Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Tucson Raging Granny Chronicles Her Time In Crawford

By – Ellouese Upton
Photos by - Corey Butler

I felt a pull to drive over to Crawford, Texas when I heard that a mother who had lost her son in Iraq was setting up a camp two miles from the front gate of the President’s ranch , after being refused a meeting with him. I did start driving over on August 21st with a fellow Patriot (we had not met but we both recognized each other from Peace Vigils) We took turns driving and made the trip from Tucson in 16 hours, arriving early Wednesday morning.

We stopped at the Peace House in Crawford and was greeted outside by volunteers; shown a place to park, before going inside. Cindy Sheehan was seated on a sofa to the right of the door talking on the phone. (This is a constant with her, because she is being interviewed by reporters every minute, it seemed) After we went into the kitchen to get some coffee, I saw that she was off the phone and took a minute to go over and tell her that I was there as a representative of the Tucson Raging Grannies and expressed the heart felt love they had sent to her. She thanked me, smiled and returned to the phone.

I caught the shuttle up the camp. During the time I was there, I did not spend a dime. Contributions from concerned citizens from all over are being used to provide food and water and gas for the shuttles. This is an experience I would not have missed. I had not participated in any type of rally such as this before. Actually, before the invasion of Iraq, I had never marched in any event; for any cause.

I am 75 years old now and not quite as agile as a few years ago, so I was not able to assist with necessary work in groups like I did when I was doing est seminars during the eighties. However, I noticed a very similar atmosphere of which we were always aware during the est seminars. And, that is the safe place created by the integrity of the assistants for the participants. While assisting with some of the meetings, we were picking up lint from the carpets. Outside, cigarette butts, scraps of paper, foil, anything on the ground or floor was picked up. This was to “create” a safe place. I also experienced this space of safety there at Camp Casey.

Because the tents and cars were lined up along side of a two lane county road in the ditches, it was suggested that I leave my car at the Peace House. I had planned to sleep in it. After meeting the coordinator of the Military Families Speak Out, and joining that group because I have three grandsons in the military, two of which are heading back to Iraq for their second tour, I was invited to sit in with their group. When they learned I did not have a place to sleep, I was offered their tent which was on the corner just as this road came off of the one that goes into the Bush ranch. I gladly accepted, and did not know until the next morning when this huge truck came barreling through at 5:30 (before daylight) that there might be a security problem.Everyone was taking care of my safety. This is a safe place. My heroine Tamara from Montana made sure during the night that no one disturbed “her” Raging Granny that was sleeping in the tent on the corner. There have been some efforts to disrupt Camp Casey. I can tell you first hand, there are Vietnam veterans, Iraq veterans, Gulf veterans and Korean veterans that are there supporting this effort to find out from the president just what this “Noble Cause” is that he feels so good about sending the young people of our country over there to be targeted with roadside bombs.

The many people I met there were outstanding. New York was represented from many parts of the state. Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, Massachusetts, Illinois, Louisiana, Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Montana, North Carolina and many, many wonderful folks from all over Texas. (These were the people that I met) There were many that I did not personally meet. This was a meeting of kindred spirits. Humble, peaceful people with only a pull such as I had in order to be there. If you have felt this pull, please honor it if you can. You will not regret it.

The candlelight service with Cindy and the Iraq veterans was touching beyond words. We had to move off the road several times, because the ranchers that live there were coming in and out. No one wanted to violate their rights. We were not there for that reason.

Two letters were delivered to the front gate while I was there. I did not walk up with those that delivered the letter to Laura on Wednesday, but did go up on Thursday to deliver the letter to Bush. There had been a press conference earlier in which the spokesman for Military Families Speak Out told the press and speaking into the microphone directly to the President, “We are not leaving”. Also a service had been in front of the crosses with many clergy members from around the country participating, before we loaded into several vans and drove within 50 yards of the gate. Then everyone got out and walked up to the gate where the secret service was standing. Two of the Military Families Speak Out representatives walked up and said, “We have a letter here for the President”. He said, “I cannot accept that.” They said, would you call a staff member out to take it. He said, “There is no one here to accept it.” After a minute or two, they laid the letter on the ground by the gate. All of this was being filmed by Amy Goodman from Pacifica Radio that was also standing in the crowd with us..

Another interesting thing that happened is as follows: Before I came over from Tucson, one of the ranchers that own land along this county road had shot a gun in the air saying, “I am out dove hunting.” I wondered if he meant Peace Doves! His cousin that owns an acre of land at Bush’s back gate donated that acre to this group for the duration of August which is when the vacation is over. This back gate is only one mile from the ranch. The Republicans had hosted a large fund rasing event just down the road from the camp a week before and the huge tent they had used was lying waiting to be picked up. As I heard the story, Ben and Jerry’s (Working Assets) heard about this and was able to rent this same tent and had it erected on the acre there at Bush’s back gate. Then as more new people came in, they could choose to set up their tent up there or down at Camp Casey1. There were also some speakers coming in and I enjoyed hearing the past president of the NAACP (He knew Martin Luther King) speak. He had with him three gold star mothers from Atlanta. He had an inspiring message for us and said that he felt the spirit of this movement as soon as he arrived. He believes, as do I, this will not die down. We as a people have found a voice.

Saturday evening as I stood in line at the “tent” waiting for the shuttle to take me back to Camp Casey 1, I noticed a large boat being pulled into the back gate. I could only see the reflections on the side. One of the young men walked over to the fence to view this scene. When he returned to the line, he said, “The name on that boat was “Invader”. I gasp! Well, this man is consistent in some things.

There are many other things I could mention for instance the young female journalist from Sidney Australia. She was in Fallujah with an aid group and had many pictures of the people of Iraq. The average people in Iraq, like a lot of us. Just humble hard working people. She told me that she can no longer go out and “party” as young people do. She can no longer have fun like she use to. She feels guilty because she knows of the suffering that is going on over there. This suffering has never been addressed (to my knowledge) from this administration.

After experiencing the heat for five days, I realized that I had to leave. I drove back alone and as I got closer to Tucson, when I closed my eyes (Resting for a few hours at the Rest Stops) I could see faces. At first they were women’s faces. Worn, haggard, some with a slight smile, then men’s faces. I did not have a clue what this was about.

After getting some sleep at home, on Tuesday I began to see faces which I believe were Civil War men also men’s faces from other wars. Those that had died serving their country. I believe these were the souls of the pioneer women and men who quietly worked for freedom and those killed in wars; For Freedom. I think it was an affirmation that I had tapped into an energy that will lead us to freedom of the spirit. We must speak out for our rights. If we silently become slaves; lose our privacy; being called traitors by those in charge just because we speak out, then I suppose we will deserve it.

I must comment on the professional way in which the deputy sheriff’s department from Waco handled this event. While I was there, these men were always dressed in full uniform, pressed and looking very neat. They did not ever have a sour look or foul word to us. They did their job to keep everyone out of the road (for our own safety) their performance and the dignity with which they worked was a true picture of what law enforcement is about. I did send an email to their office thanking them.

Also, the people of Texas were absolutely wonderful. Three women from Waco had brought three large trays of sandwiches and other foods the morning that I arrived. There were volunteers from Texas driving the shuttle all the time. Young people, couples, single people from cities all around the state came to offer a comforting hand and to share. I think that Connie from the Tucson Raging Grannies is writing a parody of a Bon Jovi song for them to sing very soon. The title will be, “Bush gave Texas a Bad Name!”

No comments: