Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Take Action Today to STOP THIS WAR

Hilary Lambert © 2007

At the end of my previous entry, I welcomed suggestions from others on how to take real-world actions to STOP THIS WAR, but said I was disinterested in replies beginning with the F-word.

Wow, was I ever wrong. Thanks to Harold for his excellent F-word-based comments (scroll down and click on comment #1) about the war.

“Attaboy Harold,” says an astute international reader.

Commenter #2 (click below) is Jim, who provides us with a statement from Ed Abbey that eliminates any hope you may have to STOP THIS WAR by sitting, enraged and fuming, at your computer; ranting to your friends; or spending hours or days creating clever political jpgs or videos that you send out across the Internet(s) and put on your resumé.

Here is what that all-American man-of-action Abbey said:
“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”
Now you know why you have been feeling so bad.
Want action?
Following is a discussion of a real-world action step you can take today to STOP THIS WAR.

You may act on this suggestion preferably after you have completed the first step listed in my previous entry (below): 1. Find that discarded anti-war bumpersticker, put it on your car, and drive around boldly with it out there for all to see, for several days.

So, how did that feel, with your opinion out there on your automotive rear-end?
Did the skies open up and swallow you whole?
Did you lose your job?
Did someone key your car, or bash in the windshield?
Did you get pulled over and harassed by the po-lice?
Did any of your other horrific fears spring to life from under the bed?

Most likely, not much at all happened at your end, as a result of your taking an action to STOP THIS WAR.

However, think of the effect on the many who have now read your bumpersticker, whether it says “End this Endless War”, or “Stop the War – Bring our Troops Home Now”, or other excellent variants):

A few sad specimens will wonder, “What war?” Then they’ll ask someone, “What war?”
And they will soon be better informed. YOU DID THAT!

A number will say, “Wow, exactly how I feel – and I thought I was alone!”
And they will feel empowered to speak out, and act. YOU DID THAT!

A number will say, “Traitor! Send the bum to Gitmo!” But they will be thinking, “Could they possibly be right?” And they move just a little bit toward you on the opinion spectrum.

And a number will read it and say, “What the heck good does that do?”
And they will come up with and act on a slightly bolder, stronger idea for action to STOP THIS WAR. YOU DID THAT!

The effect your action has on yourself is not as important as the effect it has on others. Your bumpersticker – displayed, not in a drawer – is a drop of action that, as it hits the water, gently and quietly creates a tiny ripple that spreads outward to touch and affect others.

I don’t want to hear any more about how “the Democrats have failed us.”
I want you to begin to take your own personal actions to STOP THIS WAR.

A couple of weeks back, I stood on a busy street-corner in rush hour traffic with a sign that read: “Honk! Impeach Cheney – First.” This is probably a little bit beyond what most of us are ready to do at this point, though I can tell you that it id did not hurt even one little bit.

This street corner event, “Honk to Impeach Cheney,” was organized by members of the Central Kentucky Council for Peace & Justice.

People sneered at this idea as pathetic – how could honking a car horn help impeach that dreadful war criminal? They said, “Honking to ‘impeach’ is just another sign of how ineffective our anti-war movement has become”, and so on. (Don’t forget those sly Rovian arguments that “impeachment is not on the table because it would be too disruptive.” Huh?)

Well, I made my sign, parked my car at a distance (paid $4), had an invigorating stroll in the rain, and emerged onto the seething major intersection to see three other people with “Honk to Impeach” signs, only dimly discerned through the rain and roar of traffic.

For an hour and a half we stood with our signs, moving with the traffic signals to catch the next stream of traffic turning left, right, going straight, on their way home from work and school.

And lots of people honked. A lot did not.

One girl hung out the passenger window screaming at me, “But what did he do?”

I figured she might ask someone why this crazy woman was standing in the rain with that sign – and she would learn why.

A young male pedestrian asked me, “Why are you wanting to impeach the VICE President?” I smiled and pointed to the word – “First,” on my sign.

He walked away, totally confused. BUT HE WAS THINKING.

Some of the honkers were virtuosos – they did a steady tattoo of little honks all the way through the intersection. One person just sank the honker down and kept it on for about a half-minute – it took on an urgent siren quality that was very satisfying. Two pedestrians across the street accosted one of the other sign-bearers, calling her a traitor and all that; I could hear the man bellowing, over the traffic.

By the time we finished up and folded our signs, there were six of us.
Think of what we accomplished: We got hundreds of people to act.
We got hundreds more to think.

Sure “it was just a honk” – but as you may personally know, that takes a lot of bravery, in this repressed and frightened time. It was that first tiny step.

You need to put a sign today in your front yard or window.
I need you to do this, to counteract the Orwellian one I see on my walks to get newspapers, in a neighborhood far wealthier than mine:

Where is your sign, that reads:

Please do this today (no more excuses).
You have been far too self-absorbed.
The effect your action has on yourself is not as important as the effect it has on others.

Peace and love,
Hilary Lambert

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Deeds needed

Yesterday afternoon I took part in a sit-in at the office of Lee Todd, President of the University of Kentucky. The reason for our sit-in was not to STOP THIS WAR.

The sit-in was to communicate the concerns of many about a proposed logging project at Robinson Forest, a UK-owned island of ecosystem wellness surrounded by a sea of mountaintop-removal devastation, located in eastern Kentucky’s Perry, Breathitt and Knott counties.

However, if you read my previous entry (and I know one person has – sheesh, Harold), maybe you can discern why I am writing about the sit-in to get at how you and I must work a lot harder to STOP THIS WAR.

It all boils down to doing something – not just sitting around talking (or whining) or reading about it. Taking actual physical action is the key. Online behavior does not count.

This basic rule for making a difference was said best in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, though the expression is not Homeland-Security correct: “When you have to shoot.... shoot, don’t talk.”

Until you act, you remain anonymous, and you are not helping to STOP THIS WAR.
You are just making noise.

To STOP THIS WAR, you must be willing to take a concrete action that reveals, for all to see, where you stand – literally. (And then, another action. It gets easier.)

Before the sit-in, we stood in a nearby building, gathering our group and talking to the media and preparing to walk across a small plaza to the Administration building and the President’s office. (Note: Kentucky author Eric Reece was there, standing back, speaking to no one, and writing steadily into a notebook – I am told that he is writing a book about Robinson Forest.)

A number of the participants were visibly nervous, but they forced themselves to keep taking the next step, and then the one after that. (What first or second step have you taken today, to STOP THIS WAR?).

We huddled for a brief set of directions on remaining non-violent and friendly, and were given the curious but scary warning, repeated, “Do not get behind a policeman,” like cops were a type of velociraptor. We were told to sit down when instructed to sit down, and when the cops come (do not get behind them and) either leave when they tell you to, or stay if you want to – there was cash bail money available.

An amiable television reporter and cameraman dogged us, providing a filmed and spoken narrative for our sprint across the plaza, “And then the group crossed the brief distance to the administration building,” as we chanted “Save Robinson Forest, Save Robinson Forest.”

We had been instructed to enter the President’s office two by two, asking permission to enter and speak to him, but the media was sort of pushing us forward and before we knew it, a wedge of cameras and reporters and students and leaders were all crammed into the outer office, asking the secretary and the President’s wingman for permission to speak to the guy, who was, they said, long gone on his way to a conference in Pittsburgh.

I am not going to provide a blow-by-blow of this event and the two to three long hours that we sat in, on the President’s colorful new carpet, because my main aim is to explain how you can – and must, to be effective – personally take actual physical steps to STOP THIS WAR.

But there was an instructive moment of action – a very quiet one, but wonderful – when we all acted on our commitment, during the sit-in. It happened when our spokesperson Garrett Graddy was explaining to the President’s guy, Douglas Boyd, how Kentucky’s environmental community had been repeatedly ignored in our concerns about the plan to “log for science” at Robinson Forest. She handed him various petitions and letters.

Boyd, every inch the communications professor he said he was, did a fabulous stalling and side-tracking job, asking small, stupid, seemingly-interested, detailed questions that Garrett had to stop and back up and think about in order to reply. Meanwhile, who knew what alarums and uproars were going on across the campus in response to whatever signal he or the secretary had sent out.

Garrett persevered through Boyd’s stalling, distracting, and disarming tactics. She turned to look at us all standing behind her as she said to him, “And we are going to sit,” – nodding to us – “until we get some answers.”

And we all commenced to sit. We sank – some immediately, some by degrees – to the office floor. Made ourselves comfortable. No longer could we bolt for the door or plead a class or appointment. We had taken action and committed ourselves, gently but firmly, for all to see, to Save Robinson Forest.

“But that’s not what I came to tell you about,” as Arlo Guthrie said then, and still says today.

You need to ask yourself:
What action can I take today, out in front of every one, to STOP THIS WAR?

This needs to be an action that you take in the open – in the real world, not the virtual or private one – for all to see.

Yes – your next door neighbors, and people you don’t want to disagree with, and total strangers, who are often your closest friends in situations like this – you have to let them all know that you think we need to STOP THIS WAR.

Here’s one, to get you started (and then I am going away for a while).

1. Take that anti-war bumpersticker out of the dark place you hid it, and PUT IT ON YOUR CAR.

I will leave you alone to struggle with carrying out this momentous act.

Your suggestions welcome, but if they start with the F-word, I am not too interested.
More to come.

Love and peace,

Monday, December 3, 2007

Problems and solutions

I began the 660 mile drive to my Lexington Kentucky apartment from Ithaca New York the dreaded day before Thanksgiving. The USA has recently developed two days of dread, bracketing our most generous and kindly holiday.

The day before, there is the torment of travel, by any medium, to be with those whom we optimistically term our “family and loved ones.” That’s the dreaded day I was dealing with.

I had planned to get up slowly and do some more stuff around the Ithaca house before leaving, but I awoke with a jolt of fear about the bottleneck at the bottom of Cleveland, the horror across all of greater Columbus, and that single elevated curving lane onto I-75 south at the geo-junction where the Ohio River does its best to keep Ohio firmly separated from Kentucky.

I was out of the Ithaca house with cats and belongings before ten a.m., apologizing to my daughter and her husband for not completing the massive leaf-raking task we had begun the day before in the rain. Of course it then took me another 45 minutes to get out of town, because I had to deposit money in an account, buy locally-made tofu for curious friends in Lexington (apparently Ithaca has quite the tofu reputation among foodies), and get gas (diesel).

All the while, my cats were grousing loudly in their cage as to when I would set them free to roam the tiny interior of my VW Golf, for what they surely knew was a long trip. Occasionally they would displace their rage with me upon one another, and a terrible deep keening growl and the rackety tumult of two bodies lashing out in a confined space would rise from the back seat.

As for the other day of dread – the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday – there will be not much talk of it here. I tried that 4 a.m. bullshit once when my kids were small, in order to grab something they craved and save a few dollars, and I actually enjoyed it. But I think what I enjoyed was the hot chocolate and the jokes, standing in the cold outside a big box store with a hundred other fellow consumerist dupes. It is not that I have become a Buy Nothing on Black Friday extremist – after all, I walked for an hour along the quiet leafy genteel streets that adjoin my own less-savory neighborhood, and stopped in at the grocery store to buy newspapers and vegetables. I simply have a small notion that the day after Thanksgiving is a good day for quiet activities and for staying away from main roads and shopping precincts.

In other words, I have no particular opinion about the day after Thanksgiving.

Tolerance and a lack of rage and passion are positive attributes, that we all need more of right now. We need to revive that good old-fashioned dispassionate regard of other people’s foibles and choices. The expression “I have no dog in that fight” needs to be talked up.

On the other hand, I do have “dogs” in a number of fights, and my opinions about them can be as strong as uncut Everclear. I think – and here’s a real cause for dread – it may be that the world is now too crowded for tolerance – at least until many have killed off or silenced many others.

Even more importantly, I feel that we have yet to reach the necessary high-stress level of generalized, nationwide, moment-to-moment universal INTOLERANCE needed to stop this stupid war. I was young during the last one of these situations (I turned 18 in 1970), but my memories are clear and detailed, and I have realized, by comparing the public mood then and now, that what stopped the Vietnam debacle was a daily, in-your-face, personalized yet nationwide intolerance of every person for every other person.

The saying “You are either part of the problem or part of the solution,” may be a warm-hearted truism for recycling today, but please have another look at that phrase:


And now I ask you:
What have you done, today, to stop this war?

Because, if you have done nothing, then I am almost to the point of my own rapidly rising personal intolerance level of saying, the hell with you. If you have done nothing today to stop the war, then you support it.

That is the universal level of continual, nagging, intractable intolerance that we need to reach and sustain for as long as it takes, to end this war.

To those of you who have calendars that count down the days left before Bush and Cheney leave office and grouse comfortably about the situation – you are for this war.

To those of you who sign online petitions against the war and send them on to others while drinking your cup of $3.50 coffee in a comfortable interior space – you are for this war.

To those of you who complain to your buddies that we elected a Democratic Congress last fall, and they have betrayed us, and that you “Just give up” – you are for this war.

“Well,” you grumble in your amiable middle-class way, “What the hell are you requiring from me, anyway?”

“And who died and made you the anti-war czar?”

My first response is that anyone who uses the term “czar”, even in liberal jest, is for this war.

Sure, I’ll tell you what you need to start doing, to be part of the solution of STOPPING THIS WAR. But first I gotta get myself and the cats back to Lexington, the day before Thanksgiving.

And you know what? That trip was a relative piece of cake. I did not set any land-speed records, sure, but I-86 across western NY was empty (as usual); the southbound bottlenecks were only ten to fifteen minutes at most; and the scary arc over downtown Cinci from I-71 to the southbound I-75 bridge was EMPTY, but for me. On the other hand, I am speaking only for the southbound trip. The northbound lanes were slowed to a stop for miles through Cleveland on I-271, Columbus on I-71, and northern Cincinnati as well. (What’s with that?)

Of course, the cats always make it interesting, because they want to get out whenever I stop for gas or coffee or pee-break. Every time, I explain to them that they would not like it out there in that gas station parking lot with the interstate roaring in the near distance; and my heart breaks as I imagine it, for just a nanosecond.

Then I start to cuss and shove Arlo, black and invisible against the car’s black interior, into the cage so that I only have one cat ranging loose when I return. Loki is orange and white, easily spotted as he sits ready to spring, when I approach to unlock the door. I usually go around to the back of the car and rap on the rear window, and he heads back there as I dash around and hastily leap in to the car. I am sure there are easier ways to do this, but the resulting adrenalin keeps me very much awake for a good fifty miles afterwards.

We got back to Lexington at a not-so-ancient hour, and the cats vanished into their familiar backyard as I unpacked stuff and dragged it all upstairs in advance of my inevitable crash into sleep.

I’ll be back soon, to talk some more about what we must do this day, and every day, to STOP THIS WAR.

Love and peace,