Sunday, August 28, 2005
WE SHALL OVERCOME TODAY
Camp Casey II, Crawford, Texas
Saturday, August 27, 2005
The summer day was almost too hot to bear. Its August sun bore down on the huge tent at Camp Casey II, where people gathered in heat that was 100 degrees, and perhaps more. Cindy Sheehan's supporters arrived by chartered bus from Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin; and as they stepped down from the bus, they were given a hand of applause by many who stood in the midday sun to greet them. Others flew into Texas from distant parts of the nation or drove long distances to be in Crawford. One protest group from Ithaca, New York, had raised $10,000 and sent 31 members to be present at Camp Casey.
On the 27th, it was an honor to witness more history being made, just down the road from President Bush's ranch. Cindy Sheehan was there, in person, surrounded by what this writer would estimate to be 1,200 supporters. Cindy has kept faith with her son, Casey, who was killed in Baghdad, 15 months ago; and it's only been a matter of three weeks, since she rallied a protest movement that clearly defines Bush's war as immoral, and calls for a halt to pointless deaths.
Saturday's event attracted veterans' organizations, as well as many of Cindy's Gold Star parents who set up their tents at the original Camp Casey. Gathering at the larger camp were clergy, lots of fine musicians, bloggers and other writers, camera people, and many volunteers who maintained supplies of water, ice, and seemed to prepare food around the clock. The dedicated time, effort, and donations of many responsible people were in evidence everywhere.
Though exhausted by the heat, Saturday's crowd could not forget the memorial of white crosses and empty boots that were always part of this event. And when Cindy Sheehan stood on the stage, flanked by other grieving mothers and fathers, and also by Joan Baez and her guitar, the audience was completely absorbed in the moment. Their music continued to swell and surge, through the chorus of an old tune, associated with America's Civil Rights movement. This tune "We Shall Overcome" was one that Cindy Sheehan sang with passion, and the crowd might as well have been in church. "We... shall overcome,.. today " those onstage sang, and the crowd sang along, tenderly. The old lyric was "We shall overcome...someday"; but changing it to "We shall overcome...today" seemed to fit the occasion.
Cindy's speech followed a short time later; and she told her audience that the pointless deaths of American soldiers must end. The President would still not meet with this grieving mother; and with sadness, she explained that having spilled the blood of young American troops in Iraq, the President felt empowered to spill even more blood. She acknowledged that August 31st marked the end of the President's "vacation", and that she would feel some loss in leaving Texas behind. She wanted Americans to know that her time spent in Crawford is only the beginning; and it's important to take this protest to Washington DC next; and she believes Camp Casey and the meaning of Camp Casey will come with her.
A few hours later, the sun was starting to edge toward the horizon, and a dark squall line began to bear down on the camp. Very quickly the temperature dropped, and wind began to whip across the flat pasture in a menacing way. This unanswerable, raw power of nature sometimes proves more frightening than anything we can imagine. Someone took the microphone and advised the crowd to avoid the place where they were standing, under the steel masts of the pavilion tent, while lightning began to rapidly approach. Here, beneath the suddenly uncertain sky, was the tangled net of so many of our human choices, a breathtaking proof of our human frailty, and the temporary, provisional space we occupy.
Rabindranath Tagore has said "Where danger is near, so also is salvation."
In this way, conscience also ebbs and rises on the tides of American history. But the sonority and wholeness of that conscience has rarely been so beautiful or as necessary to us, as it has proved to be at Camp Casey.