Hancock: What I Did at Summer Camp Casey
By Ernest Hancock
There are points in history that are markers. There is the time before the Printing Press and the era after, before Sputnik and after, before we walked on the Moon and after, before Computers and the Worldwide Web and after, but these are leaps in technology and the ramifications are not always obvious to most. Hindsight is clear and we see these events, and many others, as historical markers we can use to explain why new paths were taken by individuals in humanity’s effort to live a more peaceful and productive life. But always present are those that choose to improve their present circumstances by using any new tool or improvement based on no other moral standard but that it serves what they perceive as their interest.
With this in mind it is much easier for many of us to see that the Bush family, and others like them, understand that a ruthless pursuit of power and wealth has few drawbacks. Policies that they inflict on the planet for the benefit of them and theirs are given only enough justification as is required to lubricate our minds and spirits enough to accept the theft of our futures while they rarely suffer even a night’s lost sleep.
I am often heard making the statement, “There are those that wish to be left alone,… and there are those that just won’t leave them alone”, this observation has served me well in determining with whom I wish to associate and who I trust. I make these statements as a reference so that my state of mind is clear as I journeyed ‘Deep Into the Heart of Texas’ to witness another ‘before/after’ historical marker.
Like many of my friends, I have always been of the opinion that there are those in control of most if not all levels of government that see individual human beings as nothing more than numbered cattle to be exploited in whatever manner suits them best at the time. And WAR is one of the most effective methods. 9/11 screamed for an investigation of those that benefited the most. It was so obvious to almost every mind that I respected that we were being manipulated into allowing the largest robbery (of wealth, freedom, power…) ever imagined and that the only realization of what was happening would be a mass awakening that hopefully didn’t have to be sparked by a total financial collapse of the USA or even the world.
Instinctively and with a great deal of anecdotal evidence I was becoming increasingly convinced that the Iraq War and the use of fear and doubt by the Bush administration is reaching its limit of effectiveness. Over the last 6 months my friends and I have become aware of a shift in public opinion. What I was looking for was a general realization that no organization was going to represent the desires of a determined minority that was quickly becoming a majority. This individual desire in search of an outlet has been building up rapidly in my opinion and the mixture was ready for a spark to ignite.
I have been staying informed of Cindy Sheehan’s efforts. I have scheduled her for Charles’ show on several occasions since last year and have seen her develop into an effective weapon against the war on many levels for many reasons. Most important is that she lacks a clear reason why she should not be the center of focus for the opposition to the War. Cindy is a mother that raised a son that checked off all of the boxes that our society has generated to determine the best this country has to offer as a supporter of the American System. That system lied to her and the death of her son was the result. And the reason, or “Noble Cause”, she seeks has provided the focus. Her story and her effective manner allows millions of others to let her to speak for them, and I knew what would be next.
Well known here in Arizona is the idea that whenever you create any organization or alliance, sooner or later the organization created becomes more important than the cause for which it was created. With millions in support of Cindy’s efforts I knew that there would be a race for many organizations to jump in front of the parade she represented. I was very impressed with the strength Cindy had and how she was able to not take things personally while making her position clear. Others were welcome to tag along as long as they were clear what the goal is, ”an end to the war”.
I arrived in Crawford with no intent on being unbiased on the issue of the war. Working for Air America also made it very easy to be accepted. My desire to paint an accurate picture for the audience back in Phoenix was supported widely as well. The station’s webmaster Bily Foster (one “L”) created an audio blog that I became aware of during the Larkin Rose tax trials. This technology allows for instant postings of audio files from any phone directly to a web page (www.crawfordorbust.com). Linked to from our www.airamericaphoenix.com web site we were able to break national news with up to the minute reporting of events as they were happening. Mari Conner is a sales representative for the station that arrived Saturday morning and left Tuesday (she would be back the next weekend with Kim Macias another sales rep. and Bily Foster – and I think the girls went back again this weekend - Mari was personally moved to be there and did a great job describing the picture from her perspective. This week she took time off to go to Wash, D.C. to say goodbye to her brother that is going to Iraq as a nurse. He speaks Arabic and volunteered) I arrived that afternoon after an all night drive from Phoenix with all of the camping gear that would sustain me for a week in the ditch that I would share with the bugs and the rain water. Since the only “public property” was the 8 foot wide drainage ditches on each side of the narrow farm roads in “Bush Country”, that would be our home.
Downtown Crawford was selected over a year ago by a ‘progressive’ group as the center of activism for when it was needed. The Crawford House of Peace was purchased last year as a base of operations for when Bush would be spending any time at his Ranch. It quickly became a focus point of activity for Cindy’s effort. The House of Peace was never intended to be part of Cindy’s effort in the beginning but having an address that could provide a shower, electricity, Wi-Fi broadband Internet connections for dozens of bloggers and a place to sit down and eat was a great addition to the comfort of all involved. Shuttles ran constantly and there was never any waiting that I experienced. The House of Peace had their own focus and reasons for existence.
Camping in the ditch with Cindy were groups like Veterans for Peace, Arlington West (that were the stewards of the small white Crosses, Stars of David and the occasional Islamic markers), 9/11 families for peace, Code Pink, Gold Star Families against the war and many individuals that just wanted to demonstrate their support. During the 6 days that I was at Camp Casey there was never fewer than 50-70 people sleeping in the ditch. There were at least that many staying near by and yet more at the House of Peace. During the weekend events there would be hundreds and later thousands. A planned press conference with a theme would fetch hundreds again that would look even larger with the 50+ media with as many as 2 dozen television cameras spinning the story as best they could.
Early in the week I reported that a sponsor of our radio station (Associated Appliance) donated a needed refrigerator to the House of Peace to help with food storage. The real story was that when the new appliance arrived at an Austin moving company for delivery, they refused to deliver the fridge due to their opposition to what Cindy was doing. It was later retrieved by volunteers but the story was primetime stuff for the Phoenix affiliate. I was sharing the story with my counterpart at Fox News and chit chatting for a few minutes, then all of a sudden the 4 person crew flew into action and all took their places to have the on air talent give a report of how busy the farm road was and how people were in the way and going to get hurt etc… They were waiting for a vehicle to come by. I just looked at the producer with a grin I couldn’t contain and she just answered that she was given an assignment and she did her job.
While interviewing anyone I found articulate and willing I came across a young woman that had spent 5 years as an associate producer for the NBC Nightly News for Tom Brokaw. She went on record describing how the national news was really done. She explained how it was that a country of a diverse 270+ million people would have the same 5 stories reported on all of the network news shows (you’ll see her interview titled on the audioblog page) We are constantly being manipulated and she knew it. News by government handout was the norm. Her illusions were busted when she was reprimanded for seeking confirmation of the information Colin Powell shared with the United Nations as a justification for the invasion of Iraq. And she represents an entire generation of Americans that have only to wait for the aging generation of manipulators to die of old age and be replaced with,…. Nothing I hope.
The bloggers at the House of Peace fascinated me. They would be 12-16 hours a day in front of their computers and could not possibly be reporting anything that they themselves witnessed from the 10x10 foot square room that was their cyber prison cell. Later I would learn that they each represented a multitude of “progressive” causes that hoped to benefit from the damage being done the current administration. Animal rights, Palestinian issues, the Rainforest, and many redistribution of wealth socialist efforts were represented. What was most interesting was the absence of anything to do with the Democratic Party. I don’t even remember a large anti-Republican rhetoric. Bush wasn’t even targeted as much as you might think. He was more representative of the NeoCon agenda that they opposed.
The anti-War protesters were of mainly two groups. Those that wanted an end to the war, and those that were angry at all of the money being spent on a war that otherwise would have funded all of their socialist dreams with money left over. Discussions about individuals just being allowed to keep their money was met with blank stares, as if it never even occurred to them.
I was very mindful of the media potential of this week and like our efforts with SpaceShipOne I did my best to encourage libertarians in Texas to take some time that first weekend I was there to help fill some of the TV time with a true freedom message. There was no doubt that a few libertarians with a few signs would have gotten national coverage and an opportunity to influence the debate. While I didn’t hide my position on the war, I was certainly not in a position to promote libertarian philosophy but with the questions I asked. This was likely most effective in my interviews with the few Bush supporters that were in attendance. I never saw more than about a dozen while I was there but I did hear that Saturday morning the Republicans brought in a couple of busses for the TV cameras to get footage that was then a loop for days.
If the libertarian movement can’t demonstrate their anti-war position when so little effort was required for such an international opportunity for press coverage, then…
I’ll take this opportunity for a personal rant (because I can). The idea that we can benefit from a collective as long as we title it as a libertarian effort is stink’n think’n from the beginning. Every time we count on the efforts of others to make up for our own we are not only disappointed, we have our individuality and all that we champion diminished. The inspiration that we seek from efforts like Cindy Sheehan’s never come from a collective. Our local radio station had me there, but there were 3 others from the radio station that were inspired to go at their own cost. One has gone twice and another flew there 3 times. There wasn’t this type of representation from any other news outlet. Why?!!! These people have had their liberal tendencies purged of partisanship and are far more concerned with their desire to live in peace in a world free of force and bloodshed. Even the owner of the House of Peace described to another in my defense that he had several libertarian socialist friends that simply didn’t support force to achieve their goal (of course they commented that socialism won’t work that wayJ)
What would have been the turn out of libertarians had this event happened anywhere in the desert of Arizona? The libertarians of Texas knew what was going on,… I made certain of it. And even though there were commitments, not a single one I know of showed up. Just makes you go, Hummmm. The mid-week candle vigils that were held around the country numbered over 1500. Arizona’s brought out 1500 I’m told. Libertarian friends were calling me in Crawford to tell me of the hundreds there and how pleased they were. My wife took one of my 4 teenagers (my youngest girl 15) and she finally was compelled to ask, “OK, so what is Dad doing in Texas”. A phone conversation with her later got the all too rare, “I’m proud of you Dad”. My children go to a private Christian School where the “W” bumper stickers in support of Bush and this war outnumber every other combined. But the kids there and their families have known me for over 8 years and they know that I have no doubts about what I do or why. We are still very good friends and I answer all of their questions as nicely as I can. The events of late have at least gotten the “Dubya” stickers off of the student’s cars, so I’m even more hopeful for the future.
I can’t say enough times that I see our freedom movement as an individual effort that often makes use of each other’s resources. Every effort to create a collective has the expected result of,… nothing. And the sooner we realize this the sooner we’ll attain what we keep trying to organize to accomplish.
I was impressed with quite a few things by my Crawford experience. I remember the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind where many people were compelled to go to a certain place at the same time. I’ll bet there were over 3000+ different people that visited Camp Casey in the week I was in Texas.
When one of the ranchers got angry and started shooting his guns on his land as an effort to intimidate the campers, Cindy just told the reporters that asked her about it, “I don’t care as long as the bullets stay on his property”, (smart lady). A day or two later that same man’s cousin offered his land as a camping spot. Camp Casey II would not be in the ditches. The massive tent that could feed well over a thousand was the same one used at a fundraiser a week before by Bush. The new location was just down the street from Bush’s ranch and on the corner of a Secret Service Checkpoint.
The Secret Service guys seemed relaxed and friendly while maintaining their professionalism, we even took pictures with them. I saw another time when a Sheriff’s Deputy was talking to Cindy and they lightly embraced. The anti-war protesters were very careful not to cause any trouble and were far more likely to be on the receiving end of various kinds of verbal abuse. A few arrests were for stupid stunts. One of the most noted was when a man drove his pickup truck over the small white crosses of “Arlington Crawford” while dragging a chain and pipe. One of the crosses caused a flat tire and he was arrested while changing the tire with crosses stuck in his undercarriage (he was a Republican party officer in WacoJ).
When another arrest was made of a man that was threatening the protesters with violence It became clear how the bloggers were controlled from a “central command”. While the media had the story that a man was arrested and I had even gone to the Sheriff’s office in Waco to track down the details, the bloggers were purposely being kept in the dark about what had happened only a few miles away. It became clear that the communication with the “progressives” (ie. far left Greens etc.) was being managed from a higher level. Any effort to find out where the orders were coming from was met with resistance and I didn’t press (they’re all the same to me anywayJ)
There was a nice park with a waterfall and swimming hole very near by (less than a mile) and it was a daily stop for those in need of cooling off and a rinsing. The atmosphere for the week was very nice the whole time and lots of people were willing to do whatever needed done. I even took a turn making new crosses with pleasure.
There was a person that was said to be a representative of Air America National that was not happy about my being there. The fact that our station is called Air America Phoenix didn’t set well with him and he made every effort to let people know that I wasn’t from national. Everyone knew already but the weirdness of it made me wonder if he just had a typical inferiority complex or was he warning the interviewees that I wasn’t in on some secret. It did make me wonder if there was some sort of “plan” that Air America was part of that wasn’t common knowledge. I don’t know what it might be that is sooo secret since Air America’s national feed is “the anti-Fox” and as “D” partisan as you can get. However the word Libertarian isn’t used as a bad word by the hosts very often and is just as likely to be used as a compliment.
I made a point to talk to every gas attendant, grocery clerk and waitress I could and every one of them was sympathetic to the protester’s rights to do what they were doing and I don’t remember anyone openly hostile.
Our audience in Phoenix was very appreciative of the effort we made to keep them up to date and we are still getting regular reports from people there. We may even have someone going to Washington, D.C.
While there are always people and organizations that will do their best to take advantage of a mother’s grief or a movement in opposition to an opposing politician, I was impressed with the general spontaneous organization of the whole experience. When a large tent was needed at the House of Peace for meals, a family from Italy wanting to help called a local renter to have one erected. There were thousands of water bottles donated and the supply shelves that were everywhere made you feel like you were in a Walgreens. If you showed up with nothing but the shirt on your back you had everything you needed. In fact one night late the local police dropped off a man fresh off the bus that only spoke Vietnamese. He could only say that he wanted to talk to Bush also. I got the radio station to track down an interpreter and found out that he has been in the US for 13 years in California and had something private about War he wanted to share with President Bush. He was in his 50’s so maybe he has something interesting to share but he didn’t want me to know what it was.
The new Camp Casey on the ranch land was being erected as I left and the other 3 from Air America Phoenix were coming in. They immediately noticed a change in attitude with Cindy gone to be with her ailing mother. Code Pink and some others had gotten a bad case of “the Shiny Badge” and were directing people to goosestep to their drum. This lasted about half a day until a mini-revolution righted things once again.
Power Always Corrupts.
~ About the Author ~
Ernest Hancock has been a libertarian activist in Arizona for over a decade informing the masses via campaigns, court challenges and general rabble rousing as a method to use mass media for the greatest benefit. Send Ernest an email with your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.