Monday, October 29, 2007

Opposing the War in Chicago

Chicago October 27 antiwar - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Chicago Antiwar October 27 - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Last Friday, after work, Ravenhub, myself and a good friend hopped in a rental car and drove east. We were headed for Chicago for the United for Peace and Justice antiwar march and rally in Chicago.

We drove across Wisconsin in the rain. It has been my experience that one must always drive in the rain when crossing through Wisconsin. It’s like that Pigpen character in Peanuts that always has a cloud over his head. Wisconsin also has a cloud that spews rain whenever I decide to drive across it.

Once we got a ways south, the weather turned clear and we got to see the beautiful fall colors again. We are well past peak color at our latitude, but they still have color further south. Very pretty!

Ravenhub is a train nut, so our intricate plans required making our way toward the windy city in a way that would require us to make use of as many trains as possible.

Our plan on the first day was to get to Waukegan so that we could ride the Metra into the city for the rally. We arrived around 2:30 a.m. and found out that Waukegan is a very small town without much in the way of hotels. The Ramada Inn was full, so we chose one of those crappy budget hotels. This one was apparently balanced on the 7th ring of Hell. I cannot explain how completely unpleasant this place was. But all we needed was a few hours of sleep and the price was very cheap. The bathroom was, ahem, filthy and the sink had this big blob of something hideous stuck to its side. Looked like something a horse might cough up. At around 7 a.m., work crews began slamming things around outside our window. We look out and see them tossing every thing, including the bathroom sink from the room next door out the window and into a metal (clang!) dumpster. Oy vey!

So we pack up our meager belongings and head downtown looking for a place to eat breakfast. However, Waukegan’s downtown does not open on Saturday morning. In fact, I believe they roll up the sidewalks overnight. We finally talked to a woman in the car next to us, and she directed us out towards the interstate.

We found a delightful little diner called "The Dog House" and ate a delicious breakfast while watching four of the hardest working people I have ever seen. There was barely enough space behind the counter to move around, and yet these four people managed to feed and wait on 30 or so people at a time. Just amazing. The food was delicious.

We get down to the train station, which is right along Lake Michigan. The train arrives and we get seats in the upper deck. A 30 minute ride through the northern, and ritzy, suburbs of Chicago was thoroughly enjoyable. Halfway there, a bunch of teenagers hope on. They are carrying antiwar signs and are all excited about the trip. They are also constantly changing seats and sharing iPods and cell phones. It was fascinating and a bit frightening. But they were supporting a good cause!

We land in downtown Chicago and wander around hopelessly looking for the el train. We didn’t really have a map that was worthwhile and wandered off in the wrong direction a few times. Fortunately, a Postal worker asked us if we were lost and pointed us in the right direction. Very nice man. We find the el and stop at a Starbucks directly underneath for some caffeinated fortification. Hop on the el and head down to Union Park for the opening rally.

At the park, we are immediately accosted by group after group from the political fringe. Being fairly fringe-y myself, this is heaven. We picked up copies of all the latest left wing press, including the groups that spend all their time attacking each other. There were a ton of campaign workers trying to get their candidates onto the Illinois ballot. After a while, whenever we were approached, we just said, "Not an Illinois voter!" and the zombie-like creatures moved on to the next person.

I ran into this couple from the "Billionaires for Bush" group. They were spot on with their condescension. Made me laugh!

Billionaires for bush - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

At rallies, I always take the opportunity to pet as many dogs as possible and this was no exception. There were quite a few pit bulls, some goldens and a bunch of tiny little "kick-me" dogs of unknown origin.

Several groups had made signs and we’re asking for donations from people who wanted to carry them. That’s a new way to drum up money, but what the heck. It does take effort to put them together, so more power to them.

I ran into a couple of long-time Chicago friends and even four or five Twin Cities activists who had made the trip down there. I was talking to my friend, J, a local union activist when someone from the Bill Richardson campaign came by. We neglected to tell him that we were among the people who had run Richardson out of town several years ago when he tried he was a UN representative defending U.S. foreign policy. It seemed the polite thing to do!

The march began, and we placed ourselves in a group of people who liked to chant. We managed to insert our political line of thought (heh!), into a group that started chanting, "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" by changing the call to "What do we want? Troops out! When do we want it? Now!" I mean, seriously, peace the U.S. government way would mean total occupation of Iraq. Not the sort of thing I’m in favor of.

There was a fun guy with a megaphone who started a chant like this:

"When I say Bush, you say, ‘Liar!’ Bush!"

The crowd yells, "Liar!"

Him: "Bush"

Crowd: "Liar"

"When I say Cheney, you say ‘Duck!" Cheney!"

The crowd yells, "Duck!" and everybody ducks down.

Him" "Cheney"

Crowd: "Duck" as we all crouch down.

This chant pleased the cops no end.

Speaking of cops, the presence was intense. Along the march there were at least 3 or 4 Chicago police on each side of every single block. They were friendly enough, dressed in regular gear and standing at ease. When we got downtown and passed the Illinois state building, the state patrol was lined up in their brown shirts (seriously!) with their riot helmets and their clubs held across their bodies in both hands. Sheesh what a waste!

When we walked across the Chicago River, we encountered a group passing out fliers for the local Chicago antiwar coalition. I looked down at the flyer and saw the graphic I made of the odometer showing Iraq, with the q rolling off to be replaced by the n from Iran.

Iraq Iran Peace Antiwar Odometer Sign - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

I asked the guy, "Hey, where did you get this graphic?"

"Stole it off the web!" was the reply.

"I made that graphic!" I told him.

"You did? That’s great!"

I love it when I see my art being used on other people’s fliers!

Right after crossing the Chicago River, we passed a wedding party and their photographer. They decided they needed wedding pictures with the antiwar march in the background. As soon as we saw this, we started chanting "Make love, not war!" The wedding party smiled and waved in response. Cute!

Downtown at the federal building we saw more Illinois cops in riot gear, plus the Chicago mounted police lined up side by side. Lots of overtime got paid that day.

The rally was at the federal building. It was pretty hard to hear. I managed to snag the edge of a cement flower pot, so I got off my feet for a while. There was a great speaker from Iraq who explained how Sunni and Shi’ia Arabs had intermingled for hundreds of years and how the news was wrong in characterizing them as completely separate communities. He said, "I don’t need anyone travelling 10,000 miles to help me talk to my cousin."

We stayed through most of the speeches and then headed back to the train station. Got lost again trying to find the damn thing and once again a friendly stranger sent us in the right direction. We made the train in time, but it was delayed for 45 minutes due to the derailment of an earlier train.

Our ride back was like being in a David Lynch film. The train passes by the Great Lakes Naval Base, so there were a lot of sailors in uniform heading back for the night. They were so damned young and acted like frat boys, throwing stuff back and forth at each other and giggling. A few stops into the trip and a group of teenage girls got on the train. They were prepping for a Halloween party so they spent the trip putting on make up and screaming at each other. Between the hyped up sailors and the screaming teenager girls it was surreal.

Waukegan, once again dead as a doornail, was soon to be placed in our rear view mirror. We headed north. Our plan had been to drive all the way home Saturday night. But I convinced Ravenhub that it was just too much for us oldsters and that we needed to get a good night’s rest after the fiasco of the night before.

So we got a room in a Hampton Inn on the west side of Milwaukee. Ah, paradise! Lovely room, lovely amenities. There was a business center with free computer and internet access so we got caught up on our e-mail. Breakfast was free and healthy. We grabbed some coffee from a local Starbucks and drove for the next 6 hours. We made it home around 2:30 p.m.

At 4 p.m. I decided to take a nap, but never really got up again until 6 a.m. this morning!

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the local demonstration turned out almost 500 people and was reported to be a lot of fun and widely supported by the people driving by.

Pictures will be added later.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Are you a good German?

Stolen from bint alshamsa!

Your Score: The Expatriate

Achtung! You are 30% brainwashworthy, 27% antitolerant, and 19% blindly patriotic

Congratulations! You are not susceptible to brainwashing, your values and cares extend beyond the borders of your own country, and your Blind Patriotism does not reach unhealthy levels. If you had been German in the 30s, you would've left the country.

One bad scenario -- as I hypothetically project you back in time -- is that you just wouldn't have cared one way or the other about Nazism. Maybe politics don't interest you enough. But the fact that you took this test means they probably do. I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt.

Did you know that many of the smartest Germans departed prior to the beginning of World War II, because they knew some evil shit was brewing? Brain Drain. Many of them were scientists. It is very possible you could have been one of them.

Conclusion: born and raised in Germany in the early 1930's, you would not have been a Nazi.

The Would You Have Been A Nazi? Test

- it rules -

Link: The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test written by jason_bateman on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fact Sheet for Iraq demo

We're printing this on the back of the November flyer to handout at our next demo. We needed something that explained our position.

Why we say Out Now! - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Build Your Wild Self

Found via Presurfer, you can create your own image in wildlife at the New York Zoos and Aquarium website. Here's yours truly:

Build your wild self desktop - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Farewell, Wabun Inini

Today I learned of a great loss to activists. Vernon Bellecourt, a leader of the American Indian Movement and one of the most devoted on-the-ground activists I've ever met, died this weekend.

Vernon was one of the most committed anti-intervention activists alive. He spoke at many an anti-war demonstration, forum, conference, meeting, group, etc. He always made the connections between U.S. imperialism abroad and the war against Native people's at home.

He traveled around the world, connecting with indigenous organizations of all continents to defend and demand their human rights.

He could do everything: he could rile up a crowd with a provocative speech, he could sit down at a table and provide facts and figures in a calm cool discussion. He could talk with the press and come up with the quotes the media wanted to print. On a regular basis he would visit local prisons to help incarcerated native americans develop their spiritual lives.

He always combined public speaking and visible activism with direct aid to people in need all over the world.

He had boundless energy and enthusiasm and hope. He was harassed and jailed and surveiled and tailed and just plain picked on by authorities at every turn. And it didn't phase him a bit.

He went by his mission-supplied name, Vernon Bellecourt, but would often talk about his true name, before the Indian schools made him change it. In Anishinabe, his name, Wabun Inini, means Man of Dawn.

He will be missed.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Reading Lessing

I believe the first book I read by Doris Lessing was The Golden Notebook. At the time, I was living with a man who was so familiar to me because he managed to match the abuse and self-centeredness that I had experienced with my father. And that looked like true love at the time. Or it made me feel valuable at a time when I wasn’t valuing myself.

So I don’t remember much about the book, but I have a memory of myself sprawled on the lawn and reading, reading, reading. Reading was my escape at the time and I reveled in it. I was going through another one of my many untreated clinical depressions. I remember I was quite underweight. It wasn’t because of diet and control issues that arise with eating disorders. I was thin because I simply forgot to eat. I forgot to eat for a day or two at a time. I drank and I smoked. But I didn’t eat. I wasn’t hungry.

But I read. I was starved for intelligence and a world different from my own. I remember living in that book and thriving in that book, even though I cannot remember a single passage. I don’t remember plot. I don’t remember characters. I remember holding on to the book as if it was a lifeline.

Years later, I read The Good Terrorist for my women’s book group. I remember this one a bit better. I remember recognizing in my soul the activists who messed things up and left it to the women to provide all the cleaning. It was all too familiar to me.

I tried to read the science fiction, because I adore feminist science fiction. But I couldn’t get into Lessings sci fi world for some reason.

I do remember a woman I respected raving about Martha Quest. And so, this year, when I was doing a shift at a local used book store, I purchased a well-used copy of the novel.

And it captured me. Martha Quest is about a woman growing up in colonial Africa. It is about the impression made by the land and its people. It is about the understanding of privilege and the hatred of inequality. It is about the believe that individual actions can make a difference and need to be attempted.

I found myself adoring the way Lessing could display the contemptible privilege of the colonialists and the way they backed each other up in their self-assurance.

I’ve read a bit about Lessing and the thing I admire most is her scepticism. She distrusts dogma of all kinds. She rejects the claims of feminism and the claims of communism and the claims of anti-racism. At the same time, she is tireless in her efforts to provide direct assistance to the people of her homeland. She lives a simple, but happy existence in a small town. It is said that she spends every day feeding the birds of Hamstead Heath.

I am astonished that such a woman can receive accolades these days. Perhaps the world is not hopeless after all.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Come and sit a spell

Doris Lessing wins Nobel Prize for Literature - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Yesterday it was announced that Doris Lessing had won the Nobel Prize for literature. She was on her way home from shopping and was met by a hoard of journalists on her front porch. So she sat down and answered questions. What an awesome 87-year-old!

I've spent time this year re-reading her books, this time in order. I've read the first two books of the "Children of Violence" series: Martha Quest and A Proper Marriage. Many times I found myself quoting passages out loud to Ravenhub because she does such a wonderful job of popping the overinflated egos of the colonists in Africa.

Here's some quotes form her encounter with the press yesterday:

"I was coming back from the hospital with my son Peter who was sick. I stepped out of a taxi and there were all these cameras, a whole posse of photographers. As this street is very good for that kind of thing, I thought they were shooting a soap or an episode of Morse or something. But it was me. So I first heard that I had won the Nobel prize for literature from the reporters."

"It is the most glamorous prize, and naturally it has got a lot of prestige, which none of the other prizes have, so it's the icing on the cake. At one point, sometime in the 70s, they [the Nobel academy] didn't like me - they said they didn't - but they seem to have changed their minds. Committees are like that. Of course I didn't expect to get it. I've been on the shortlist for 40 years. It is good to be the 11th woman on the list, I'm only sorry that one of the first or fourth or the fifth wasn't Virginia Woolf. But I don't think it is helpful to talk about writers in terms of male and female. A lot of British writers have won it, which is good. We produce a lot of good writers. I've been talking non-stop all day. I've spoken to my publisher and agent and old friends who rang me up, which was very good. There were lots of people who have wanted me to have it for a long time, so it is very nice that I have. I'm exhausted. To celebrate I'd have to go and buy champagne. I'm going to bed."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Please come, don't come, no please come!

Let tutu speak - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

I haven't had time to blog about this until now. Recently, Rev. Dennis Dease, president of a local Catholic university, St. Thomas in St. Paul, decided to disinvite Desmond Tutu from speaking at an event on campus because he was accused of being an anti-Semite. The accusation was a result of this speech Tutu gave in Boston on April 13, 2002.

An article about this trend of disinviting speakers is here. Here's a quote:

The escalating controversy reflects a tension at colleges nationwide, one pitting free speech and academic freedom against views some find objectionable.

Last month, Columbia University's decision to allow Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak drew protesters. Speakers with strong political opinions regularly draw ire on campuses. Many religious-affiliated universities have taken heat for speakers who hold positions that, some say, go against particular doctrines.

What has changed of late has been the reaction of some colleges and universities. There is a growing trend, according to the American Association of University Professors, of schools inviting speakers and then un-inviting them after opposition groups turn up the heat.

The local activist community responded quickly and decisively, sending thousands of faxes and sparking news stories from around the world.

Yesterday, Dease reversed his decision. Way to go activists!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Update to the October 27 flyer

Changes: needed to add bus information.

iraq flyer update - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ireland & Palestine

"In Ireland, a government was elected that was the political equivalent of a coalition between the Likud and Hamas."

Tonight I went to a speech by Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Abunimah has been studying both South Africa and Ireland to learn what he can about how seemingly intractable enemies can find a way to work together and attempt to make a better world.

I took notes and I hope to have time to transcribe them here. Simply put, it was fascinating and positive and, surprise or surprises, hopeful.

This is good.


I'm addicted to LOL Cats, but this one really got me going! Found via Reddit.

LOL senator - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The vets get a chance to speak

I whipped up this flyer for an event coming up in November. There was so much copy, I had little chance to use any art.

November antiwar event - Photo Hosted at Buzznet