that World War II was a "just and noble cause" — for the Allies, at least. However, I believe that LBJ lied to get us deeper into the Vietnam War, and I believe that George W. Bush lied to get us into what promises to be a decade-long misadventure in Iraq. Our presence there is neither just nor noble, and the sacrifice of human lives in the pursuit of a personal vendetta is NOT worthwhile.

Right now, though, I'm listening to The Brad Show, webcasting live from a table three metres away. He's currently interviewing former Congressman Tom Andrews (D–ME), now National Director of Win Without War. Go ahead and open another browser window, but check back here for updates later in the afternoon.