Sunday, April 16, 2006

A DISPATCH FROM SHEEHANISTAN, TEXAS-- ONSTAGE AND BACKSTAGE, A GUEST BLOG FROM TOM CHELSTON IN CRAWFORD

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A few weeks ago I introduced DWT readers to singer-songwriter (and veteran) Tom Chelston and his music here and again here. You may remember that last summer I traveled to the Bush stage set (former pig farm) in Crawford to join Cindy Sheehan's protest against Bush's disastrous occupation of Iraq. Last week I was unable to go back but Tom did go and was kind enough to report back for us.



I made the trek to Crawford to perform "BushWhacked” for the Saturday Camp Casey rally. I flashed back to the images of Cindy’s organized dissent reaching through my big screen to the air-conditioned comfort of my living room last summer. Months later I was invited to the “thanksgiving” protest at CCII, but I opted for turkey and football. This time I had to go. I had to get off my ass and drive the 212 miles. I had nearly 2400 other reasons. It was time to learn firsthand about Cindy Sheehan. I had to see her on the stage, working the crowd and I had to examine her demeanor behind the curtains. I had to take my own “sincerity biopsy." In less than one year, the bushies and their MSM had propelled Cindy from grieving mom to national menace. I had to learn the truth about Cindy Sheehan. I hate this bullshit Iraq war and the evil bastards that perpetrated it but do I join Cindy’s cause already in progress or do I start my own?

I loaded my guitar and a bedroll in my BMW (not all budding activists drive a flowery VW bus) and I left Houston at dark thirty. The Bluebonnets were blooming from Conroe to Waco. “Cows and Bluebonnets under the big Texas sky”. It sounds like an idyllic country western lyric! (yes, there used to be a few of those).

Soon I spotted a sign “Crawford 8 miles” and reality immediately crept back in with every passing whip stick. As I approached the enormous “Welcome to Crawford” sign with the obligatory re-touched picture of the first couple, four Texas Highway Patrol cruisers whisked by me at an abnormally high rate of speed. Even though Bush had taken an Easter pass from Crawford (a “first” since he loaded up the truck and went to D.C.), it was very clear that Crawford didn’t. I wheeled through the gravel/grass lot at Crawford Peace House and more cars streamed in behind me, a few at first, but by the time I shut my beamer down, the lot was nearing capacity.

Almost immediately, the vibe was palpable at CPH. Just like the variety of motorcycles, economy cars, gas sucking trucks and flowered “hippie buses” converging here, the growing throng is equally diverse. I met soldiers, professors, schoolteachers, nurses, retirees, teenagers, house pets and even a few hippies. A remarkable cross-section of America has turned up in Crawford.

As we shuttled from CPH to CCII, we passed the handful of “counter-protesters” setting up their tent and their “peace through strength” signage. An occasional shout of “go home” greeted us as we navigated the Crawford back-roads to CCII. Our shuttle driver (adorned in blue bunny ears) provided a detailed history of CPH and pointed out the triangular patch of land that became Cindy’s first “stand”, Camp Casey I, last summer. Nobody aboard our shuttle could definitively I.D. the location of Bush’s ranch as we threaded through the pasture, but we passed a newly constructed Secret Service “compound” that was quite conspicuous with its government issued vehicles, antenna towers and fine trimmed lawn. (Our taxes built quite a spread.)

We reached CCII and joined three or four hundred other clear-headed Americans and the program was already underway. The morning was filled with speeches, stories and sad reminders of why we were gathered. I was sitting near the back of the “tent” tuning my Taylor and thinking about my performance when I spotted Cindy sitting alone at a nearby table. My moment had arrived. She was typing away on her laptop as I handed her my CD and introduced myself. Cindy was cordial yet guarded as I explained that one of the verses of one of my songs was inspired by her noble stand against king george and his jesters. I can only imagine the number of supporters, “hangers on” and antagonists she has encountered during the past year and I didn’t expect more from her. Our discussion was brief but I had accomplished the first part of my mission. I had looked her in the eyes to see for myself. The grief and the pain remain in Cindy’s eyes. Take away the cameras and the rhetoric and you’ve got an angry, sad mother. Few things are more dangerous!

Soon it was “show time” and I headed for the stage. As CCII resident soundman/official singer/songwriter Jesse Dyen adjusted my stage monitors, I threw out a plug for Neil Young’s new, soon to be released album and mentioned the track “Let’s Impeach The President” which drew moderate applause. It was Mr. Young that had originally inspired me to write songs that mattered and as a hat tip, I brought along my “harp” for the gig. In my haste, I neglected to weigh the consequences of not actually knowing how to play a harmonica but overall, the songs came off decently. This was a sober, somber crowd and my message (albeit preaching to the choir) was well received. As I walked off the stage, I was honored to meet the rest of the founding members of Camp Casey. I met the fathers and mothers that I was singing for and about. The emotional connection is simply indescribable.

As the program rolled on, I listened to the Gold Star Families and an intense speech by IVAW, but the highlight for me was a speech by the MIGHTY Reverend Joseph Lowery (the famous “agitator” at Coretta Scott King’s funeral). His message was powerful and emotional and at 84, he seems to be actually gaining speed and momentum.

Throughout the day, I watched Cindy move about the camp and it was very clear to me that “she is who she is”. Take away the bullshit media spin and white house propaganda. Beyond an angry grieving mother, Cindy Sheehan is first and foremost an American Patriot. As Reverend Lowery alluded, Cindy Sheehan is a modern day Rosa Parks. Her call to arms from a ditch in Crawford is already legendary and the movement is growing exponentially.

Cindy’s daughter Carly was on hand this year (her first visit) and she read a poem she had written after Casey was murdered. As Cindy embraced Carly, she explained that the poem was “what got her off her ass to take action”. I thought about that comment and how it was really Cindy’s actions that got me off my ass. Part two of my mission was accomplished. The biopsy results were conclusive. Cindy is 100%, the real deal, authentic. Her battle cry got me off my ass. This bullshit war must stop and our soldiers should be pulled away from the civil war NOW. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the evil-doers should be removed from office and tried for war crimes at minimum.

If you don’t have any skin in the game, pretend you do. Pretend it’s your kid or your parent and get off your ass! Just since I started writing this dispatch, two more American Soldiers died. Who will join us?

10 Comments:

At 6:01 PM, Blogger glenda said...

Great story/ I agree. I was in Crawford Saturday and Cindy is real, she is no rockstar ona pedestal.

 
At 7:36 PM, Anonymous teach said...

If it were my kid, they would be in Canada if I could arrange it, or Mexico. Anywhere but in Bush's army.

 
At 1:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Teach, I could probably arrange it for ya if you are still interested.. infact i hear Mexico Air has a two for one special going on right now if you would like to go with!!! Oh and who's army do you think defends this great nation so you even have the freedom to post your opinion on this blog

 
At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Lisa G said...

Great reveiw Tom...
And to all those anonymous folks who think the soldiers are fighting for our freedom? You need to go buy a copy of the Constitution and see how many of our basic rights no longer exist under the current administration. IMO, the soldiers who are standing up against this illegal war and occupation are the true patriots fighting for our freedom. This would include the 6 former Generals who recently called for Rummy's resignation. Maybe they could also get one of those special flights to Mexico too?

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger Gratis said...

This is awesome. I wish I could have been there. I'd have loved to here you play your song in person, Tom.

Hey, Anonymous, I was just wondering if you're blogging from the front lines and if not when are you going to be there?

 
At 1:23 PM, Anonymous sam said...

I was there too; nice summary Tom. And you really can play the harmonica. Liked the song, too.

 
At 9:18 AM, Anonymous dwn.w.wh.adm. said...

Nice work Tom, I am happy to see that you are contributing a peaceful cause. I am upset about our unjust occupation as well but all I do is complain to my friends. We thank you for making our voices heard through your wonderful music.

 
At 5:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad more are realizing the lives this has cost us and for ... what? freedom against a defensless country that had nothing to do with terrorists? liberating a country from a dictor that killed less civilians than we have?

It's amazing how Cindy has been able to overcome all the resistance and continue doing what she's done and still doing. She's inspiring. Armchair politics can only go so far.

 
At 8:13 AM, Blogger futurehasbeen said...

I have looked into the eyes of many of the Gold Star Families for Peace. These are the folks who have given their children to this senseless war. Tom, you are right about Cindy being 100% real deal - as are so many of those who flocked to her side at Camp Casey.

Thanks for getting off your ass, and for sharing your music...and thanks for the mention, as well.

-Jesse Dyen

 
At 2:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I I support Cindy and her/our cause. I can not help but wonder, is Tom in this because of injustice or because of his desire to promote his music? He promotes his music, promotes his website, promotes his cd's all in "support of the people". In the end he asks for a donation on his website to "offset travel costs or guitar picks". I was in Crawford that day and I will not ask anyone to "offset my travel costs or guitar picks". I was there because I felt the rumbling inside of me and I also got my ass out of my chair and drove all the way there. I did it because my heart was overwhelmed by Cindy and her/our cause and not to promote myself.

 

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