Wednesday, May 30, 2007

We Need a "Special" Military Draft

Regardless of the type of group one might speak of, the best group leaders are those who lead by example, not word. It's far easier and more effective to convince the gaggle to accept all forms of hardship and sacrifice, IF the leader is "in the trenches" with the rest of the team.

In regards to the war in Iraq, our elected national representatives in Washington, DC are leading by word, NOT example. While both the Bush administration and the US Congress continue to execute the war on Iraq, few, if any of them, have members of the own family in harm's way.

To remedy this deplorable circumstance, I have a proposal for a very "special" military draft. (This draft would also be advantageous for our troop numbers as recruitment has been way down as of late.)

Each and every member of the Bush Cabinet (and their subordinates) plus each member of Congress would have one age-appropriate member of their immediate family drafted to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. If no individual in the immediate family meets the specification, then the pool would be widened to nephews/nieces, uncles/aunts, cousins and on down the line.

Because of his devout support of the "War on Terror", George W. Bush's would send both of his twin daughters.

At this juncture, I could fathom several war hawks saying, "Sure, we'll go along with this plan." (wink, wink) "No problem!" Of course, these wily folks would be thinking that they'd get their family members assigned stateside or in a cushy position inside the protected "Green Zone".

But my proposal takes these high jinks into consideration. Each "recruit" from the special draft would start out at the bottom rank. They would each be assigned to platoons that conduct daily excursions into Sadir City, Fallujah, Basra or the hundreds of other cities and towns in Iraq or Afghanistan.

They would have no special standing. They would be outfitted like other foot soldier. They would sleep in the same tents, eat the same food, run on the same schedules and drive the same vehicles.

If this proposal were adopted, then I think a great many more Americans would stand solidly behind the war. They would understand that our elected leaders weren't asking average citizens to sacrifice something they would never dream of sacrificing.

Our leaders would be leading by example and we would gladly follow them to hell and back.

The S is Gone

I've decided to revert this blog back to its singular sense. For the past few months, I've listed my brother's name along with mine as authors of this blog. In reality, however, brother Sean has NEVER posted an entry. He HAD intended to do so, but he's simply not a prolific writer like his elder sibling.

So, for all of you who have checked out Sean's profile and wondered which entries were his and which ones were mine, they have ALL been mine. Each and every one of them.

My brother is a really neat fellow, but it's become obvious that he's just not at the point in which writing on a blog is one of his priorities and that's quite okay.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Disassociated American

As a group, we Americans don't seem too care much about the hows and whys of modern life. As the chief consumers of consumables, what matters most to us is that the price is right, the service is good and the product arrives on time. In other words, we are a superficial people. Not only do we not care what lies just below the surface, we seldom even glance beyond the surface sheen.

We drive our vehicles like there's no tomorrow. We slurp up petroleum like a thirsty man guzzles water after being lost in the desert. We don't seem to care that oil is a finite resource and that most of it is found under the soil of other sovereign nations. We need it to fuel our insatiable appetites, so we have few qualms about murdering others to get control of it. Hey, it's our God given right!

We gorge ourselves on foods produced by the sweat and toil of others. Who cares if these workers are paid less than a subsistence wage which forces them to live in squalid conditions? Who cares how many rain forests are plowed under or how many peasants are thrown off their land to make way for corporate agriculture? Who cares how many tons of pesticides and other toxins are used to increase the crop yield?

All of that is unimportant to us. All we care about is that price of apples, bananas, potatoes, sirloin and whatever else is within our reach.

The same can be said about our clothing and other creature comforts. We don't worry about the poor who toil away in sweatshops for pennies a day so we can purchase our Nike shoes or Martha Stewart cooking gadgets for $89.95. It's not our problem that the people who make our cherished possessions don't earn enough in a week, month or year to buy the product for themselves.

A lot of pundits have predicted that the American empire is on the wane. They point to our imperialistic tendencies and nonsustainable policies as the chief culprits. While I share their belief in the bottom line prediction, I believed the one variable that will do us in is our disassociation from humanity.

Until we, as a society, learn genuinely to understand the true ramifications of cause-and-effect, we will continue down this road to eventual ruin.

At the end of the day, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Topsy-Turvy World

Words are curious things. Without them, written communication would be near impossible. With them, communication often is ambiguous, at best. It's not that words necessarily are imprecise; it's more the way each person hears words and individually or collectively comprehends each one.

Descriptive words -- whether adjectives or nouns -- frequently cause all sorts of confusion. Take the words far and long. What is far or long to one person may be quite near or short to another.

Then there are words that seem to indicate one thing when they really indicate something altogether different. A ground hog is not a pig but a rodent. A pineapple doesn't grow on a pine tree nor is it an apple. And what is it it that conservatives are attempting to conserve?

To conserve means to protect from loss or harm; preserve; to use carefully or sparingly, avoiding waste. Yet, it is political conservatives who tend to favor policies, laws and strategies that harm and use up our finite environmental resources. It is many of these same individuals who castigate the science behind global warming.

Contrast this position with political radicals (e.g., tree hugging environmentalists). It is the radicals who desire to protect from loss or harm and preserve our natural world. This is the group that opposes clear-cutting of forests, nuclear energy and its concomitant waste, defiling of our air and war, and promotes such ideas as alternative energy initiatives and reining in urban sprawl.

Consequently, when it comes to environmental issues, we find that we live in a topsy-turvy world. The so-called conservative favors a radical and nonsustainable approach, while the so-called radical takes the conservative position.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Unwinnable Solution

If you've read anything on this blog, my columns on Grays Harbor Online or my quotes in The Daily World, it should be quite evident that I believe this bloody war in Iraq is immoral and ethical. However, for this brief moment, let's set my personal sentiments aside.

Let's say we accept the notion that this war is neither immoral nor unethical. Heck, let's even say that the best way to achieve "victory" is to send enough soldiers to get our troop numbers up to 250,000 and we arm them with as much munitions and supplies as they could ever desire, including nuclear weapons!

Will all this guarantee a resounding US victory bathed in the flag, mom and apple pie?
In a word, no. We will still lose.

The only surefire way to root out a faceless enemy is to shoot everything and everyone in sight. You never know when that one innocent face in the crowd might later turn out to be the next suicide bomber. So, we would need to lay waste to the entirety of Iraq and, while we're at it, we might as well decimate Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine too.

The chief problem with this kind of strategy is that, no matter how many people you kill, more enemies will keep cropping up. So, you'll have to kill them too, only to find there are now more and more of them.

You see, whenever a nation or people start indiscriminately slaughtering both the guilty and the innocent, it causes others to react with revulsion. The allies of the group being slaughtered both will seek revenge AND, since they may well figure they're next in line, they'll take the offensive.

In time though, the problem will hit much closer to home -- it won't be the allies of the vanquished that we'll be most worried about, it will be our OWN allies. They will begin to worry that we are becoming too powerful and ruthless. They will worry that we are getting too big for our britches and may well become a threat to their economic survival.

You see, this is the chief problem with war. It begets itself over and over again. Today's victory leads to tomorrow's defeat and, sooner or later, ALL empires fall under their own blood lust and weight.

So, from a rational standpoint, this drive by some to utterly defeat Iraq and/or global terrorism is really the first step in annihilating America. Yes, we might claim victory now, but down the road we will receive our comeuppance for it.

Don't take my word for it. Grab any world history book and read it for yourself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Working Class Anthem

As we marched through the streets of Aberdeen & Hoquiam protesting the military shipments through the Port of Grays Harbor, I thought that besides the chants and shouts, we should be singing. But sing what?

Years ago I heard "The Internationale" written & performed by folk singer Billy Bragg. If the progressive movement ever adopted an anthem, I think this should be it.
The Internationale

Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don't cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale
Unites the world in song
So comrades come rally
For this is the time and place
The international ideal
Unites the human race

Let no one build walls to divide us
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
We'll live together or we'll die alone
In our world poisoned by exploitation
Those who have taken, now they must give
And end the vanity of nations
We've but one Earth on which to live


And so begins the final drama
In the streets and in the fields
We stand unbowed before their armour
We defy their guns and shields
When we fight, provoked by their aggression
Let us be inspired by like and love
For though they offer us concessions
Change will not come from above


Words: Billy Bragg
Music: Pierre Degeyter

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Representing the Big Doughnut

Legendary professional football coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers has been quoted as remarking, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing". Our society has taken this sentiment to the extreme. We live in a world in which almost everybody strives not to be reliable, ethical or competent, but to be #1. We're told again and again that the spoils go solely to the victors and, if the potentiality of winning is not within one's grasp, then there's no reason to even play the game.

Take a look at our consumer-based society. We are beaten over the head with the message that we must drive the biggest and baddest car, live in the largest house or wear the snazziest clothes to be a somebody that matters. If a person doesn't strive for such things, well...something has got to be wrong with you.

Another arena this mantra takes center stage is in the political world. I grow so tired of the widespread belief that one must have a realistic and viable chance for victory or you have no business to enter the fray.

In far too many parts of this country --including right in here in Grays Harbor County -- one political party holds sway. In most of this county, a candidate stands little chance of winning unless a D is listed next to their name. Does that mean that only Democrats reside here?

Of course not! Grays Harbor County is just like every other county. We have people who span the political spectrum from the most conservative conservatives to radical left-wingers like myself.

In the halls of Olympia or the various government bodies throughout the region, we have no elected officials that represent our views and, since we may well be in the minority, when candidates appear that represent our perspectives, they are told to sit down and shut up because everyone "knows" that can't possibly win!

I don't know about you, but I believe there's more to life than winning and/or being on the victorious side. In fact, I dare say there is great worth in standing up for what one believes in even if you know in your heart of hearts that your position or perspective will not win out.

As many of you know, I was one of the local organizers for the recent protests at the Port of Grays Harbor. While I would be lying if I said that one of our goals was not to influence public opinion to come to see that shipping supplies to Iraq only fuels this immoral war, that wasn't the key reason I chose to be involved.

If I had been out there all by my lonesome and had been the ONLY person protesting, I still would have found much merit in my actions. Most of us have bedrock principles that we believe in. It is incumbent upon us to stand up for those beliefs and give voice to them. If not, that bedrock crumbles and we end up standing for nothing.

For me, whether or not a particular perspective or position is popular or is viewed as a potential winner is inconsequential. The losing side of any debate needs as much representation as the winning side. If not, then how can anyone expect new ideas or perspectives ever to gain a foothold.

Look at history. Such novel concepts as the 8-hour workday, social security, a woman's right to vote or equality for blacks (to name a scant few) were unpopular positions when they were each first brought into public purview. People were lynched, arrested and killed for espousing such revolutionary ideas. It was only because there were people willing publicly to stand up and give voice to these "losing" concepts that they are each now part of our culture today.

So, I challenge people, regardless of your views, to stand up for what you believe in, whether or not it is popular. To give voice to your perspective, whether or not you have any hopes of winning. If not, then we all lose.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Me & My "Shadows"

We seem to live in a world in which almost everybody wants to be famous. That's about the only explanation that makes any sense out of the recent spate of so-called "reality" shows, talent contests and Jerry Springer-like clones. People from all walks of life want their moment "in the sun" and they'll try to finagle a way to get their cute little mug on camera by any means possible, be it for something positive OR negative.

I've never desired to be famous. I actually enjoy being just another anonymous face in the crowd. I can putter about my business in my own time on my own terms.

Over the past few days, however, I've seemed to have developed a following -- literally. It seems like every time I go anywhere in my truck, I soon find a member of the Aberdeen police department on my tail. They follow me for several blocks and, on several occasions, almost all the way home.

If I drive to the port, they follow me all over the place. If I'm just moseying around town -- like to the gas station or the store -- I have almost always had an "escort" for some of the time. Today, when I stopped at the bank, I came out to find one of my favorite unmarked cars waiting in the parking lot.

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but it does seem like everywhere I go these past few days, there they are.

In the end, it doesn't make that much difference. I'm not up to anything secretive. I'm not traveling to clandestine meetings. I'm just doing what I usually do each day with my little tag alongs tagging along behind.

So guys, if you want to keep playing this weird game, go ahead. After awhile, I think you're going to become very bored because I'm not headed any place special. I'm just making my rounds.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Books & Their Covers

Amongst the legions of peace activists who participated in yesterday's march, there were around 6 or 7 young people who wore bandannas over their faces and some even worse sunglasses. The police kept a very close eye on this group. Why? Solely because of the way they dressed.

When I was young, my parents taught me a maxim that I'm certain most every other parent teaches their children as well -- You shouldn't judge a book by its cover. In other words, you shouldn't allow superficial observations to color your ultimate judgment of a person or situation. Yet this is precisely what the police were/are doing.

Not jumping to quick conclusions seems to be a hard task for all of us. We take a quick glance at a particular circumstance and immediately formulate an opinion. There's nothing wrong with this UNLESS we allow our partial formulation to solidify into a hardcore final analysis. By doing this, we often cast aside pertinent information and further observation that might very well change our overall attitude about our snap judgment.

I've met many, many people who I initially disliked. The first time I encountered one of my best friends from Salem, he was berating a candidate that I served as campaign manager for. He ranted, raved and fumed about what he thought was wrong with the focus of the campaign message.

If I had allowed my knee jerk reaction to govern my final view of this man, I never would have gotten to know him. I never would have discovered his wry sense of humor, his devotion to his wife and children, his commitment to education (he's a history prof at Willamette University) or his dedication to public service. In essence, someone who has turned out to be one of my dearest friends would have remained a stranger to me!

As our march and rally wound down yesterday, I went up to thank each of these youth for their participation. With bandannas removed, I saw youthful faces not unlike countless other faces in the crowd. These young people were no more a threat to "public order" than any other attendee there.

Still, I will admit to the world that there was a time not so long ago when I made the same mistake as the police. Maybe it's a generational thing. As an organizer with Oregon PeaceWorks, I worked with a lot of the so-called street youth in Salem.

I was initially put off by all these young people with weirdly colored hair, dog collars around their necks, ball bearings stapled in their tongues and piercings and body jewelry adorning almost every inch of their bodies. Fortunately, I was able to cast off my "older guy" prejudices and work with these kids on a daily basis. In time, I realized how silly my snap judgments were. Their piercings were nothing more revolutionary than the long hair of my youth.

In this same vein, bandannas covering one's face both is a social and political statement. No more, no less. It certainly doesn't mean that such individuals are prone to violence anymore than anyone else is.

I'm glad these young people came to help us in this protest and I will welcome them with open arms at any future such event. I also hope that local law enforcement personnel will try to remember the lesson they too learned so many years ago as children -- Don't judge a book by its cover.

Thoughts On Why

Throughout the past few days, the one question many people have asked me is why? Why are you people protesting? What is it you hope to accomplish? Do you genuinely think that a few people with signs marching down our streets will cause the armed forces to quit shipping supplies to Iraq?

We protest simply because it's the right thing to do. If you believe that some action or activity is immoral and/or unethical, you have a responsibility to speak up. The oft repeated phrase is true -- Your silence will not protect you!

Protesting takes on even more importance if you are a person who believes in the worth and value of nonviolence. As a pacifist, I would not countenance storming the port and blocking the shipment with the point of a gun. It would wholly negate our mantra of nonviolent action. We would soon become the very thing we so adamantly oppose.

The act of protest most likely will not halt this specific shipment, but it still serves a most important purpose. As more and more people see their friends and neighbors in the streets, it may well motivate them to get off their butts to join us. At some point, with so many people protesting, it will become politically untenable to continue to support the continuation of this infernal war.

In the end, however, I bet my reason for protesting may be a lot different than many of my fellow comrades. I believe that a person should stand up for what they believe in REGARDLESS of whether or not they believe their actions will have much of a public impact.

In other words, even if I KNEW that these protests wouldn't change a damn thing -- now or in the future -- I'd still be out there. I'm not one of these people who believes that one should only fight potential winning battles; often times the losing battles are just as important.

If you know in your heart that something is wrong and yet you sit by saying nothing, you end up bankrupting your own soul. I firmly believe in the sentiment expressed during much of the civil rights movement of the 60s: If you're don't try to be part of the solution, then you indeed become part of the problem.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Commendations to the Boys in Blue

It had the makings of a really bad scene. On one side of the road was a line of police officers. On the other side of the road stood about 50 anti-war protesters. The police announced that the protesters had 2 minutes to disperse (because they were not in the designated free speech area) or they would be pepper sprayed. Nobody moved and the 2 minutes came and went. What would happen now?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

No one was pepper sprayed. No one was arrested. There was no physical confrontation. The protesters stood their ground peaceably and the police -- in a great example of wisdom -- realized nothing would be gained by attacking the crowd.

I know that a lot of people in our movement have a very negative view of the police. In their eyes, nothing the police do or don't do ever is satisfactory. While I certainly agree that I often vehemently disagree with many police actions, in this case, we need to commend the men in blue.

Our local law enforcement exercised great restraint. They didn't allow their emotions to get the best of them. They kept a cool head and turned a potentiality explosive situation into a very manageable and positive one.

I must say that one thing we often forget is that police officers are people too. I had a really nice chat with a Hoquiam officer before the march got underway. He said that a lot of the local officers are with us in spirit, that many of them oppose the war as much as we do. Unfortunately, they have the kind of job in which they often have to swallow their personal opinions.

I am not naive. While today was a great day and things turned out well, the same may not be true tomorrow. And while I genuinely commend people like Aberdeen Capt. Dave Johnson and Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Meyers for the way they handled the overall situation, we still have had several reports of attempts at police harassment and intimidation.

I'm just thankful that cooler heads prevailed and a tense situation did not blow up into a major fiasco.

Monday's Event
We will gather at 7:00 p.m. at the Aberdeen City Hall, 200 E Market St, for a 1 hour or so vigil. There is ample on street parking around City Hall.

I'm sure we will talk about what further actions to take as long as the ship remains docked at Terminal 4 at the Port of Grays Harbor.

Twelve Hours

In the overall scheme of things, 12 hours is like one grain of sand on an endless beach. It's a speck on the celestial radar screen. It's one raindrop in a barrel overflowing with water. Twelve hours ain't nothing...

...unless one speaks of a day. At this juncture, 12 hours takes on far greater significance. Twelve hours is one-half of one calendar day. In the workaday world, 12 hours takes on even greater meaning; it's one and one-half days of work.

For those people who toil away for a 40-hour work week, 3 12-hour shifts almost is comparable to 5 8-hour days. Five consecutive 12-hour shifts is the equivalent of 7.5 regular 8-hour shifts and, for most people, those 7.5 days are broken up by a 2-day weekend.

The reason I'm focusing this entry on the number 12 is that, according to the assigned police officers I'm working with regarding the ongoing protests here in Aberdeen, all local law enforcement are working 12-hour shifts with all vacations and leave put on hold.

Just about anyone can put in a 12-hour day without it causing too much of a problem. In fact, if called upon by extraordinary circumstances, most of us could work 2 or 3 such shifts without too much ill wear. However, once most people pass the 3 day mark, 12-hour shifts begin to take a toll.

When people are overworked -- particularly when it involves high pressure situations -- nerves begin to fray. People begin to get crabby and crotchety. Little frustrations that normally would go unnoticed get magnified. Simple disagreements can blow up into major imbroglios. And overworked individuals simply don't think as clearly and rationally as well rested ones.

It is for this reason alone that I hope the current situation at the Port of Grays Harbor doesn't drag on for several more days. Our small town is filled with a battalion of overworked and overstressed men (I haven't seen ANY female officers in several days) who happen to have a small arsenal of weaponry attached to their belts.

I don't know about you, but I don't think that frayed nerves and loaded guns are a good mixture. I realize that law enforcement personnel receive lots of training on how to deal with situations of this manner, but human nature tends to take precedence and it's these elements of basic human nature that worry me.

We've got probably 100 or more officers who have been told repeatedly to expect trouble. They've been putting in long hours day after day and the "trouble" they are so prepared to encounter hasn't materialized at all. Almost any person will find themselves in a difficult personal situation if they are all keyed up for a confrontation and then nothing happens.

You combine this overarching anxiety with a lack of sleep/down time and you've created a volatile mixture, one that could explode over the tiniest perceived incident.

Today will, undoubtedly, be a most interesting day. I hope it's not an explosive one.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A "Slow" News Day

As I was standing amongst a crowd of about 3 dozen demonstrators talking to a reporter from the local newspaper, she asked me if we were going to DO something. "Would you like us to storm the fence around the port," I asked. Smiling, she said that would be okay. It would make the protest more newsworthy.

Needless to say, we didn't storm the fence. We stood near the side of the road with our signs and banners in hand.

For the last two days the police have made an emphatic point that we must stay within the bounds of the public demonstration area. Of course, as our marchers neared this area, what do you think they found? Counter-demonstrators who were NOT in the designated area. No, they were lined up on the shoulder of the road.

Despite the overwhelming police presence, it appeared the police were allowing the pro-war faction to avoid the zone. To be fair, once we arrived, many of our folks took to the shoulder as well and we were not ordered to move. So, I can't complain that we were treated unfairly.

All in all, it was a good event. In keeping with the location and time of year, it drizzled for most of the afternoon. However, if you live in western Washington, you don't think twice about a little -- or a lot -- of rain.

Initially, I thought the police were doing a better job with not flooding the area with officers and troopers. Unlike Friday's event, we weren't continually surrounded by men carrying loaded guns. However, as I left the field to head towards my truck, I discovered that an entire fleet of state troopers were stationed behind a building next to the field. Still seems like gross overkill to me.

Sunday's Event
We will again meet at 2:00 p.m. at the 28th Street landing in Hoquiam. We're expecting a rather large contingent from out of town. Because of the expected larger numbers, many of you will be directed to the overflow parking area.

By the way, if haven't heard, the ship has docked and we expect that the loading of the military supplies has commenced.

My Other Two Fears

As noted below, the huge police buildup in Aberdeen makes this peace activist very, very nervous. However, I don't want to give readers the impression that I believe that the police are the ONLY ones to blow situations out of proportion. There are other groups that worry me just as much -- Counter demonstrators and violently-inclined anarchists.

There always seems to be at least one group of individuals who believe fervently in the cherished right of free speech -- that is, free speech that agrees with their stated point of view! If you happen to hold an opinion that does not meet their favor, then your free speech is of absolutely no concern to them!

Since those who support this immoral war don't want to hear from ANYONE who disagrees with them, many are apt to create a situation that can have a propensity to turn violent. They will try to use all forms of intimidation to provoke a reaction and, if someone gets fed up with their hate-filled message and even ends up yelling back obscenities at them, many either will resort to fisticuffs or go running off to the police swearing they've been threatened with severe bodily harm.

In either case, the police are prone to move forward in an aggressive manner and, at that point, all bets are off. A lot of peaceable people will try to protect themselves when someone is swinging a nightstick at them and the police will often perceive these instinctual movements as further evidence that the nonviolent person is attempting some act of violence.

The other group of individuals that really worries me are those violently-prone individuals who show up at peaceful rallies and put others in harm's way to satisfy their own twisted personal agendas. While I happen to be a pacifist, I would at least be lukewarm toward these sorts of individuals if they didn't use peaceniks as their human shields.

What happens too often is that a group of the violently-prone will start throwing objects or destroying property on the edge of a peaceful march or rally. When the police move forward to halt these activities, the instigators dart into the crowd which often makes it next to impossible for law enforcement to figure out who's guilty and who's innocent.

This is one kind of situation in which I bet I differ from many of my compatriots. While I do agree that the police tend to be overly aggressive in these sorts of circumstances, I concurrently understand the predicament they are placed in.

The destructive actions have stimulated their adrenalin. Their job is to stop the behavior. Since they can't be sure who is at fault in this massive sea of people, it's very hard to discriminate between the peace-minded and the violently-prone. It's almost inevitable that many innocents will be caught up in a frenzy of anger-fueled chaos.

So, if you have an idea that you want to attend our nonviolent rallies in order to turn them into violent melees, I have 2 words for you: STAY HOME. Don't play the coward's role by utilizing the conscious strategy of using peaceable people as your human shields.

If you're bound and determined to hold an event that includes a violent confrontation with the police, do it on your own time, not ours.

A Police State of Mind

Driving around Aberdeen, one might think we were gearing up for a Hell's Angels convention! At almost every turn, there's a police car. Not only are there a lot of them, but they come from all over the place. Aside from more unmarked cars than I can ever remember seeing in one locale at any given time in my life, I have seen patrol cars from Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Ocean Shores, Montesano, Elma, Grays Harbor County and the State Patrol.

I've even heard that there are some law enforcement people here from as far away as Tacoma and Seattle!!

Tonight, after picking up my wife from work, we drove over to the "designated" free speech area, if for no other reason than to see if the police presence was as high at night as it has been during the day. As soon as we turned onto the Port Industrial Road, we found an Aberdeen patrol on our tail.

It followed us as we made the turn into the Pride Oil driveway that passes by our designated marsh. As we slowed, so did the patrol car. We looped around to the nearest street to go back down the Industrial Port Rd from whence we came. The patrol car was still behind us. In fact, it followed us almost all the way home, only turning off one block from our house.

And why is this armada of law enforcement circling in and throughout this rural small town? Because of scary peaceful protesters.

(At Friday's rally, I'm not altogether certain which there was more of -- protesters or police officers.)

Having this many cops in one place at one time makes me more than a tad bit nervous. Whenever you have a large group of people EXPECTING trouble, they are more likely to be the ones to cause it. I don't say this because of inherent dislike for the police; it's human nature.

I'm fairly certain that all the various officers have been warned that big time trouble is brewing. Since police officers are human beings just like the rest of us, waiting for this supposed inevitability to happen assuredly is breeding much anxiety within their ranks.

It's very much like having a battalion of soldiers with itchy trigger fingers. As soon as one sees anything they perceive to be out of the ordinary (even though their perception is highly colored by their unreal sense of anticipation), the natural impulse is to shoot first and ask questions later.

Consequently, history has well documented that the police tend to overreact to nonexistent threats at these kinds of peaceful rallies and generate a self-fulfilling prophecy. They expect violence and, when it doesn't occur as expected, their anxiety causes them to react violently to a nonviolent circumstance and this causes the kind of violence they expected to occur in the first place.

The worst part of this kind of scenario is that, even if the police KNOW that a particular situation was instigated by a member within their own ranks, it's a natural human tendency to come to the aid of your own. So, some hot-headed officer turns a small incident into a major brouhaha and the rest of his comrades will rush to his aid with teargas, tasers and nightsticks ready.

This is my greatest fear and one of the chief reasons I've volunteered to serve as our police liaison.

Saturday's Event
People are asked to converge at the Port of Grays Harbor Public Viewing Tower around 2 p.m. This area can be reached by traveling through Aberdeen to Hoquiam and turning south on 28th Street. Go straight until you run out of road. There is a small gravel parking area there.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Free Speech & Hip Waders

I'm sure that, if you spoke to the staff or commissioners from the Port of Grays Harbor, each would tell you how much they value the exercise of free speech. It's one of those hallowed American rights. It's so important that, they believe, they have gone out of their way to create a free speech "zone" for area residents coming to the Port to protest against impending military shipments to Iraq.

On a superficial level, they would be correct. The designated patch of earth is located across the street from the service road to Terminal 4, the terminal the US military will use to load the shipments. It's in a high visibility area, since it is on the main street that runs through the Port.

If you look a little deeper than the superficial sheen on the top, you will quickly discover that free speech must not be that important to them. The designated zone is in a marsh! What appears to be a level and freshly mowed field ACTUALLY is a choppy piece of land with a lot of standing water throughout.

Working in cahoots with the City of Aberdeen, the Port is trying to make it as difficult as possible for people to gather in the marsh! No Parking signs fill all the side streets within the Port as well as several blocks deep in the surrounding neighborhoods.

I live about 1 mile from the Port and these No Parking signs start only 2 blocks or so from my house. They run all the way down Industrial Port Road to the Hoquiam city limits!

While Grays Harbor residents are treated to a very good county-wide transit system, only 5 buses go to the Port area and none travel that route on the weekends.

So, while we are being granted the right to exercise our constitutional rights in an area of high visibility across from Terminal 4, the zone itself is situated on a marshy piece of real estate that is difficult to get to.

It makes one wonder how differently this situation would be dealt with if a group of people wanted to hold a rally cheering the military equipment being brought in. It wouldn't surprise me if the Port arranged for shuttle buses and housed the rally at the Port offices, replete with refreshments!

Friday Event
If you'd like to come take part in an exercise in free speech, we will hold a vigil today at Zelasko Park from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. The park is located next to the Wishkah River in the east end of Aberdeen.

If you're coming from the west, once you pass Burger King, you will cross a bridge over the Wishkah River. The park is immediately to your left.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Greetings to the Army!

Blog statistics are an interesting thing. It provides the opportunity to see who and from where blog visitors originate. It seems that over the past 36 hours, The Rambling Taoists has become a frequent destination for folks connected with the US military in Auburn, Washington. Hmm. Could this be a mere coincidence?

For all of you military types stopping by here for your first visit, I say "Welcome"! Hopefully, The Rambling Taoists will provide food for thought and allow you to see the world from a different perspective.

Section 8.08.020

Free speech ain't what it used to be. I stopped by the local police department yesterday to find out where our fine law enforcement people plan to ALLOW protesters to exercise our cherished first amendment rights. They are providing us with a freshly mowed field. What do they think we are? Grazing cattle?

After my little visit downtown, I came home to my computer to take a look at the City of Aberdeen's Municipal Code. Under Section 8.08.020, I found the following:
Public nuisance defined.
Every act unlawfully done and every omission to perform a duty, which act or omission:
A. Annoys, injures or endangers the safety, health, comfort or repose of the citizens of the city;
That's right! You can be arrested for being annoying.

Well, the fact that the military-industrial complex has decided to use my town to ship weapons of destruction to far off lands really ticks me off. In fact, I dare say it ANNOYS me. Do you think that if I tell a local police officer that I'm annoyed, they will go arrest the military?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The War Comes to Aberdeen

When you live in a small town off the beaten path, you watch the world's events unfold from afar. You pay attention to what's going on, but you feel insulated from the effects and ramifications. You continue to feel this way until, one day, the world theater is plopped down into your corner of cornucopia and you realize that all these faraway headlines are now a reality where you live.

Because of the vigilance and dedication of the Port Resistance Movements in Olympia & Tacoma, the military has decided they don't want to mess with those folks anymore. No, they want to find more docile environs from which to ship their machinations of death and destruction.

Since the Port of Grays Harbor is not that far away from Ft. Lewis AND Grays Harbor County is much more sparsely populated than Olympia or Tacoma, they've decided that Aberdeen is now their new home for military shipments.

Here's today's a portion of today's lead article from The Daily World,
At least 24 military helicopters in groups of eight landed at the Port of Grays Harbor Tuesday as part of the first wave of cargo from Fort Lewis bound for Iraq.

Commercial trucks believed to be carrying military equipment also arrived for staging at Port facilities near The Home Deport in Aberdeen. The choppers, which were quickly secured and prepared for shipment after they landed, and equipment are connected to the 4-6 Air Cavalry Squadron that is being deployed to Iraq.

No details were released on how long the equipment would be stored at the Port or when the ship that will likely transport the cargo to Iraq will dock.