By Dede Miller
On Monday, November 29th, I attended an event at Saddleback Church, or, as I now call it, Sodom and Gomorrah, in Lake Forest California. George Bush was the guest Philistine. Sodom and Gomorrah is located deep in the heart of VERY conservative Orange county California. I, and my fellow defenders of good and justice, were literally in the belly of the beast..
The "church" grounds are massive and I must note here, looked a lot like a Disney design. There were Cafes and hangout spots for teens. Sports facilities, shops"all the halls were decked..Christmas Muzak coming from all the bushes could be heard over the sound of the electric meters spinning and the lady behind me talking about her thought process on whether she should have worn her mink stole. My initial thought"Mother Theresa would turn over in her grave in witness to this obscene opulence. Sorry for being a 'judgy judgerton'"but there were no signs of humility or "Christian" values to be seen.
Kristen from CodePink Los Angeles, Debbie and Betsy from the Orange County Peace Coalition and I had tickets to the event. Fifty or so of our comrades in peace were at the foot of the hill with signs and banners reading, "Torture is not a Christian Value," and "George Bush WAR CRIMINAL."
Once inside we all sat apart not wanting to draw attention to ourselves. Our plan, as soon as torture or war was mentioned I would be the first to speak for those without a voice. Then in 5-minute intervals Betsy then Debbie would speak truth to power. Kristen was our organizers and videographer.
The program started with some very beautiful music. A tenor saxophonist played a Christmas song. Two women, one a violinist, the other on the piano, played a soul-stirring classical song. Then, well, I could feel anticipation building in the den of iniquity. Another woman, apparently a crowd favorite came on stage. To my horror she belted out a manic version of the freakin' national anthem. Now, if I were not trying to blend in at this moment I would NOT - I repeat NOT - have stood up. As long as my country is a purveyor of terror I will NOT pledge my allegiance. Having to stand for a standard version is bad enough, but this woman sang two verses, then repeated the last stanza of the first verse. As she built up to the final crescendo, I really believe at least five folks sitting near me climaxed. It truly felt cult-like.
Before 'the shrub' and "Pastor" Rick came onstage, an introductory video of Bush was played. Rick Warren's wife, Tammy Faye, introduced the piece as a look back at the very successful and good for our country Presidency of GW. With glorious background music and a voice over guy that sounded like God we watched as Dubya thoughtfully made all the right decisions that made our country the bastion of Christian values and Democracy that it now is"..drum roll"out walked the man who irreversibly shattered my family.
I wanted to begin to cry right then and there, all the while wishing I were close enough to throw my shoe at him. The Bushbots in the crowd, of course, gave him a rousing standing ovation. The fact that I did not begin to preach some truths right then and there took a Herculean effort on my part.
Rick Warren began the talk by saying that this event would be different from his others because politics would not be discussed. This right away put a dent in our plan. Would they talk about war or terrorism? I sat for about 25 minutes waiting for my cue. Bush finally went on a rant about caring for human life, and that is when I decided it was my turn, finally , after 6 years and 9 months, to say my piece.
I stood up and yelled, "George Bush, I have a question for you. You say you value human life yet my nephew was killed in your wars." People sitting all around me began to grab me and try to pull me down into my seat. I continued to preach. I must admit things were crazy at this point, so I am paraphrasing, but at some point or other I said, "My family wants to know for what noble cause did Casey die??"
It was all I could do to remain standing. The congregation was yelling at me and GWB kept right on talking but was looking my way. Someone else grabbed my arm and said I had to leave. I told this person "okay, but I have one more question for Bush." I waived my hand at Bush. He waived back and I yelled. "Who would Jesus torture?"
Next thing I knew someone had twisted my arm behind my back all the way between my shoulder blades. It hurt like an emeffer. But I wasn't ready to leave. Another man grabbed the belt loop on the back of my pants and literally lifted my off the ground. I am a wonderfully fluffy woman so this was no small feat. I did continue to try and educate the crowd but it was really like trying to give water to a rabid dog. They had surrendered their free will and taken the easy way out. Blame God for everything, it is God's will. Much as Bush does, as long as they point the finger at God, as long as someone tells them God inspired the circumstance, it absolves them of all responsibility.
I don't know how many security and 'SS' escorted me out of the viper pit. Seemed like a dozen. I was shoved through some curtains twisting my ankle and after I could barely lift my right arm. Once outside I began to walk away. "I am going to my car," I said. They insisted on escorting me to my car. I broke down crying as I asked them how they could give a forum to an evil man as they were questioning me about who I was, what organization I was with, who my friends were, what direction was I going home, and on...
Why do we peace activists have to continue doing these things to get our viewpoint heard? I have been criticized for being on the fringe left... an embarrassment to the antiwar movement. I could not disagree more. We have marched until our marches look ridiculous. At this point the only good thing that comes from a march is the feeling that we are not alone. A chance to be with like-minded people. At the end of a march we speechify, pat each other on the backs, and go our merry ways. We have wasted time lobbying the do-nothing-for-us congress even though our only real lobby is our vote. We do not have the amount of money it takes to buy a congressional Representative or Senator. How many petitions have you all signed? My answer to that: too many.
Those of you who still think we can politely bring Peace and Humanity to our country haven't felt the true scars of sacrifice. You are comfortably numb and want to retain the status quo for reasons I wish I could understand. Those of us willing to stick our necks out feel the soul-searing pain of every life lost or damaged in the quest for empire. We see the hungry and homeless in the streets. We hear the heartbreaking whales of mothers as they bury their children.
We can not just sit by and hope. We say NO MORE ! We'll do whatever it takes to heal the world. Yes, we still march., Yes, we talk to congress. Yes, we sign petitions. But, what will it take people? It took a late night phone call informing me my dear nephew was dead to wake me up. Believe me when I tell you that is one wake up call you do not want to wait for.