Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easter in Crawford, Texas: Hell Freezes Over

By Mimi Kennedy, CODEPINK and Progressive Democrats of America, Board Chair
April 9, 2007, Van Nuys, CA

It’s snowing in Crawford, TX on George Bush’s Easter vacation.
Though snow ruined many a childhood Easter outfit for me in Rochester, NY which was a lake away from Canada, somehow I don’t think Easter snow is expected in Texas, a state that borders Mexico. It’s the kind of thing that makes people think twice, even people who normally avoid thinking once. We can hope.

I arrived in Texas on Thursday night for the Camp Casey Peace Awards dinner at the Spill Bar in Austin. I was there to intro fellow PDA Board Member Jodie Evans to receive her Peace Award from Cindy Sheehan. Days after Cindy first sat in the Crawford ditch to ruin George Bush’s summer vacation, Jodie showed up to support her. She’s supported Camp Casey ever since, and, with PDA Board Member Medea Benjamin, she founded Code Pink Women for Peace, which emboldens women worldwide to challenge warmongers directly and visibly.

Jodie, Medea, David Swanson and the indefatigable Ann Wright were all there to help Cindy celebrate the second anniversary of Camp Casey. PDA allies all, they represent the power of PDA’s “Outside” strategy. The room was filled with Camp Casey and Gold Star Family members and supporters from far-flung states of the union. Jim Hightower was there, and Camp Casey supporters Willie and Annie Nelson, who received a Peace Award. Willie’s rapturous face, listening to Caroline Wonderland sing his “What Ever Happened to Peace On Earth?” was a sight to see. Emma’s Revolution and several Camp Casey artists entertained.

The street was blocked off to vehicular traffic and outside, people strolled in still warm weather. Students were enjoying spring break, and the music and bars of Austin.
The troops should be home to enjoy this too. This is what peace looks like.

The next day – known paradoxically to Christians as Good Friday, the day the Roman Empire killed Jesus of Nazareth for his peace agitation – Camp Casey residents (I include those who opted to stay in the nearby motel, such as myself) drove to the checkpoint at Bush’s Crawford ranch. We sang to the tune of We Shall Overcome: “We are here with Cindy…We’re here to ask/What noble Cause/We are here with Cindy now” as we approached the orange plastic barriers. There, Cindy asked if she could meet with the president. The answer was still no.

She then addressed the crowd, telling her history of challenging the president on his vacation grounds and calling for his impeachment for war cimes. An altar was set up across the road where we gathered to read the names of U.S. military dead from this war. Dede Miller beat a drum each time a name was called and we intoned “Dead Forever,” as a reminder that, though Jesus rose from the dead and was seen again by the living, the dead of Iraq will not rise on Sunday or any other day on earth. They are permanently gone. Their loved ones will mourn until their own deaths.

After an hour, we were still reading the names of the first year’s casualties. A full reading, Cindy told us, would be well over six hours.

Back at Camp Casey, we shared a meal and an Impeachment Forum. David Swanson, Anne Wright, Medea, Cindy and I discussed Bush and Cheney’s constitutional violations, from signing statements, to lying the country into war, to ignoring the Geneva Conventions in order to torture, to stealing elections. A rousing impeachment poem was read. This event had been planned for the Camp Casey stage, but we held it around the roaring campfire. The temperature had plummeted! Not much deters Camp Casey campers. Their joy at being there, their determination to stay, committed those who’d pitched tents to spend the night in them. But they wore their sleeping bags as coats during the final night’s ceremony that ended with hugs around the campfire. Most had packed peace t-shirts and jeans; they’re used to Camp Casey being hot.

At the motel, we dyed Easter eggs well into the night, preparing for the next day’s action. The motel owner, Brenda, dropped by with her cousin, who proudly wears her IMPEACH t-shirt around Crawford. Everyone participated in writing messages on the hard-boiled eggs that were beautifully dyed rich purples, greens, yellows, pinks – and, the color of ’07, PEACH. (Immmm -peach!) A young man read from the motel’s Gideon Bible to help us choose salient quotes as Easter messages to George Bush, the eggs’ intended recipient, reminding him that warmongers aren’t living the Resurrection.

Medea Benjamin, it turns out, knows every song she’s ever happened to hear, at least in part. And I do too. So, in the course of the evening, we led the party in a chorus of soul, rock, camp songs, and Broadway musicals, a choir practice that paid off the next day with composition and performance of what will soon be (we feel sure) an instant classic: The Pink Police Song.

(TUNE: I’ve Been Workin’ On the Railroad)
We defend the Constitution
We’re the Pink Police
We defend the Constitution
We defend Free Speech
Can’t you hear the people shouting?
It’s become a Roar
Can’t you hear the people shouting
Time to end this war!
Time to end the war (etc.) I kno-o-ow
Time to end the war (etc) Right now.
Someone’s at the ranch with George
Someone’s at the ranch I know
Someone’s at the ranch with George
Cooking up another war (We’ll stop it!)
Fee fie fiddley eye oh (etc)
We can stop it now – we know!

On Saturday, Kathy Murphy distributed the Pink Police outfits she’d packed – to digress momentarily, I salute the impressive schlepping done by this peace movement. With generous spirit, people carted unwieldy duffels and suitcases to produce banners and outfits and all manner of helpful demonstration aids! Kathy had long-sleeved, collared shirts dyed bright pink, with PINK POLICE printed on the back and security guard patches on the sleeves, along with police hats artfully covered with sewn-and-glued pink covers. Plastic badges completed the outfits.

Medea had warned that donning them would trigger subtle personality changes; as an actress, I knew she was right. A local fast food place saw a mirthful bunch of Pink Police acting out their inner peace officers. Yes, one of us should have had a phone camera, at least. But we didn’t.
We gathered once again at the checkpoint – caravanning in cars and the bio-diesel-fueled peace bus driven cross-country by a group of activists. You can’t park close to the checkpoint anymore. We walked the rest of the way, Pink Police in the lead, hiding eggs for activists – especially the two children with us, Ella and Julian – to find and put in two baskets that the children and Cindy would attempt to deliver to George Bush.

As Cindy and the children approached, with Pink Police and activists surrounding them, the security detail warned us back. They told us to part for arriving traffic (no George Bush in the opaque-windowed SUVs, it seemed) They told Ella, Julian and Cindy that the eggs could not be taken to Bush. They told us to get back beyond the barriers.

At that point, the Pink Police declared the area a crime scene and set off bullhorn sirens. Violation of the right of free speech – to address the president and be heard – was the immediate crime, but, as yellow crime tape was spread across the road in front of the barriers, Pink Officer Anne Wright read the litany of crimes committed by the ranch resident, and Cindy called for impeachment.

I couldn’t turn around to see the faces of the security detail. But I had seen their faces when Medea Benjamin asked for one of their names. In her police costume, she’d said, “What’s your name, sir?” The look on the face of the plainclothesman – whether he was Secret Service, FBI, local detective I couldn’t tell – was indescribable. Somewhere between disbelief and anger, he seemed to be thinking: That’s not a question you get to ask, lady. I ask you that question. You don’t ask me. In the next moment, maybe since we had been singing about defense of Free Speech, you could almost see him register the unconstitutional, undemocratic nature of his reaction, and to his credit he gave his name. As Officer of the Pink Police, Medea then introduced him, by his name, to Ella and Julian, the children presenting the eggs. She was humanizing the situation; not tapping his phone or starting a file.

We went back to Camp Casey, where PDA Board Member Rev. Lennox Yearwood had arrived for his “Make Hip-Hop, Not War” bus tour concert that night. I was able to say hello before going back to LA to prep for PDA’s Barnstorming CA tour – which will see, among other great events, the Hip-Hop Bus arriving on Tuesday, April 10. The temperature had dropped even further as we drove away – Medea, David Swanson and I, all booked on Saturday flights for hometown actions. Before we reached the airport, Anne Wright phoned Medea to report that it was blizzarding at Camp Casey. The flakes were thick and white, she said. And they were accumulating on the ground.

A cold day in hell. Can peace be far behind?

Mimi Kennedy is an author, actor, activist and charter member of Artists United to Win Without War. Perhaps best known for her role in TV’s “Dharma and Greg,” she has appeared widely on TV, the stage and in movies.

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