By Deidra Lynch
I must confess, in planning for my trip to the CODEPINK House in DC, I was just a little bit nervous about what to expect with that many women and that few bathrooms. But I am very proud to say that I never heard a negative remark (unless it was about our government representatives) or saw a single miff between any of the 25 to 50 women that were living or visiting the house daily. Well, only one, and it was tiny and on the last day there. The energy of this diverse and beautiful group of women was contagious and my week was full of delightful surprises, learning moments, lots of walking and political activist experience that was inspiring and applicable back in my own home state. I truly wish I could be there in Washington D.C. this week to meet all the new guests who are attending the first group of the Summer Training Sessions at the CODEPINK House and I am very excited to see what blossoms from their experiences.
During my first three days which started out with a community potluck, I was able to participate in the Women's Congress, help create beautiful props for some of our upcoming actions, participate in the Family Peace Festival with my eight year old daughter on Mother’s Day, learn how to “not” be arrested in a non-violent civil disobedience training presented by seasoned veterans and attorneys to answer our legal questions.
On Monday, we went to Cindy’s rally at Lafayette park and I walked around with a wide pink roll of duct tape, writing the death count for the day and tearing it off for people to stick on their shirts. It was a really good way to get a feel for the crowd and I could certainly tell who was with us and who was not, though the latter was small. I
After the rally we all marched to the Capitol and watched those who chose to volunteer, sit down with Cindy Sheehan in the street and raise the flag to half mast. The rest of us stood on the corners, cheering them on and singing songs of solidarity as the police peacefully arrested them one-by-one and loaded them into wagons. We returned to the house for the traditional, eating of Impeachment Pie by all.
That night after dinner was over I made a large pot of potato corn chowder for our jailbirds who were still being detained due to computer problems in the precinct. As groups of two to four women arrived home periodically during the evening, we offered them soup and bread and listened to their stories. At 4:30am, I washed the last dishes and went to bed for a few hours.
I woke up wondering how we could have done all those things in only four days and how we were going to fit the rest in to only three more days. I had emailed my representatives as soon as I knew my travel dates and secured tours to the Library of Congress, the Capitol and an invite to the weekly Constituent Coffee from our Senator Bill Nelson.
When we took the tour of the Capitol on Tuesday, given by Senator Nelson’s aide, there were several things that were said by his staff that were quite upsetting to me. When I asked if Senator Nelson was going to vote to fund the war (which he later did), the staff member told me that he didn't know but that more than 50% of the people calling in to the office, emailing and writing letters were in support of keeping the troops there and supportive of the surge. I was taken aback and quickly retorted that "those Republicans calling and writing were NOT the folks who had elected the Senator to office". I realized then that we needed the progressives in Florida to let Senator Nelson know that this war is unacceptable and that he needs to take a leadership role in getting it stopped. We thought he understood our message in November but apparently, he needs to hear it from us again.
After dinner that night, I had a long conversation with Lydia, the CODEPINK Tallahassee Coordinator. She and I were going together the next morning to the Constituent Coffee with Senator Nelson and we wanted to review the questions we would ask of him. Not knowing this was just going to be a short report by the Senator and then a photo op for those attending, we went prepared to discuss issues and we were very disappointed that he didn't have time to talk with us or take questions from the group. We did have a good but short conversation with his aide and we asked that she tell him that we had been trying to meet with him for a year and that we hoped that he would do that soon, either in DC or back at home.
We then headed to the Senate buildings to meet up with the CODEPINK Team for the final push before the vote that morning on the Feingold amendment that called for the troops to be out by April 1, 2008. Little did I know that these last hours would be my most memorable and so personally empowering. I began to walk with Medea for the next hour or more and was constantly amazed and inspired by her professionalism and her genuineness when talking to the Senators. If she saw a senator walk out of a door way, she would rush over to speak with them, extending her hand and her warm gracious smile. Keeping pace with her was breathless, but once Medea had made contact, she would completely calm her energy down to a quiet and persuasive woman with a strength in her voice that I have not heard often in my life. When Medea came upon Senator Lieberman, she smiled and said, “I know we don't agree on this matter, but if we are to ever come to any solutions then we must begin with discussion”. He actually smiled at her and then applauded our efforts. It was very inspiring and an amazing opportunity for my daughter as well.
That night, Lydia and I again discussed Senator Nelson and how disappointed we are in his representation of the state of Florida. We were both on fire from the week's actions and we promised each other that we would work together this summer to make sure that he hears us loud and clear. And so, a new campaign was born. The hardest part of the week was saying good bye to all our new friends but I was anxious to return home and put into action some of the things I had learned here in DC. I would encourage anyone who really wants to work for peace, to learn about the political processes, creative lobbying and just have an amazing time, to make plans now for the summer trainings being held at the CODEPINK House in DC. I would be there every week if I could! And here's hoping that the each group that passes through those rooms will be as empowered as the women from Florida were during Mother's Day week.
Now, for the rest of the story. Lydia and I have been working furiously for the last few weeks. We've organized and energized an entire coalition of peace groups from the state of Florida to "Focus on Nelson" this summer. On Monday, June 11th, Lydia began a 10 day tour of the state, visiting every one of Senator Nelson's eight offices. She has and will continue to be joined by other CODEPINK members as well as folks from over 40 supporting organizations for peace. In conjunction with each two hour meeting, we are asking supporters across the state to phone Senator Nelson’s offices and tell him to "Stop the War Now", empowering those who can't attend but want to make a difference.
Farida, our CODEPINK webmistress has worked with us to create an awesome CODEPINK Florida page that has the “Focus on Nelson” campaign information, talking points, meeting schedules and the latest info for us to use this summer. We are going to kick it up a notch in July with statewide telethons, “Home for the Holiday” ballot boxes and if Senator Nelson votes for war again in July, we intend to camp out at his house and/or his offices. And so hopefully, when the Florida campaign born during Mother' Day in DC is done, Senator Nelson will have heard us, loud and clear!
CODEPINK Florida Spotlight: “Focus on Nelson”
Florida For Peace