Penny strides into the front lawn of the Crawford Peace House talking about that time up in Racine five weeks before the alleged re-election when she stood along the street with firemen and everybody, and flipped the President the bird. "Thank you," is what Penny recalls the President saying to her. "God, what a weak man!"
Like Cindy Sheehan, Penny is motivated by the death of her son, but Penny 's son was not killed in an overseas war. He lost his life to the politics of health care funding in Texas. "I'm only the Governor," is how Penny recalls Bush's response when she asked him to help restore a sudden cut in funding to the cancer research trial in Arlington, Texas that was doing good things for her son. "My son died because that treatment was delayed," says Penny. And that's one reason why she flipped the President the bird.
As for why she's standing here in Texas, 1163 miles from home, she says of herself and spouse Mike, who should be shuttled here any minute from the stadium parking lot: "We have no idea what we're doing. We've never done anything like this before. But it's time we became teenagers!"
"There's a lot we have on our side," says Penny thinking about the movement that she has come to join.
"There are a lot of angels here. Every one of those soldiers killed is an angel on our side. I'm working for the Apocalypse. Either take them or take me, but don't leave us together anymore!" she grins.
"We had some friends up in Sturgis," says Penny, speaking about the mega
motorcycle convergence that happens up in South Dakota every August. "I told everyone there to come on down." At Sturgis, Penny had some work on display.
"I went from defense work to making motorcycle seats,"
Then Penny begins to give another reason why she flipped the President the bird. As a long-time employee of a famed defense contractor, Penny watched them rebuild equipment using old parts from the warehouse, then purchase new parts for inventory, charging the government the cost of placing the new part on the shelf, while returning the rebuilt equipment. One day she was asked to "fill in" some prices for parts that had been taken from old stock, but which had cost the company nothing in recent years. She blew the whistle on that operation and was laid off in 2002.
Penny's spouse Mike could tell another bird-flipping tale, too, she assures me, but he's apparently been taken straight to Camp Casey in the car of Austin attorney Jim Harrington, so Penny hands me her card and catches the next shuttle out. A tube of caulk hits the sidewalk near my feet and I look up to see a volunteer on the roof trying to fix a leak.
Julie Decker from San Diego County, California will be well known to television audiences in her home town.
She and Tiffany Strauss traveled out here by airplane Tuesday, with San Diego reporters following every move. Julie says she heard Cindy on the radio "and 20 hours later" she was on the way.
Bob Carter from Houston shows up with a bag full of supplies and comes into the kitchen asking if he can write a check. Sure says Linda, the mainstay volunteer of the day, as she scurries to keep up with a pile of chores. Linda is a retired special education teacher who moved to Fort Worth from Stockton, California in 1975. In the mid-eighties she was activated by the Gary Hart campaign for President and interreligious activism in behalf of Central America. Peace Action is the group she most closely identifies with today.
Like Linda, Bob is a retired school teacher. He taught music and band. "I'm here because this is going to be big," he assures me. "This might be the beginning of the end of the Iraq war. If we don't stop this guy now he might bomb Iran and Syria. I don't trust the man." Because Bob was attending the University of Texas, he was given a draft deferment until graduation day 1954. "In war mankind is at his worst!" says Bob standing now in the front room of the Peace House. It's incredible how we reduce young men and women to monsters."
A UPS delivery is coming through the front door. Hadi Jawad signs for the small stack of boxes and envelopes as the driver surveys the scene.
"What we have to do is to change the general frame of mind," continues Bob, after apologizing for preaching.
"From our training, our education, and our media we don't hear the other side. So 70 percent of the people in the USA agreed that we should start a unilateral war against a country that posed no threat?
What the hell is going on! How can you change that frame of mind?"
Bob and his spouse park their tiny dog Biscuit in a side room at the Peace House and catch a shuttle to the camp. When Biscuit starts whining, I look at Linda and she says, "they said we could walk him." So I take Biscuit to the garden for a walk around the labyrinth. Johnny Wolf laid out the design, which looks very much like the famous pattern
on the floor of the cathedral at Chartres. It makes for an interesting foot trip today. First you think you are heading steadily to the center, then you find yourself moving out to the rim. But why doesn't the path just take me to the center, you ask yourself, and just as you're about to curse the labyrinth, you're standing right in the middle. Very nice. A little lesson in patience for Biscuit and me.