My sister is just a few years younger than I am. Tonight she will leave San Francisco and head for Boston. She is traveling with other women who will be standing together at the National Democratic Convention and the Boston Social Forum that will take place this weekend. I wanted to go with her. I cannot afford to go. So she has agreed to send me daily updates from Boston and I will share them here on Portland Indymedia.
The women she is traveling with are radical videographers. They are going to Boston for different but similar reasons. They want to witness, and they want to put pressure on the Dems to change their ways. They want the Democrats, including Kerry to start representing the people of this country and stop threatening the people of other countries. And, there are other reasons to go. But, I will let them tell you that.
I will be posting updates from their adventures as the days go by. Stay tuned.
First, I want to tell you about my sister and me. And then I want to let my sister tell you about herself and why she is going to Boston.
My sister has been to me what women and sisters should be to each other. We have lived and struggled at times together and at times alone with our children. We grew up on a small farm in Oregon. I am a grandchild of Irish Immigrants who came to Oregon to get away from poverty and the war against the people of Ireland. My sister and I grew up a part of a family of 13 children. Our mother died young. I was 13 when she died. She was Irish Catholic. While our dad tried to raise us alone, we were most of the time kids raising kids. Sometimes bad things happened to us and we learned to compete against each other instead of cooperate to help each other. There were those moments when we moved as one joyful unit: taking on the neighborhood in baseball and four square, or trying to build a Tom Sawyer type raft to sail down the local river (it sunk to the bottom the minute it touched the water).
My brothers and sisters and I grew up being somewhat detached from one another. Living in Oregon through the 70's, 80's and 90's was just too hard. Most of us earned a home, lost it, earned a piece of land again, lost it... and then in the late 90's slid clear off the scale of ever being able to own anything again.
My relationship with my sister Edain was quite different. We were sometimes quite close. We worked in the same factory together, for a time. We went through mass layoffs at the same time. We both went to school about the same time. We both were single mothers for years and years. We both raised two children. For most of the last 20 years we lived about 50 miles apart. Five years ago she moved to San Francisco and her life changed for the better. She inspired me to stop living in pretty little heartless towns in Oregon and look for a life worth living, rather than struggling against insatiable injustice and poverty.
We are bonded in a firm realization that we must speak truth to power, we must get up off our knees and stop scrubbing the floors of capitalism and take back our country, and we need to do it together. We both believe that the downfall of the present anti-war, anti-capitalist movement is that too many people think we are different, apart, not the same, and we have become critical of each other's degree of "radicalism". We need to put our energy together to stop the present spiral downward. We need to stop attacking each other. These are the darkest hours before the dawn. We both know we must fight. We have always known that when these days came we would stand and fight. We knew these days would come because the system was not sustainable. Some believed that injustice could exist for some and not for others. Some do not know "what comes around, goes around".
I have heard those amongst us say that we need to "let it all fall down". All of it must go away. "SMASH THE STATE"; "TEAR IT ALL DOWN". Edain and I do not support this destructive type of thinking. We know what is the bottom. We have lived at the bottom.
Homelessness, violence, people preying upon each other, dreams smashed, children lost, hopelessness. Watching your children cry with hunger pains. Going without food yourself for days so your children will have something. Dealing with bosses who take great joy in battering you downward each day. Working in unsafe environments for minimum wage. Struggling to have an education. And, while we were at work, or at school, we worried about the drug dealers and other predators who wanted to take our children from us. We dreamed and struggled together. We tried to help each other. Sometimes we could and other times we had too much on our plates. We both at times had to work 2 or 3 jobs, at the same time, just to be able to afford to have a safe place to live.
And now, we both have been radicalized by the long, hard struggle. We know what we want, and we know what we don't want. We are not afraid to stand up for it. We are not afraid to speak. There is nothing left to lose. Maybe this is what freedom looks like.
Communiqu? one: Email from San Francisco. Thursday, July 22, 2004. They are leaving tonight for Boston.
Who I am and why I am going to Boston.
Who am I? I am 51 years old. I raised two sons, and one is still living. He is 27 and lives in Oregon. His brother was 27 when he died six years ago. I was raised in small university town in Western Oregon. Both of my parents were well educated. Even though, we were not wealthy (my father spent much of his childhood in an orphanage because his mother was ill and my mother was the oldest of 11 children). My mother died when I was ten and my father raised me and my 11 brothers and sisters by himself.
I have also lived in other parts of Oregon, Western Washington and, for the last 5-? years in San Francisco. Until 1985 I raised my sons on an average of $4,500 per year, sometimes far less. By 1995 I averaged $8,900 per year. We usually had no health care, lived in the cheapest places we could find, including two barns, and often moved for the opportunity of higher wages. A healthy diet usually was unaffordable. I have an Associate of Science degree and was working on degrees in engineering and physics until the University of Oregon illegally demolished housing for low-income families to replace it with housing for out-of-state students. I was arrested for protesting the loss of opportunity for Oregon citizens in the state owned university.
I now earn several times more than I did before 1995, and donate my time and money in low-income neighborhoods and to save America's democracy. My largest donation, of time & money, was to the Dennis Kucinich for President Campaign. I have also supported several agencies that our trying to save our country including MoveOn.org, KPFA Pacifica radio, San Francisco Peacemakers, San Francisco's Operation Save A Life, TrueMajority.org. wecount.org, daily.misleader.org, BushRecall.org, democracynow.org and other groups working for our future.
Why am I going to Boston? That is a very complex question, and an easy one. I am going because I think every one who can, should go. I wish I could go to New York to protest the Republican Convention but I won't be able to make it. Thank you to all who stand in my place and speak for me!
When President Bush declared war on Iraq I did not believe that war was necessary. I marched in the streets in San Francisco, along with members of the Dennis Kucinich for President Campaign, International A.N.S.W.E.R., Not in Our Name, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Women in Black, United for Peace, Global Exchange, Refuse and Resist, and many other groups and individuals. Hundreds of thousands marched against the war in San Francisco and millions across the world and in hundreds of countries. We believe that war is not the answer. Violence begets violence. The wealthy profit and the poor die. Since that day I have marched in every protest against the war and Bush's policies. The people who march beside me are my only hope, and I hope that my presence strengthens them.
When the war was about to begin, and after it began, I searched for news that represented the millions who were against this war. I read the newspapers, watched the news on TV, and listened to the radio for news on why we were going to war. I believed that war was not our only option. I believed that, if we were the great country we claimed to be, we would be powerful enough to solve our problems without unnecessary deaths.
None of the media, including NPR, who I used to support financially but no longer will, were supporting the voices of the people in the streets. Finally one morning, when I couldn't stand the propaganda any longer, I changed the station from NPR's KQED and found Pacifica radio station "KPFA" in Berkeley. I have also found, on line, Air America Radio, and have watched the coverage from Ted Koppel's coverage on "Nightline". I have purchased books by Al Franken, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Moore, Jim Hightower, Michael Nagler, Amy & David Goodman, Gore Vidal, Norman Solomon, MoveOn.org and The League of Pissed Off Voters. I haven't finished reading them all but will and was happy to support their research, bravery, honesty and their fight for justice for the entire world.
What I have learned, as I already suspected, is that September 11th did not happen in a vacuum. Even Iraq is not happening in a vacuum. We have supported, and financed, the wars and destruction of many countries in the past. While we are currently destroying Iraq we are also destroying Haiti, Pakistan, and supporting the destruction of Palestine and Israel. Bush, and his administration, has threatened almost every country and every US citizen. He has declared almost every brown skinned person an "evil" terrorist and every country that does not support his fascist regime the enemy.
Our original objections to the war are nothing compared to our objections now. I originally felt that war was not the only answer, the best answer, an intelligent direction to follow or a decision that would benefit anyone involved. Now I know Iraq was not responsible for September 11th. Iraq was not capable of attacking the United States and was not a threat to the United States. None of Iraq's neighbors have supported this war or felt that Iraq was enough of a threat to declare war against. Iraq's museums, and history, were immediately looted and destroyed. Thousands of Iraqi families have been terrorized by US soldiers, and the insurgents who can now easily enter Iraq, who have invaded homes; frightened, insulted and humiliated their men, women and children; imprisoned their people without any judicial process, destroyed their resources with bombs and depleted uranium; and killed innocent people for reasons as simple as crossing the street to get water or go to school. US Corporations are profiting, with no bid contracts, claiming to provide the infrastructure of Iraq after we destroyed it with our bombs. The long-term effect of depleted uranium, Napalm, injuries and deaths on Iraqis and US soldiers have rarely been discussed. Now we are hearing, besides earlier reports of prison abuse, that young men are being sodomized in front of their mothers and female military personal have been raped and are not provided birth control.
Our men and women entered military service with a promise to protect our country, even at the cost of their own lives. In return we promised to never ask them to enter into harms way unnecessarily. They are being forced to take part in a war that they question, their military service is being extended with last minute notice, there is no extra pay for serving in a war zone, pay checks are late, health care is limited and takes months to receive and many of their families are on welfare and food stamps and have no health care for their children.
While our thoughts are focused on the war in Iraq and the tremendous problems of war, our current administration is also stripping our own resources. Bills have been passed, and actions have already begun, to raise the acceptable level of pollutants released in our air, "Clear Skies", new roads are being built in the Northwest and Alaska to clear-cut our formally protected forests, "Healthy Forests", "Medicare Reform" has increased the costs of healthcare for our elderly, and "No Child Left Behind" has required that any school receiving federal funds must allow military recruiters to solicit our children to join the military. The Bush administration has done all it can to discriminate against US citizens based on religion and race, trying to pass an amendment claiming that only the loving relationships between men and women will be recognized and imprisoning thousands without trial because they are brown skinned. Now our administration wants a government agency to examine our children and determine if they should be force-fed medications, such as Prozac, while attending school, with no intervention from parents, family doctors or school staff.
Funds have been cut to every state, county, city and school district. Our economy is measured by stock profits while unemployment is rampant and unemployment insurance is limited. Thousands are homeless in our streets, and our streets and infrastructures are falling into deeper disrepair. Police and fire services have been cut. Politicians have been censored in the Congress (Corrine Brown, Florida), and I have watched threats of censorship in the Senate, on CSPAN, for speaking against the President and his illegal and immoral actions. Our Vice-President has been indicted in several countries for his actions before and during his vice-presidency. And, daily, the citizens of our country are sent messages of "Consume, Obey, Conform, Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid". We will be lucky if we have an election at all. We are living in the reality of the 1949 book by George Orwell, "1984" and John Carpenter's 1988 movie "They Live". We need special glasses to see through the propaganda and see who the real enemy is, and who the real terrorists are, if only there were such a thing!
That being said, why am I going to Boston?
I have not endorsed John Kerry. After seeing the possibilities that Dennis Kucinich was offering I see John Kerry as a far second choice, so one reason I am going is answer the question of whether I should support John Kerry, but I have serious questions.
John Conyer's and Dennis Kucinich' Department of Peace makes sense to me. Non-violent resolution to injustice is, to me, the only constructive way for humanity to continue to exist.
Health care for all, at a cost less than what is currently being invested by employers, as proposed by Dennis Kucinich, is far better than health insurance available for all, as proposed by John Kerry. If you cannot afford even the co-pay, and if you are not employed, you will not have health care (often the reason for unemployment).
As long as NAFTA and the WTO exist countries will not be able to protect their environments because they can be, and have been, sued by corporations who are made to limit pollutants and lose profits. NAFTA and the WTO cannot be changed, as John Kerry proposes, because of the way they were written. The only option is to withdraw and compose new agreements. Since John Kerry, and his wife, have outsourced much of the Heinz company to foreign countries will they be willing to serve our countries needs?
"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" John Kerry 1971. John Kerry was very brave to speak out about his experiences in 1971 but now John Kerry wants to send more troops to Iraq and has said he believes in preemptive war. Hasn't he heard that the Iraqis are innocent victims of this war? Does he believe, as Bush does, that US corporations should profit from the spoils of war? I hope not.
Anyway, I hope that I find the answers that I am looking for.
See you in Boston.