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Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour Daily Notes
Lietta Ruger (MFSO) Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour Daily Notes
by Arthur Ruger [Subscribe]
Fri Sep 9th, 2005 at 19:03:41 PDT
My wife, Lietta Ruger, (she also has a diary at Kos) spent a week at Crawford with Cindy Sheehan in early August. My diary at that time was a series of summaries of what she reported to me via cell phone.
She is now on the Central Tour of the Bring Them Home Now, MFSO/GSFP/IVAW and I've been collecting daily updates city by city. Since I work full time and have limited time at night, I'm using this post to bring you up to date and will try to make same day posts each evening from now on.
I spoke with Lietta late last night at the end of her day. She was back in the home of a local attorney, Bill Quick and his wife Diane in St. Louis.
Her day began with Bill and Diane at a local Catholic church service during which Lietta was able to speak briefly and announce that the Veterans For Peace bus diverted to Louisiana to deliver supplies to Covington (La?).
Afterward, they travelled to a vigil being held at a large beautiful "cathedral-looking" church in St. Louis that was - per Lietta - sparsely attended although a few folks walking by did stop with questions and opinions (mostly supportive).
One interesting thing at the vigil that she felt was a good idea was a reading of the names of the 28 Missourians who have died in the war and a formal proposal to the governor of a state-wide half mast of the flag whenever the state loses another soldier.
Following the vigil, they went to another location for a forum-type meeting in which the topic was "what can we do?" Lietta says that at first the activity commenced with folks who stood up and gave "shoring up" and encouragement type speeches. The way she described them caused me to envision almost a comiseration session in which there were rants, lamenting and encouragement.
Lietta was given a chance to speak and when she did, she explained that what she had heard so far was (in her sometimes blunt way) non-productive. (Echoes of what she told the Oraq war anniversary rally in Seattle earlier this year.)
She asked the forum, "What could you do tomorrow that would change what is going on on the ground?"
After a moment or two of silence (shocked?) hands began raising. Useful suggestions for more tangible and immediate activities began to come forth - ideas, suggestions and "let's do it". Based on how pleased she was with the shift in focus, it sounded to me like the forum then turned into a productive workshop - which is what we hope to see from the tour. Moving off ideals to the tangible which hopefully will result more than just a flare or flash-in-the-pan ignited merely for support for the rally in D.C. on the 24th.
Lietta also impressed with fellow MFSO/GoldStar member, Beatrice Salvador who is also on the Central bus and was in Crawford during the time Lietta was there. Beatrice who is Hispanic and speaks powerfully from her cultural viewpoint, seems to have as her theme her own equivalent of staying the course and staying on-topic. We need to keep current and contemporary with what is going on in the country and linking current events, such as Katrina, with the purpose of the Tour.
There is a direct connection that has been publicized powerfully between Bush/Iraq and the consequences of Katrina and gives greater credence to not only the idea of bringin National Guard Troops home countrywide, but also the disaster of underfunded emergency preparedness because of diversion of funding to Iraq.
Beatrice seems to home in on this point in a powerful way.
Lietta by now is on the RV (a large Winnegago but not the size of, for example, a chartered bus. The travel will be an exercise in crowded conditions with the current number of 6 travelers expected to increase to 9 or 10. But, she says, it's still better than living in a ditch in Crawford and well worth the movement toward 9/24/05 when hopefully the voice in D.C. will be massive.
Terre Haute and Indianapolis Indiana
The Tour stopped at Terre Haute, IN enroute to Indianapolis and met a group of 25 people and local press for what turned out to be mostly a press conference. We answered an assortment of questions. For a while it seemed very routine as if both the crowd and the press were "going through the motions."
Beatrice Salvador and Lietta - when their turn came - took the microphone and began to engage members of the audience one by one and trying to speak in a more individual sense that eventually seemed to generate engaged responses. Per Lietta, that seemed to salvage what started out as a "going through the motions" mentality.
The Tour got a warm reception in Indianapolis (including home-cooked FOOD) and Lietta stayed again at another home of volunteer hosts ... "another couple, Arthur - older than us." The volunteers, although mostly not directly connected to MFSO, belong to different groups sponsoring the events of the Tour while in Indianapolis. "They're activists and engaged. You can sure sense that!"
During the Indianapolis rally protestors began to gather across the street and after a while numbered about 50. They began singing God Bless America so we joined them from across the street and drivers could hear God Bless America in stereo as they passed by. Responding to the protestors seemed to really spark the Tour members and certainly ignited our audience. You could sense a combination of relief and determination as we supported each other and openly dealt with protestors in a way that did not provoke ugliness. That crowd was pumped when we ended.
We held a "bus meeting" tonight and focused on clearing the air, reaching understandings and resolving misunderstandings. Both Beatrice and I, remembering what evolved as the days passed at Camp Casey and a kind of "presentation protocol" evolved, feel like we know what we want in terms of how we're most comfortable in delivering our message and engaging our audiences. In these intitial days of the Tour, our group seems to be working out what will become the presentation style and format. There is no formal control or guidance regarding this. Rather, the personalities of the group members and their individual styles will more fully reveal the most effective style and presentation. I suppose this means that toward the end of the tour we'll all be more polished and cohesive.
Lietta felt that the "bus meeting" ended with a better sense of harmony, purpose and who functions best in specific roles, in dealing with specific issues and subjects.
Back in host's homes in Indianapolis tonight (Monday) because there's more to do here tomorrow.
She's tired folks. Her voice is worn out but she says it's a "good" tired.
Up early this morning to get to Bloomington, Indiana (home of the Indiana University Hoosiers) for a press conference around 11:00.
(I'm not sure when but Lietta says that she gave a brief TV interview as well as a radio interview today in addition to the planned events.)
The Bloomington Press Conference was a room full of reporters at a book store. The group sat as a panel and all answered questions that Lietta says were very good questions. The reporters, though friendly and not hostile, were definitely knowing their business.
The Tour then went to a park in Bloomington where Harat Viges, Tour member from Iraq Veterans Against the War, was the principle speaker sharing his thoughts and experience in Iraq. He's an impressive speaker with a very effective style that seems to connect with listeners.
At a second park with a "Free Speech Zone" members of the group spoke individually and answered questions.
Sometime during the day Lietta says she interviewed with a local DJ named "Amos ???? (she couldn't remember his last name) on a progressive African-American station.
In the evening in Indianapolis there was a candlelight vigil held, I believe, at something called the Quaker Friendship House. The vigil leaders read off the names of the 51 Indiana soldiers who have died and followed the reading of the names with a prayer. They then sang God Bless America and My Country Tis of Thee. The flag was there ... the candles ... the 51 crosses ... it was a tearful time (Lietta.)
A local Methodist Church nearbye allowed the group to place the crosses on a triangle of their property and the candle-bearers circled the crosses before placing the candles in and around them.
(Lietta) I cried during the TV interview that took place at that time involving Hart Viges and me.
We then began to clean up - tired and emotionally spent. I made an effort to try to personally thank as many of the families who came as possible. One African-American family in particular tapped into my feelings which were so close to the surface (and for those who know Lietta, I can count on less than ten fingers the number of times I've seen her cry). The mother was concerned about recruiters and I asked if they were contacting his son, age 17, who was standing right there. She nodded.
Her son told her "Mom, it's okay."
But it wasn't okay with Mom. I could see that. I said to that young man, "Please don't go."
It was obvious that the son's conflict with choosing whether or not to sign up was something the family had been discussing for a while. I told them, "It looks like you have the makings for a serious family discussion. I wish you well as you work toward your decision."
When I got back to the bus there were two young girls looking to be 4th or 5th graders - again African American. One asked me, "Were you [the one] on TV? I hope I wasn't on TV."
"We don't want any more young people to go [to this war]" I told them my emotions still very close to the surface.
She hugged me, saying, "I hope it will be okay."
Then the other girl asked if she could see the inside of the bus. So I led them inside where we sat and talked. They were wide-eyed and fascinated. Hart came in, saw them and immediately engaged them in talk as only he can. He is so authentic!
Their school had just raised $1000 to sent to hurricane relief on the Gulf Coast.
As they were leaving one of them turned and said "I feel like my life changed forever."
Not sure what prompted that but I told Todd, one of our directors, "We need to try to go to a school - and I'm taking Hart with me!"
I think that the highlight of this day may very well have been the encounter with those two children. Our time in Indianapolis and Bloomington has been good. Tomorrow we meet with aides to U.S. Senators Bayh and Lugar before leaving town at noon.
Next stop Cincinnati for Wednesday and Thursday.