I know someone who could explain how you pour the tea at your party celebration. Let me offer a portrait of the lady who kick-started my own political blogging addiction.
On the 4th of July our communities are full of patriotic stuff … flags, parades, 21-gun salutes, speeches, spectacular fireworks… barbecues, picnics, reunions. So typically the American thing to do on Independence Day.
…All men are created equal …
…Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness …
… deriving just powers from the consent of the governed …
… we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor …
All of these great truths are only as valid as our citizens’ willingness to honor civic duty and process and with courage speak out against or in support of what our government does in our name; in how our government represents we the people on the world’s stage.
Back in 2005 someone near and dear to me stepped out from the protective shadows of anonymity and began to participate in those public policy discourses to which we are all obligated by civic duty.
This October will be the 16th anniversary of a PBS Lehrer News Hour broadcast about military families who were publicly protesting the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Part of that broadcast included PBS filming of my wife Lietta giving a sermon critical of President Bush in our local St John’s Episcopal Parish and the subsequent face-to-face interview in our home in Bay Center.
Our lives were never the same after that.
Lietta during interview with PBS’ Lehrer News Hour 10/04
10 months later, Lietta was in Crawford, Texas outside the Bush Ranch having joined with activist Cindy Sheehan in challenging the President’s reason and rational for an invasion.
This morning Lietta posted on her FaceBook page a note that the original Camp Casey that was set up outside the Bush Ranch in August, 2005, in Crawford, Texas has been taken down … the end of a time now past.
Public activism as exercise of a civic duty is not easy. Ask today’s current tea-partiers how challenging finding the right voice and achieving a public understanding of the actual talking points you want expressed can be.
Yet I’m still amazed at the changes that happened in our lives because of how we perceived our civic duty and obligation to participate in the processes when we thought government policies and practices should change.
Becoming a news junkie, seeking out and reading every thing you can get your hands on is easy … and becomes a habit difficult to break. You never know when the time has come and is gone … you are always reminded that public policy moves slowly – like trying to start a rail road box car moving using nothing but a long thin pole.
At many points you begin to realize that some things are not going to change … only the noise around those things with it’s fluctuating volumes and harshness.
So for today’s holiday article, I’m reposting a summary first published five years ago after Lietta had been to Crawford and returned, followed by a bus tour from St. Louis to Washington D.C. – a time of public protests, rallies and speeches.
I envy her in that she was able to pretty much immerse herself briefly into the fullness of public activism … that ultimate civilian monument to democracy – while I got to keep the home fires burning, the bills paid and was left to spout off my own political opinions in blogs and letters to the editor.
Our experience changed us.
Wiser or more knowledgeable? Hardly …
What follows was posted on another site five years ago. It is a compilation of reports of events and Lietta’s reflections. It is lengthy but does provided a real close-up of what happens when someone becomes sufficiently indignant as to step out of the security of conformity.
… but if anyone wants to pick up a sign and do more than wave it in the face of a liberal or conservative and shout epithets … I know someone who could explain how you pour the tea at your party celebration.
From Lietta in Crawford, Texas:
Tired, Exhausted but happy.
My wife and I are members of Military Families Speak Out and publish the MFSO Pacific Northwest website. She is currently in Crawford with Cindy Sheehan.
I called Lietta just now. Things are quiet down there (its moving toward midnight CST) and she’s exhausted.
I asked her to tell me what she wants to say to all those who are waiting to hear her words.
Here is what she told me:
The day started out with a multi-media press conference in Crawford with Cindy the primary speaker and focus. It was not unlike watching the Presidential Press Secretary, McLellan, in front of an audience – except this audience was not full of people tired of lies and misinformation.
After Cindy’s time, individual members from MFSO and Gold Star Families were given a minute or two to introduce themselves and share brief bios. Some of those were mutual members, having actually lost a loved one and therefore members of Gold Star and MFSO.
Lietta, Cindy and Dante Zavala
The press event went well. I think we were heard as a collective of mutally supporting advocates.
Then followed a time for Questions and Answers for everybody else (since Cindy took questions earlier.)
Cindy then commenced individual interviews with some of the media while the rest of them came and interviewed the rest of us intividually.
Today I also did live radio interviews with a radio station in Connecticut, then with a radio station in Seattle (thinks it was Dave Ross), and Komo 4 radio.
(She also told me that she has done so many interviews and spoken to so many media members on her cell phone that she lost track a long time ago. The Seattle PI included 3 paragraphs about her in today’s article about Cindy and Seattle Channel 7 (CBS) included Lietta on its noon and 5:00 pm news so we expect it to be on the 11:00 news tonight.)
I am impressed with the Peace House (in Crawford proper). So many people are arriving and congregating at the Peace House that the police had to finally require that visitors park in the nearby high school parking lot and a nearby park with a large lot. The Peace House is the staging for shuttle transportation out to the site and back since parking at the site is becoming a growing problem. Cars must be totally off the road so the ditches alongside the road are full of cars.
The Peace House is a story all it’s own, historically having survived in red state Texas on a shoestring, the owner from time to time pumping his own money to keep it going. When Cindy arrived the Peace House had lost its electricity and phone service due to unpaid bills. The new arrivals solved that problem immediately with cash, food, water and other donations intended to support the group out by the ranch.
The Peace House has done a marvelous job evolving and adapting to the crowds and the needs at the site as well. In some ways, they have to be somewhat selective in that some donation items have been replicated so much that they have something more than a surplus problem. So they try to communicate in advance the sort of donated things they will need.
For instance, Cindy received flowers sent apparently through the efforts of an L.A. radio station. Eventually what happened was not a trickle of floral color, but an avalanche of flowers – so many that we ran out of places to put them within the area of the site. What a love offering that was!
By now they are also offering “rally” items such as $10 T-shirts saying “George, Meet with Cindy!”
The Peace House shuttle keeps the site supplied with food which boils down to mostly sandwiches, snacks and finger foods. I haven’t had a sit-down meal since I got here.
Numbers of people here: At any given time there’s a crowd whose numbers are augmented significantly by media folks. And the almost hourly growth in numbers is apparent which gives some concern about the size of the site and what that might mean in terms of prompting the feds or the staties to greater concerns about crowd control.
And the Texans I’ve met … lots of Texans are coming to show that Texans care about what Cindy is doing. Texas is not all Bush Country and not all of Texas is red! One saw that I’m having an allergic reaction to whatever is in the air or on the ground and has promised to bring me Benadryl tomorrow. I’m counting on him.
We are very much aware of the rapidly growing support nationwide via our electronic [devices] out here at the site but we are also given much information from that which is shared at the Peace House. I met the Georgia truck driver who was in the news – the one who’s a vet and who re-routed his trip through Crawford so he could meet us and share his support. Had a good discussion with him.
I also met Will Pitt of Truthout and he’s everything I had imagined when I first discovered Truthout a year or so ago.
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Tell everybody to make their voices strong. Tell the military families that it’s okay to love their children as much as they love their country and that it’s not wrong to demand safe keeping for both!
Greetings especially to Military Families Speak Out Pacific Northwest members!!
The rest of what we said is too mushy and none of your dang business!
Lietta still in Crawford with the fire ants.
Update: Phone calls with Lietta.
When she first arrived there, Lietta’s first impressions included remarks about the repeated appearance and “drive- bys” of the secret service,
“You could always tell which cars, usually driving fast, were Secret Service. They’re the ones with the tinted windows.”
The firm but friendly authority and respect demonstrated by the local police. She has yet to speak one word against how they have struggled to maintain order while enforcing the law which seems to mostly have to do with local private property owners’ right, crowd control and occasional elements of “national security” actions at the behest of the feds.
For example, when Bush drove by to his barbeque date, the Sheehaners were required to stay inside a boundary marked by yellow tape, (in my mind I saw the crime scene tapes like on TV). When I called it a corral, she hastened to disagree, telling me that it was neither tiny nor confining, but a way of keeping tabs on everyone. As soon as the royal coach had passed, they were given some sort of “all clear” and allowed outside the boundary.
The fire ants have been a problem and Lietta’s plague. Having suffered from numerous bites, she was finally put into a motel last night to give her some relief. Although not stampeded by her bites, she may go see a doctor there and asked this morning for her med insurance info from me. I read somewhere else that Cindy slept one night in a trailer because her particular tent was infested with the critters.
The number of supporters at the site has ballooned enormously and the newest on-line photos from an assortment of sites showed that country road full of vehicles arriving and parked all along both sides “in the ditch.”
Another video I watched on-line last night shows the crowd appearing to be at least as large as the entire Rolling Thunder Festival at Magnuson Park in Seattle where Mike’s (MVP) gang and Doug and Linda set up a marvelous MFSO Booth right next to theirs with an incredible large black and white “George! Talk to Cindy!” banner coupled with a slightly smaller blue and white “MFSO Pacific Northwest” banner that dominated the festival site.
Per Lietta, as the number of arriving people has increased, more and more opportunities for rallies and public statements occur. Yesterday, at a rally in Crawford itself, Lietta talked of people lining the streets when Cindy and supporters arrived for a rally at the local high school. After Cindy made a major statement which Lietta felt “throws down the gauntlet more,” others spoke (including L).
There was an opposition group in Crawford making noise and shouting but they were not as many. The other interesting thing was her observation that the behavior of the anti-Cindy protestors was loud and disrespectful. I asked her if she was telling me that they were acting like junior high schoolers opposing the adults and she laughed and said, “Well …..”
Lietta also talked about how it appeared that the number of pro-Bush supporters seems to owe its size to incentive-recruiting: getting them to show up for a “reward” like a barbeque, beer. Etc … she wasn’t sure about it.
Regarding the pro-Bushers, Lietta felt that “pro-Bush” was not as accurate as anti-Cindy in that the most apparent purpose was not to support or defend Bush’s war, but a platitude thing that seemed a shallow appeal to support the president. In that regard, she declared that many among our group felt that in their actions they were showing total disrespect for the actual military victims of the war in shouting “We Don’t Care, We Don’t Care, We don’t care” … which, when interpreted as their open gesture of support of Bush equates to “and HE doesn’t care either!”
Lietta described as wrenching, for many – especially Iraq and Viet Nam Era veterans to see that kind of behavior from adults smiling, marching back and forth waving tiny flags and acting in an openly belligerent manner – a total contrast to the sobriety and seriousness of the single issue at hand. “In harms’ way” becomes totally disregarded in the interest of a false loyalty or ideological viewpoint that shoves aside our natural spiritual inclination to value the life of each human being.
In reality, the insincerity of Bush is reflected in the insincerity of those supporting him, whether waving little flags, laughing and yelling at Camp Casey or broadcasting distorted blather on national TV.
I’ve updated her on how Washington State seems to have adopted Lietta Ruger as its current Washingtonian at the front. Friday’ Seattle PI (Lifestyle) article (by Ms. Paynter) entitled “Northwest Woman joins the Texas Peace Corps” thrilled her. Remember, she hasn’t seen any of this as she has no on-line or media access.
I said in an earlier update that filling in for her online has taught me that I will NEVER wonder what she does all day. But this week I have seen the sheer mountain of news about Cindy and her supporters including numerous references to MFSO and its supportive role as well as not infrequent mention of Lietta by local news and all the bloggers who know of her.
Yesterday at Rolling Thunder I spent time with 2 major Washington State bloggers including the founder of Pacific Northwest Portal (which is a syndicated blogging group with a powerful regional as well as national reading audience), Andrew Villanueve: http://www.nwprogressive.org/portal/
and Brian Moran who publishes Washblog
Brian has previously requested that Lietta write posts to his site as a guest contributor because of their values.
She is in some ways astounded by the breadth of public awareness that is flowing out of this Crawford Moment and at the same time not surprised by the manifest awareness of those of us who pay attention to these sorts of things.
In closing, I’ll tell you that she still has not eaten a “sit down” meal (something she says she’ll no longer take for granted) and is still running up our cell phone bill (grin) taking some of the overflow calls, the numbers of which are far too many for Cindy to handle herself.
Our own Lisa Gill is heavily involved in this overflow as she has been tasked with managing responses to Cindy’s emails which, per Lisa, average about a 1,000 per day. Washington, one of the bluer of the blue states, is a significant player in this drama people and folks like Lisa, Georgia and Lietta are only part of that activity.
Monday, an MFSO caravan leaves for Crawford – the same day Lietta flies home. It’s the old story about the uprising of the rebel alliance. “One leaves and ten takes her place.” Go you guys!
In addition, like many others in Crawford who have drawn the attention of their home states, more and more local media from those home states are calling for updates and observations from their “hometown kids”.
They realize that major pronouncements from Cindy will be publicized nationally by several sources, but that a response for their own local audiences has more impact from stories about local citizens who have joined the Texas Peace Corp headquartered at the crossroads of a farm-to-market road and the rest of the world somewhere outside Crawford, Texas.
My Wife Left Crawford Today. After-Thoughts
Dante Zavala and Lietta, Crawford, Tx
… and not the same as when she left.
(Coming home tomorrow night and expressing how things aren’t the same as they were before she went down there.)
Highlights for today were the Interfaith Service this morning that was excellent and beautiful.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif) arrived and met with the reps from MFSO, VFP and Gold Star Families (the coalition) and this meeting was worth it.
She will fly home tomorrow, arriving in the evening in Portland and spend the night there at her son’s home.
Will be in Bay Center Tuesday night.
It’s about our soldiers … always was and always will be. The Interfaith Service this morning among other things emphasized the dignity of military service and being a soldier.
The coalition between MFSO, Gold Star Families, VFP and the many others has coalesced in a powerful way and an effort needs to be made to strengthen linkage, joint efforts and mutual support of that dignity of our loved ones.
The callous political behavior of the pro-Bush demonstrators in Texas reveals a fundamental disregard of that dignity, preferring instead to say and do what it takes to support their guy. The “We Don’t Care!” act implied strongly that “We support Bush … We don’t care … and Bush doesn’t care.”
Bottom line is that the dignified life and duty of a single soldier is worth more and deserves much more than treatment as a political cause in such a way that leaves so many who may never be in harm’s way behaving badly at the behest of manipulators who do not have the welfare of our military as the highest good of all concerned.
Interview with KOMO TV
Camp Casey has never taken its eye off the soldiers and the willful actions of leaders and a president that have placed them in entrapment. The pain of those at Camp Casey in seeing regard for their loved ones and their own sacrifices ridiculed as mere opposition to a political party was palpable.
The more that kind of mindless support for Bush in the absence of recognition of the dignity and worth of those serving in the military, the greater the power of Camp Casey. It is for us to move it further in each of our localities.
If we do that, the silent majority will awaken and be a force Bush and his henchmen cannot manipulate. That is why attempts to smear Cindy have not generated the national reaction intended. They are losing.
No more killing …. no more.
Lietta Ruger (MFSO) Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour Daily Notes
Fri Sep 09, 2005
Bring Them Home Now Tour Report
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, sponsored by 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
Iraq 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.
The Tour stopped at Terre Haute, INDIANAenroute 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.
She was pumped up tonight.
“We just finished a super great rally tonight in Cincinnati.” More on Cincinnati later.
Before leaving Indianapolis they met with aides to both Senator Evan Bayh (D) and Richard Lugar (R).
The meeting with Bayh’s aide was productive and we felt that he “got” our message. The aide was responsive, with questions the reflected engagement and interest. At the end of the interview, Lietta gave him her card and told him, “I’d like the Senator to call me.” She said the aide appeared somewhat astonished.
She also told me that meeting with these aides in the presence of locals (their constituencies) was very helpful as awareness of the audience was obvious in both interviews.
She was not impressed with the Lugar episode. In her opinion Senator Lugar sent what she perceived as “second-stringers” out to meet with them and they were totally focused on politics as usual.
She felt the aide who spoke the most was intent on stalling tactics, one of his earliest statements being clearly for the constituent audience as he dramatically and pointedly stated that the coffee they were being served was not paid for by tax-payer funds.
He also seemed to be deliberately taking up time, playing against the clock as he listened to each of the group one by one, interrupting to move back to ask a previous speaker a question repeatedly.
She laughed when she told me that – being short-tempered because of not having any coffee until that interview, that she let her passion turn to “impassion, I mean, impatience.”
Again when leaving, she handed that aide a card and told him to “Ask the Senator to call me.”
“You? You’re not his constituent. Why would he call you?”
“Because I have something to say to him.” was her reply.
Some of the group members including Lietta were then taken to a college class studying social movements and asked to make a presentation about the various organizations involved in the bus tour. That went well and the class teacher had used the Tour group as a kind of “show and tell” about social activist groups up close.
Then the bus ride to Cincinnati.
They were taken to dinner and a reception at St. George Catholic Center.
One of her highlights she said occured while she was in the parking lot preparing for the panel-discussion/reception about to occur. A young man came out in tears and wanted to speak with her. He had been inside studying the pictures the group had laid out and it had gotten to him. Lietta says she hugged him and told him “What we are doing is about you, your peers, your generation – people your age. You cannot inherit this war at your age.”
During the panel discussion and Q&A that followed she made referenence to the incident without naming the young man. He later thanked her.
During the panel discussion she was asked by a young African-American about whether or not the group considered itself as including the impoverished communities – “poor people” – in their advocacy. “Are you reaching out to them (us)?”
At that point the audience applauded his courage.
Lietta spoke at length about the Tour as representing all Americans and touched again on the generational point she had made earlier. She also spoke at length with the questioner after the session.
“I’m in another host’s house tonight and I’m going to take a shower. And tomorrow I’m going to find a store and by a 4-pack of Starbuck’s Frappucino’s. I’m not going to get caught again having to go so long without coffee!”
And then we talked about stuff that’s none of your business before we said goodnight.
The day Steven Williams met the TOUR and joined MFSO
Lietta speaking in Columbus Ohio
When we arrived, we got off a bus in Columbus for a press conference that didn’t happen, but we did meet with our local sponsors and were joined by 2 local MFSO families with soldiers serving in Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, based in Columbus. This is the Lima Company that lost 23 soldiers in Iraq the first week in August.
The two families met with the mayor who also has a son in Lima Company. The mayor was warm and welcoming to the two families and the Tour group.
The group encountered a young African-American man (Lietta estimated his age as early 20’s), Steven Williams, who’s personal experience today was the predominant theme and perhaps underlines a most powerful effect of the Tour in helping citizens find their own voices.
Steven was passing by and stopped to ask questions, including, “I have a cousin serving in Iraq. Does that qualify me to join MFSO? The group inducted him into MFSO immediately and he stayed with them, accompanying them everywhere all day. To his surprise, he found himself very shortly with the group and the two families meeting the mayor of Columbus.
Next the tour group was to meet with aides to the two U.S. senators from Ohio, Republicans Mike DeWine and George Voinovich. Lietta not impressed with how the meetings went with the aides of both senators, but Steven Williams certainly was. He told the tour that he had tried to meet with these same aides previously without success. He expressed an astonished pleasure at having been able to be part of the group that met with them today.
Following the meeting was a debriefing with the press and – you guessed it – Steven Williams got to participate in that debriefing and speak to the press.
At one point during the day, I believe the group was to meet at something called the Huntington Plaza Building but instead went to the Huntington Bank Building and 13 persons got on the elevator which either stopped or did not move after the doors closed. After brief button pushing without results, several cell phones came out and calls were made to 911. Eventually building security got the door open and 13 anxious souls stampeded out of the elevator. Realizing they’d been in the wrong building, they headed to the door only to see 4 fire trucks and a brigade of fire fighters carrying fire axes for breaking down the elevator door charging up the stairs.
The group attended a huge potluck dinner at a Mennonite Church after which a panel of speakers made presentations and participated in discussions. On the panel were the Tour group, one of the Ohio MFSO members, a mother of one of a marine in Lima Company due to return in a month. She spoke (she said for the first time publicly) and gave a wonderful speaking of her story for 15 minutes. Next?
You guessed it. Steven Williams who was now astonishing even himself. Celeste Zappala, MFSO/Gold Star Mothers was the concluding speaker and Lietta says the local supporters were inspired by all the talks.
Then came a powerful candlelight vigl followed. Lietta was then asked to interview with local Channel 4 and she insisted on including Steven Williams who took a significant part in the interview. Lietta and Tour Group partner Bill Mitchell (MFSO/Gold Star) more or less shepherded Steven Williams through the day. At the end of the day Steven Williams told them with awe in his voice,
“This morning I got up to go to the library, but then met these people, joined MFSO, then saw the mayor, the aides to two U.S. Senators, spoke to an audience of supporters at a Mennonite Church and then got interviewed by Channel 4 News!”
He was so excited he called his grandmother to tell her to watch the 11:00 News.
For Lietta it was an amazing day, especially in being able to see letting others – especially local supporters – have a chance to speak for the whole group. The Mennonites were great, the vigil powerful and Steven Williams the highlight.
Tomorrow the bus leaves for Cleveland.
Surprise and pleasure:This Bus Tour update sent me from an Ohio Mother Hotlist
by Arthur Ruger
Tue Sep 13, 2005 at 07:02:36 PM PDT
Received this today via our MFSO Pac NW email address.
Lietta said she’s been handing out our cards and she gave one to this Ohio mother who writes so very well and I was surprised that she has yet to launch her own blog. I suspect it won’t be long until she does. Nothing from Lietta nor me today could ever match what this says:
OHIO CARAVAN WITH… “BRING THEM HOME NOW TOUR“
I am a mother of a 19 year old 3/25 Lima Co. Marine serving in Iraq. One third of his Unit has been kia or injured. In early August after losing 22 Marines in less than a week, fearing for my son’s life and driven by conviction, I began my journey to change the direction our country has been going.
I have been waiting for my son’s safe return before speaking out publicly. There is such confusion in our country about patriotism and suporting our troops while being against the war.
I stood at a Marine Family Meeting and told the Major and those present that it was time to bring the Ohio Marines home. I shouted out,” My son is not expendable.” I wrote to my senators asking for their help. I received no response. I refused to be powerless. I began thinking that Mothers had to win our country back and was planning to organize a Mother’s March on Washington.
I found the web site, www.truthout.org. Here I found Camp Casey, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, Iraqi Vets Against the War etc. I had never heard of any of these people. I found that there already was a huge march planned for September 24th. WOW! GREAT! I didn’t have to take on the huge task of planning a march. Phew! I just had to go!
And this tells me there is a larger movement … that is in our bones and is beginning to surface.
I wanted to go to Camp Casey but couldn’t because of scheduled meetings with the Marines to prepare for the homecoming of our boys. I saw the central Bring Them Home Now Tour plans to DC and realized I could caravan with them to Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland and maybe Pittsburgh!
I contacted a Cincinnati center to see if we could get them to stop in Cincinnati.. So, my tour began in Cincinnati. I offered housing and breakfast.
It was great to meet them. They are “my kind of people.” They are not off the wall, emotional fanatics. They are normal citizens willing to take risks as they speak out from their own experience and knowledge and with integrity against an incredible, illegal and disastrous war. They are compassionate people who suffer the loss of their beloved and they ask why? And they work hard to restore humanity, dignity and respect to our country. And they demand accountability and challenge our leadership to step up to the plate or get out of the way.
I was able to speak at the forums in Columbus and Cleveland. I spoke as a mother who watched five mothers bury their sons in the Cincinnati area in August. I shared the terror that I live with. The sleepless nights. The days and nights of anguish. “How desperately I want my son to live and have hope. He is so young, so idealistic, so confident, so trusting.”
I was able to visit the offices of the senators who still had not responded to my letters. With others from the Tour we spoke of the many issues involved with this war… depleted uranium, stop-loss, inadequate equipment, not enough men, operatives and the lies and deceit that led the American people into it.
We asked the aides, after we broke through the shell that tells you to “make it quick, I am busy and really don’t want to listen to you” to ask the Senators what they want their legacy to be. We asked them to tell the Senators to look again at the war and why we are there. Not with their jobs in mind or their political party, but to look with their human heart and their conscience. We told them if they see the truth and act from the truth…good will follow.
We participated in rallies and visited with many Americans who are sick of this war and the lies that keep us there and the dishonor it has brought to our country. We met enraged Americans.
There is much more to say about this BTHN Tour. It is an important moment. And the March September 24th will be historical.
I am convinced that out country is at a historical turning point… ” and the people will lead.”
I said to my son, “Mike, you have no idea how precious you are to me and dad, your brother and sister.”
” I know”
“We will not let you get away so easily again.”
“I know you won’t!”
“Mike, I am not afraid of the Marines. I am not afraid of the Government, and I am not afraid of the President. I am your Mom!”
Chuckling…”I love you, Mom.”
I will work so Mike and other sons will not have their generosity, their courage, their integrity, their desire to serve, their desire to make a difference compromised. I want my son to always be proud that he is a Marine.
NOTE: Peggy has since published her own book based on her perspectives: Skin in the Game: Journey of a Mother and Her Marine Son
Lietta on the Bring Them Home Now Tour Bus in Pennsylvania
4:30 PM CAMP NEIL: Speak Out/Pot-Luck Picnic with Musical Perfomances at Flagstaff Hill (Schenely Park, Oakland)
The picnic was fun and MFSO founders Nancy Lessing and Charlie Richardson were speakers along with Cindy Sheehan.
7:00 PM Candlelight Vigil and MARCH: From Flagstaff Hill (Schenely Park, Oakland) to Soldiers & Sailors Memorial
Following the pot-luck we marched to the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial. My thrill was that I got to carry one end of the IVAW banner. Again I have praise for IVAW member Hart Viges who has a powerfully expressive style in his presentation.
Our lodging turned out to be a convent which provided spacious comfort and a wonderful sense of repose and security.
Monday, September 12th
11:45 AM Truth in Recruiting Press Conference/Protest at Oakland Military Recruiting Station (3712 Forbes Ave., Oakland)
The recruiters shut the office and left.
We also went to the office of Senator Arlen Specter and met a Regional Rep/Office Director. Our usual discussion points and some active interest even though Specter (a Republican) was in D.C. chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee trying to get answers out of Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee, John Roberts.
Later in the afternoon we went to a studio for taping a CNBC with CNBC personality, Donnie Deutch in a Town Hall meeting about the Tour and Military Families speaking out. They put makeup on many of us but the principal speaker was our Beatriz Saldivar, MFSO. However they also had the pro-Bush Prewitt family from Boise, Idaho whom Bush attempted to use as a counterpoint to Cindy.
They gave much more time and emphasis to the Prewitts – who have five military members (the spouse and 4 adult children I believe) – and who have not suffered a family loss … yet. We felt extremely slighted by this production, particularly when Beatriz’s presentation was evoking emotional support in the audience and CNBC abruptly cut her off in mid-sentence after only about 3 minutes and spent most of the rest of the time doting on the Prewitts. I understand that this taping will air this Wednesday (10:00 pm Eastern) on CNBC if it has not already.
7:30pm PUBLIC GATHERING to discuss Truth in Recruiting – Friends Meeting House (4836 Ellsworth Ave, Oakland)
This gathering also included a discussion of conscientious objectors. Regarding recruiting, I had a chance to share my perspective of the Emiliano Santiago and the Seattle trial where he was overruled by a judge and ordered to fulfill the terms of his contract and return to Iraq.
The Friends Meeting House is of course Quaker – hence a consideration of what it means to be a conscientious objector. Nancy Lessing was one of the speakers tonight. The ultimate theme of the evening, in my (Lietta) opinion is that “soldiers are people too.”
Tuesday, September 13th
12 noon PRESENTATION and Q&A with members of the Tour United Steelworkers of America headquarters (60 Blvd.of the Allies, Downtown)
The steelworkers passed a resolution today demanding that the president bring our troops home now.
Wed, Sep. 14th Harrisburg
We spent the day in Harrisburg meeting with elected officials (Pennsylvania state officials and congressional representatives/staffs) discussing the issues raised by Camp Casey and the tour.
We ended the day in Harrisburg with a rally on the steps of the capitol building.
Thursday, September 15th
11:30 AM Discussion with the AFL-CIO at AFL-CIO Headquarters – 22 South 22nd Street.
Our contact for this meeting was the president of the AFSCME District 47. AFSCME is a member of the AFL-CIO and also the parent organization of the Washington (State) Federation of State Employees of which husband, Arthur Ruger, is a president of Local 970 in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties. The AFL-CIO also passed a resolution today demanding that the president bring the troops home now.
Activity: Induction of “Camp Gold Star” to recognize all who have fallen – Independence Mall, 5th & Market Streets
Today we accomplished the induction of “Camp Gold Star” near the Liberty Bell at the Independence Mall, 5th and Market Streets.
There was some pain in the building of Camp Gold Star because the rules do not allow us to “poke holes in the ground” which for us is not the same as inserting the crosses so that they stand up. Eventually we decided to be civilly disobedient and planted the crosses anyway. It’s curious that we would have such resistance to honoring our beloved soldiers with crosses at what is famously known as the Birthplace of Liberty. Well … the crosses remained.
We also – in reminder of the “Eyes Wide Open” campaign – placed empty boots with the crosses and in fact placed a cross in the boots. We then placed a set of empty boots among the others with the idea that the next owner of a set of boots here is yet to be determined. What can we do to help end it?
We who have never been to this city also took time toward the end of the day when the lines were shorter to see the Liberty Bell and again ponder our own history and heritage in the presence of something real and tangible that evokes feelings akin to when we see our flag or sing our anthem.
We met another mother who lost a soldier in Iraq a month ago. As she is tragically eligible to join Gold Star Mothers, we do not know if she will. But her agony is no so great as to overpower her wisdom. We saw as she spoke with 4 young R.O.T.C. cadets who apparently knew her son, pleading with them to not take a similar path to risk a similar fate for such a discredited reason.
Later, a security guard, after finishing his shift, came by. He’s a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq in his mid-to-late 30’s. If we understood him correctly, he joined (or rejoined) the military after September 11th because he had a sense that if the military (including him) could “end it” before his 10-year-old son reached draft age. An extraordinary thing – yet so typical of what a parent instinctively feels for the children. We see it all the time, sacrificing one’s self so the next generation has a chance.
Lietta says that the VFP have been wonderful in their participation, support and activities all day.
We we also excited late in the day to receive notice from Beatriz Saldivar that Daniel Torres’ widow, Sophia, gave birth to a valiant soldier’s daughter, a new niece for Beatriz and a living legacy of a heroic man.
They named her Daniela.
MFSO Pac NW meets with Murray, Smith and the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee
Sat Sep 24, 2005
Military Families Speak Out: Pacific Northwest Chapter,
(This one is long but no apologies offered for its length. What she had to say tonight has got me fighting mad and fired up! – Arthur)
Lietta Ruger: “walking the halls of Congress in shorts.”
Thursday night, 11:30 PM …
This was an extremely busy day. I got to see a lot of famous buildings I’ve only seen on TV and in movies … The Supreme Court Building, the Library of Congress, the Senate office buildings, the Capitol Building … just like the tourist I always felt I’d be when coming finally to Washington D.C. to see first hand the tangible monuments to our national heritage and democracy-in-action.
Only I wasn’t a tourist today, but an activist lobbying for our core American values and what we baby boomers were taught growing up in a country proud of its heritage … unafraid to practice what we we taught.
However, today, as we pursued our talks with those who we helped place in the positions as our representatives, we were not dressed as government business-people; formally, in 3-piece power suits, in skirts, blouses or dresses with earrings, eye-shadow and lipstick. We walked the halls of Congress in the heat of the day in the happy casual dress of tourists. How strange to deal with three-piece-suiters and power-fashioned women of authority.
Yes, I saw all those photogenic buildings, over and over, back and forth all day – walking through or by them – on our way to see one after another person we all hired with our ballots in some prior election.
It was thrilling, moving and also embarrassing. How many who read this have ever felt embarrased by the Senator or Congressperson chosen to be our voice in Washington? I met some today who embarrased their constituencies and others who honored them. More later, but first the highlight of the day.
This evening Bring Them Home now Tour members went with Elaine Johnson MFSO member) to participate in the Black Voices For America town hall meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church where Elaine was one of the primary speakers.
Also in attendance were many officials and politicians and activist organizations – all powerful advocates.
The evening was spent in strong discussion and public discourse on the war in Iraq, rights and support of our troops, consequences of hurricane Katrina, racial injustice, justice for all, the roots of war and more.
There were two different panels and the evening was both amazing and powerfully inspirational.
Earlier today representing MFSO, we (Stacy Bannerman, Judy Linehan, Rose Gentle from MFSO U.K. and I) met with Congressman Adam Smith (D Washington).
After a brief discussion about Congressman Smith’s position on an upcoming vote regarding troop withdrawals/reductions we emphasized to him that withdrawals/reductions based on a future deadline were no longer as important as bringing the troops home now.
Again, we were able to emphasize how recent weeks had demonstrated the invalidity of the administration’s oft-changed reasons for the war, any Bush-defined noble cause and justification for more loss of troops in a Republican mantra of “staying the course” despite the failure of Bush’s foreign policy objectives and strategy.
Smith was respectful, polite and obviously interested in our discussion, showing no signs of impatience or a desire to keep the discussion limited, brief or redirected to other venues.
Smith: (paraphrasing) “You’re not saying later, you’re saying now?”
“Yes we are.”
When we talked about the relationship between the troops, the commander-in-chief and the citizens responsibility to hold the CIC accountable to insure that lives are not placed in harm’s way for
invalid reasons or political agendas, Smith “got it,” and told us “You are right!”
Contrast that with our disappointing visit with Senator Patty Murray ( who, like Congressman Adam Smith, did not send an aide to meet with us but instead talked to us personally) who gave us only five minutes and declared that her position on the troops and the ware were “non-negotiable”.
Senator Patty Murray, talking like an Bush insider, flatly declared that we needed to keep our troops in Iraq and stay the course until the mission was completed.
I felt that my Senator – like many prominent Democratic politicians – is too intimidated by the Republican majority to take any other stand … possibly thinking that there is still a silent majority in her home state and the country that continues to drink the kool-aid Republicans have been offering now into a fifth year of political dominance. As this is written, the most recent USAToday/CNN/Gallup poll indicates that 67% versus 32% of American citizens disapprove of what Bush is doing in Iraq.
That is not an insignificant number and evinces a silent majority that might have a thing or two to say to an intimidated elected Democratic minority.
But the “stinkiest” moment of our day was when Kalisa Stanley and I (Lietta) accompanied Gold Star co-founder (with Cindy Sheehan) Bill Mitchell as he made another of several attempts to meet with his Congressman, Bill Thomas (R California) who was elected Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in 2001.
Bill Mitchell is a single parent who raised his only child – only to lose him in Iraq the same day Cindy Sheehan lost her son, Casey. Bill has attempted for over a year to have – even if only
briefly – a meeting with Rep Thomas with absolutely no success. They’ve never once offered Bill an appointment with Rep Thomas.
Lietta and Kalisa Stanley volunteered to go with Bill in another attempt as a constituent to meet his congressman. They went in handicapped by not having an appointment.
An aide to Thomas was called to the desk by the receptionist. The aide escorted the group out of the office to – as she put it – the “other meeting room.” Bill told us that this is what happens every time and he’s been to the “other waiting room” before.
It’s not a waiting room, it’s a place where we stand next to window to talk through the window.
(Lietta was not aware at the time that Thomas is Chairman of what the press has for years cliched as “The Powerful Ways and Means Committee”) and asked a question that was even more pointed than she realized:
“Are you saying that Congressman Thomas has no place where you can sit down and talk to him?”
Aide’s response: (again paraphrased) “His office is not equipped for visitors.”
(Lietta)”How come Congressman Adam Smith has a meeting area and Rep Thomas doesn’t? We’ve crossed several states to get here, we’ve meet with numerous congressional aides in those states and here in D.C. – all of whom met us in a room with tables and chairs where we could discuss ssues with them. But Rep Thomas (the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee) tells us to go stand by a window sill?”
Lietta’s perception of the aide was that of a woman who was cold and showed absolutely no emotion and was distant when she told Bill,
“I remember you from before. Didn’t you talk to our scheduler?”
Bill:”Yes I have several times. But she never called me back.”
Kalisa and Lietta: “We’re here to support Bill Mitchell, your constituent.
He’s attempted to get an appointment with his elected representative 6 times in the last 12 months with no success. Both in California and here in D.C. – with no success. The ‘scheduler’ has never called him back. He wants to meet with his representative and for the sake of decency Representative Thomas owes it to this man; owes this grieving father acknowledgement, owes the loss of his only child an acknowledgement.”
Lietta: “That is what we do in Washington and Oregon and we are treated respectfully by our congress persons. Bill and his son are Rep Thomas’s constituents and deserve at least 15 minutes of his time.”
The aide called the scheduler in: “No, the congressman isn’t available. He’s voting.”
Lietta: “So you’ll make an appointment for Bill?”
Aide: “Not at this time. But we’ll tell the Congressman about our little chat.”
Lietta: “This is not a ‘little chat’ – it’s serious business.”
At this point the scheduler seemed to grow uncomfortable, conciliatory and apologetic.
The aide then said that as staffers, they will make this a “work in progress,” to which Kalisa, Bill and Lietta responded: “We will follow up and expect to see an appointed meeting between Bill and his Congressman take place as soon as possible.”
Lietta was still fuming, calling the episode the “stinkiest” part of the day.
“This single parent and grieving father has been so dishonored and disrespected by his congressman who forces him to resort to a meeting with an aide at a window sill like a ticket buyer to a circus. We’re going to help Bill compose a letter to be sent to the Congressman every week (the same letter) and to local news media in Bill’s district until an appointment is set and a meeting is held. That’s our project and we don’t intend to drop the ball.”
Bill is a veteran, a quiet man, polite and respectful by nature, not brash and not overly agressive – all attributes we as Americans are supposed to cherish. And for this he has been politically snubbed and treated with a cold and brutal disregard by one of the stalwarts of the current Republican administration.
But since this shameful and embarrassing display of ignorant arrogance took place in the morning, all that followed today – capped by the wonderful meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church tonight – helped dilute the bad taste in our mouths from someone who has talked the tough fight but for whom the war and loss of life remains a political abstraction.
End of report.
Don’t be nervous honey, you’ll get used to it.