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Upping the Vigil Ante

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  John Nirenberg, (www.marchinmyname.org) is walking from Boston to Nancy Pelosi’s Washington D.C. office, gathering support from Americans along the way to tell her to put impeachment back on the table.

I had the pleasure of joining him on December 15, in Westport and Norwalk Connecticut where, along with covering a few miles of Route 1, we joined vigils in each town. Westport has a long tradition of citizens holding vigils on the route’s bridge over the Saugatuck River. With a few notable exceptions, most of the folks braving the wind and cold that day were senior citizens, many having obvious difficulty navigating the uneven surface of frozen snow that covered the bridge’s sidewalks. Some of the women there were the very same who had laid down in their fur coats to shut down that bridge back in 1971, in reaction to Nixon’s mining of North Vietnam’s harbors. How many wearers of fur today would be willing to lie down in the street for a principle, bringing business as usual to a screeching halt?

Lately, the typical turnout for a Saturday has been hovering at around ten. Because some local folks had spread the word, and the local newspapers had given John’s march some coverage, the turnout on the 15th was closer to 50.  People were glad to hear about his march and inspired by his dedication and clarity of purpose.

All along the route folks who have been moved to join him, briefly giving themselves a chance to act, have greeted John. Large events are spontaneously springing up in his path. On Wednesday, December 19th, from 4:30-6:30, John will be joined by Elizabeth Holtzman and Clarice Torrence at St. Mark’s church in NYC. Scores of volunteers have been spreading the word, trying to reach activists, everyday citizens and media outlets. These efforts are just as important as the support being offered along the road itself.

Time and time again news editors and producers have told us that impeachment is a dead issue and a non-story. In fact, when we try to make the case that the American peoples’ call for impeachment is growing ever louder in spite of being out of range of the media radar screen, we are told that we are self-centered and even “nasty” for having the temerity to not meekly disappear when ignored. They are not willing to acknowledge the power that their news coverage has to manipulate public opinion.

By consistently ignoring or downplaying the peace movement and marches, the Iraq veterans who are speaking out against the war, the true cost and casualties of the war, and grass roots movements like those that have been keeping the call for impeachment very much alive and growing, mainstream media (including NPR) has helped convince a majority of Americans that it is no longer worth their time or effort to even cast a vote at the ballot box.

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        This of course is right where they want us, safely removed from the equation that leads to prosperity for the very few who now hold the power. And while an extra forty or so protesters on a bridge in Westport CT do not pose a threat to this status quo, hundreds and thousands of citizens joining John along his route would begin to send a different message.

        Let’s swell the numbers of those who are reaching out to local and national media outlets of all kinds, demanding that they start covering the stories that represent what the people of this nation are about, the stories that represent what this nation could become with an informed and demanding populace, stories like John’s that not only tell about an American of conscience, but about a Constitution in crisis as well.

        Congress has been bought and is almost hopelessly controlled by corporate interests. Media companies also have been largely brought under corporate control. But there are many journalists who operate within this dreary atmosphere who still have an interest in telling compelling stories. But they rarely stick their necks out to report on stories that have been deemed “dead” (like impeachment) unless there is a repeated drumbeat of requests and reminders coming their way from many different sources.

        This is what we need to do as citizens, and we need to do it now. Just days ago, three members of the House Judiciary Committee wrote an op-ed explaining why Cheney impeachment hearings should be started at once in the House. It is a clear and unequivocal document. It also has the distinction of not being able to find a significant American newspaper willing to publish it. Congressman Wexler had to publish it on his impeachment website. The government does not need to enact censorship when the media does it for them without prompting. We citizens must take it upon ourselves to harangue, browbeat and boycott the advertisers of media outlets that follow only the conventional wisdom of what constitutes news.

        We need to force the media to report on the stories that reflect the rest of us, the vast majority of this country that have been left out of the decision making, and who do not endorse the current policies of criminal war, corporate power and a runaway executive branch of government. For when we start to hear about all the others like John Nirenberg, who are working for change and saying no to the corrupt system that is strangling our society, we start to believe again that there could be hope for America. We need to raise the stakes for ourselves and move from the passive vigil on the sidelines to being an active participant in the trenches. And the trenches have to range beyond the landscape of the Internet. We all need to invest time and effort in the tangible world of newspapers, television, radio, and human interaction in the streets and town halls in order to bring people back to the commonweal that they have abandoned out of lassisitude and despair. The majority of Americans are not with the Republicans or the Democrats. The majority has decided that voting is a farce and they won’t participate. We need to give them something to believe in again. And that does not come in the shape of a new politician to lead us out of the night. We need to believe in ourselves once again. To believe and understand that like John Nirenberg, we can make a difference simply by deciding to act.

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Dan Dewalt is a musician/woodworker/teacher who authored the Newfane impeachment resolution passed at March 2006 town meetings.

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