Our Visit to Camp Casey
by Dr Observer [Subscribe]
Sat Aug 27th, 2005 at 18:11:31 PDT
Our family (myself, my wife, and our three older kids who are 11, 13 and 16) went down to Crawford today. We wanted to take the kids down there to see what's going on before Cindy Sheehan leaves on her anti-war bus tour and the Boy King goes back to getting his workouts in and ignoring the country from the Oval Office. Today was a good day to go because there were two opposing rallies scheduled.
Before I tell the story, here is my advice to people thinking of going before Cindy leaves on August 31: There's plenty of ice and bottled water at the camp. Check the Peace House web site before you go to see if there are any urgent needs, like toilet paper, paper plates, cutlery, etc. It seemed to me that the biggest need today was for more shuttle drivers and vehicles, but today was probably crazy compared to most other days.
Acting on very good advice from Meet With Cindy and the Crawford Peace House, we arrived a little early (around 11am) at the Peace House. There was less traffic than I was expecting. We felt very lucky to be able to sneak into a grassy parking lot near the Peace House where a few places remained up against the railroad tracks.
We weren't really sure what to expect or what to take, despite some of the good information out there. I brought two gigantic packs of toilet paper and two cases of bottled water. We gave one of the packs of toilet paper to the Peace House, and they advised us that the rest of it would be better used at Camp Casey if we could lug it out there.
We also brought two ice chests filled with ice and bottles of water, both for ourselves and to hand out to anyone in need. That was a mistake on our part. We could've avoided lugging those heavy ice chests out to Camp Casey (II) because they had an absolute truckload of bottled water out there. Plenty of ice, too.
In fact, I was impressed most by discovering that this enormous event was so well organized that they hardly needed anything. They were even having a catered barbecue buffet for everyone, with plenty of food, so we didn't even need to bring our sandwiches (which were great anyway because I love a cold tunafish sandwich on a hot day).
We waited at the Peace House for about 20-30 minutes for a shuttle bus. There were 20 or so vans and mini-buses taking people from there to Camp Casey II, about 15 minutes away or so. There were also a few very large charter buses, and we got on one of those. Probably the times during the day when we were the hottest was when we were waiting for the buses out in the hot sun.
While we waited for the bus, a couple of jokers on horseback strolled by with big American flags. On one horse's flank were painted the words "Cindy, go home!" As they walked by, some nice lady came over and spritzed cold water on us, then reminded all of us (good for the kids to hear this) not to interact with the pro-war people. It's best not to even give them the pleasure of eye contact, but if you have to, give them a friendly wave. We gave a lot of friendly waves during the day.
As we headed out on the shuttle bus, we had to go through the intersection at the center of town, which was where all of the pro-Bush demonstrators were gathering (Camp Qualls). It was really creepy. One lady looked at us with a serious "go to hell" look, reminded me of the lady from that famous picture in Oregon who had her hand over the mouth of some girl, trying to shut her up. She was holding a sign over her head that said "You are aiding TERRORISTS" or something like that.
How on Earth can you reason with these people? Of all the questions that came out of the day for me, the biggest is: how can people demonstrate so passionately in support of Bush? What exactly has he done for them to demand such fierce loyalty? They act like he's the greatest president ever. We might as well be protesting the second coming of Jesus Christ, they way the wingnuts act toward us.
I can sure understand why people would passionately oppose Bush, especially family members of soldiers who have been wounded or killed thanks to the stupid war in Iraq. But what is the spark lighting the fire under the asses of people like the lady with the "TERRORIST" sign. What thought process could convince her so completely that we are in league with terrorists?
When our bus got to the camp, we all walked out to a flood of applause from people already at the camp, happy that there were more people there to join us. That was a really nice feeling, and I'm sure it was a rush for the kids. We quickly unloaded our ice chests and other things to donate, and we got all that sorted out, then we started exploring the camp.
This is Camp Casey II (we didn't visit the first camp), the new one with the enormous white tent covering it. Wow, that tent is the size of a football field, and without it, the whole experience would've been about 100 times less pleasant. Whatever wonderful person forked over the dough to make that happen ... well, bless you. I'd love to be super-rich so I could do that kind of thoughtful stuff for people. But we're not, so we brought bottled water and toilet paper.
As we walked out to explore the little field of white crosses in front of the camp, several motorcycles puttered by on their way to another pro-war rally being held nearby. A couple of them yelled out what I'm sure is stupid crap that I'm glad I couldn't hear. The only one I could hear yelled out "Go home, Cindy!" I felt embarrassed for motorcycle riders everywhere.
We got to donate to some good causes while we walked around, buying t-shirts and giving some money to Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Peace House and Gold Star Families for Peace. We then wedged ourselves inside the big tent as the rally program got underway.
There were some compelling speakers, people who lost loved ones in Iraq, and there were some songs. Joan Baez was still there, and I'll tell you, it really makes a difference when she's leading a song compared to someone with no experience trying to wing it. After about 30-40 minutes, Cindy Sheehan came out to talk. What a great moment.
The crowd applauded for about 30 seconds, a standing ovation, and then waves of increasing applause started rippling through the tent. You could really feel a lot of emotion pouring out from the audience toward Cindy. I can't imagine what it must be like for her, starting off with such a humble little protest in a lawn chair in a ditch and to suddenly be a celebrity.
But one reason she has gotten to be so big is that she has really developed a presence. She is a powerful speaker with a simple message, and you can't help but root for her. I could've listened to her talk for an hour, but she only took maybe 10 minutes to say her piece. The program was due to continue after that, but we were all getting hot and had to get home to give my mom a break from babysitting our youngest, two hours away, so she could get home before supper.
We waited for maybe another 30-40 minutes in line for a shuttle, a very hot line. We knew that Randi Rhodes was due to show up at some point late in the afternoon, but it was only about 3pm or so. I guess we missed her, which was a real disappointment. I would absolutely love to meet her and Al Franken, if only to thank them for what they're doing and telling them how great they are.
We saw Laura Flanders walking around with an Air America microphone while we were there, but I didn't recognize her at first. I've only heard her rarely since she's mostly on weekends when I'm not listening. She's broadcasting tonight from the Crawford Peace House and talking to a lot of the people we got to meet today, so it's great to listen to that while I'm writing this and reliving the day.
There's a big line of thunderstorms moving in to Crawford, too, so I guess I'm glad we missed that mess.
On the way back, we got to see the pro-war protesters again, and I just felt sorry for them. They all hold up these signs that say "Support the Troops!" as if we don't. The IVAW guy who got up to talk to us asked us to raise our hands if we support our troops, and that got a huge cheer with everyone raising their hands up high. "Huh, that sure surprises me based on what I've heard in the media!" That was a good laugh line.
As we pulled way from the Crawford Peace House, we noticed that the line of traffic heading into Crawford was a whole lot worse than when we first got here. I'm sure that peace tent will be packed for the whole day and night. Those poor shuttle bus drivers will be busy. Ours said that he had it easy because at least he has music and air conditioning but that he didn't really have time to get any food. I gave him a huge bag of potato chips that we had leftover from lunch, and he broke out into a huge grin. "You rock, man!"
Along the way during the day, the kids had some questions. I showed them the tent with pictures of all the dead soldiers, and I showed them the crosses, the big mural of Casey Sheehan, and we talked about why we supported Cindy and opposed the war and Bush. I hope it is the start of some sort of awakening of political awareness within them. I hope we get a chance to do something like this a lot more often.
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