- John Lennon
Is This Heaven?
by Mike Palecek
Where brown puppies are frisky, U-Turns aren't risky, and good girls sip their whiskey.
On the road, on my book tour, I was asked a few times, well, then, what should we do?
"I don't know. ... I just don't know."
The new presidential directive says that in case of emergency George W. Bush has dictatorial powers.
The new presidential directive.
What's that? What was the old presidential directive? Who said he gets directives?
Did you vote for that?
So. If you don't like that, what do you do in the United States?
Vote for a Democrat?
Try to figure out whom to shoot?
Speaking of voting. Didn't we think we did this big thing awhile back when we elected a bunch of Democrats and Nancy Pelosi was the new house mom?
And the first thing she said before she was even the leader was that impeachment was off the table, and now they support Bush.
People also asked me on the tour which candidate I liked. I would like to meet the candidate in a cafe who would pull our troops out of Iraq yesterday, start a real investigation into 911, impeach Bush, and prosecute Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Powell, for crimes against humanity.
If these guys are not criminals, then open the gates of Attica, Leavenworth, Terre Haute, Lewisburg. There are no criminals. There is no such thing.
I did not feel great when I told the people who asked me what to do, that I did not know what to do.
One guy in Madison, Wisconsin asked me if I thought we had come to the point where a revolution was needed.
I told him I didn't think I could ever kill anyone.
He said he was not talking about taking up the gun.
Oh. Well, maybe that actually says more about me than I wanted to reveal. Not really. I don't have a gun to take up. Don't want one. Too cheap to buy one. Won't happen.
I'm not looking for that kind of commitment. Pick up a gun and you are really into this thing. You aren't sending off some column over the computer and then going jogging.
The same thing - almost - can be said about someone who goes out and does some sort of civil disobedience and really confronts the evil. Then you get the horn. When you get into the ring with the bull. Do not make direct eye contact. The murderers don't like that.
But, the whole violent revolution thing, non-violent revolution thing, war thing - well, how can it not be on your mind when you are living in a not-democracy during a time of war?
It's frustrating, when you really see the need to change things.
But if your life is not really, really being affected, you kind of have a tough time garnering the fire to push up off the couch.
I have been thinking about Alex Jones, Che Guevara, the Weather Underground, Korey Rowe, Abbie Hoffman, Mindy Kleinberg, Jerry Rubin, Helen Woodson, Carl Kabat, Phil Berrigan, Dan Berrigan, Frank Cordaro, Larry Rosebaugh, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore, Charlie Sheen.
And how things just keep going on: 9-11, stolen elections, warships to Iran, lies from the government, poor people dying.
I suppose that's always been going on, always will. Anybody seen the new Shrek?
Do you vote Democratic at the Legion hall, slump home, and then set yourself up on the patio with some Old Style on ice, the Cubs playing on the other side of an open window, a Big Mac warming your lap, and "War! Good God Ya'll!" booming on the tiny white iPod speakers in your big-ass ears?
You, too? Dude, should the term cognitive dissonance mean anything to us?
After 9-11, with Kate Smith blustering all over the dial about God Bless America, I turned the radio to classical and let it blare as I drove to the gym, then over to work, to try to drown it all out and keep my life.
Massive amounts of work goes into putting hundreds of thousands in the streets in major U.S. cities and then it seems to do nothing.
Cindy Sheehan goes home because the Democrats turn out to be just rats.
A whole bunch of dedicated people work their butts off for months for a bunch of candidates who then end up voting to fund the war anyway and taking impeachment "off the table."
There is no "one answer."
Isn't that the safe response?
How about a violent response? Is that on the table?
Well. What if.
What if you did kill a bunch of people and got your very special person up there waving to the masses from a high balcony of the White House. Would that be worth it?
It would be a thrill, a rush.
Boy, we really are fighters, aren't we. We really did something. We are special, too.
But what about when you turn around and see all the dead people behind you, and their families behind that, crying, wailing.
And then what if your very special person up there doesn't do just what you think she should? Will you kill her, too?
Or, maybe it's just totally wrong to kill and let's not even go there.
I heard on the radio the other day about the anniversary of a bombing at the University of Wisconsin during the Vietnam War in which someone was killed. Some people went to prison for that, and one is still on the run.
What if that were you, still hiding out from the 1960s? There is not one day that goes by that you do not think about the person you killed, or about the life you might have had.
But, you did fight the United States government and its killing of thousands and thousands. And maybe you even stopped thousands more from being killed.
We don't seem to care if our government kills people in other countries. We vote them into power again. We still stand when they enter the room, wave at their motorcades.
Now what about the American Revolution? Those people shot and killed in order to get the kind of government they wanted. And those people are saints to us. Shout "Founding Fathers" in a crowded nursery and the newborns will struggle to stand.
And the world wars? More saints made by killing millions. We don't call them wackos or deluded. We don't make WW II veterans hide out in Dumpsters for forty years.
Can one person's vote really make a difference?
How about one person with a gun?
Sirhan Sirhan or whoever, Lee Harvey Oswald or whoever, James Earl Ray or whoever, whoever killed Malcolm, whoever killed the young Black Panthers in their beds in Chicago - did those murderers make a difference? Did they change the course of history?
Could a bunch of people with guns, who go to the Appalachians, the Catskills, the Ozarks, the Sierra Nevadas, the Everglades, the Sandhills, make a difference?
What is the difference that we wish to make?
What about the argument that refusing to kill in World War I and II would not have inflicted the amount of damage on the human community as participating and slaughtering millions did?
What about the feeling you get, though, when you fight - that you are at least doing something - that you work up a sweat and it feels good.
And the other feeling you get when you feel you are being run over, just letting things happen?
But Ghandi said you could do both: work up a sweat and also not kill anyone, nuke anyone, drop napalm on anyone, sneak up in the bushes and the mud on your hands and knees with a knife in your teeth and assassinate anyone.
What about Commandante something-something in Mexico?
The French resistance
AIM, Leonard Peltier
Robert E. Lee
Is anyone poor enough in the United States to do that? To go to the hills?
Thou shall not kill.
Yes, Old Testament.
Jesus said pretty much the same thing. Or maybe you are not Christian or don't believe in God.
Would there be a difference, morally, between someone who bombed a United States bomb factory - today - and someone who might oppose the U.S. on the battlefield?
Would there have been a difference between someone working to assassinate Hitler, perhaps a German citizen - and a soldier in the United States Army fighting in France?
So what do we do?
Things are pretty bad, no matter what you hear at the mall or in the park - the almost total lack of discussion or concern about this government, or how it came to power, or the wars and policies it is undertaking in our names.
Doing nothing is doing something. When tens of millions of us do nothing other than go to work and return each others cell phone calls, don't tell me that doesn't have an impact. It is definitely something.
Should we bomb something and kill someone and then run away, change our name to Mavis, work the drive-through lane at the Ukiah McDonald's until we are 95, hoping we will never die and have to face God if there is one.
Should we vote for a Democrat who will likely do nothing of substance in his or her lifetime.
Or do we crank up Chopin, fill every second of every day with some sort of violent rushing about, and try not to think about it.
I just don't know.
This passage is from my novel "Joe Coffee's Revolution."
Joe Coffee is published by Badger Books of Madison, Wisconsin. I wrote it after my run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000. I was the Iowa Democratic Party nominee for the Fifth District. I received about 67,000 votes in a very conservative district on an anti-military, anti-prison, pro-immigration platform. I received no support from the local, state or national levels of the Democratic Party. I wrote the book to tell my side - to present the story, the what-if, the should-be - of someone, a nobody, running for office in the United States trying to do the right thing, and what he might encounter.
During my campaign I met a lot of people. Some of the most interesting were a handful of scattered farmers - intelligent, hard-working, incredibly pissed off. They seemed willing to fight. Almost.
In this passage we sit down to coffee with a family of farmers - Ray, Sam, Karen, Herb Tinker - talking about fighting, considering revolution.
Sam Tinker: "What's to say the next headline might say: "Land Revolution Reform in Iowa?
"It happens in El Salvador, twenty families owning most of the sh*t, and finally the little guys get together and say they want to revisit the issue.
"Happens in Mexico, South America, all over the world. Why would we be any different?"
"Nobody's hurting bad enough to fight," said Herbert.
"I think you're wrong. Everybody knows six guys running six companies sitting in six fancy rooms in six big buildings in six big cities run almost everything.
"I go to about a dozen coffee shops around this county. Everybody's hurting.
"What we need is a pro-democracy movement in this country, somebody to stand in front of the tanks and say that's far enough, bud."
Sam poked Ray's pad with a finger.
"Tell me what you think of this. Violence to achieve human rights."
He looked at both of them, then stared at the back of Karen's head.
"What do you think of that?"
Karen turned around to face them.
"American Revolution," Sam began, "Vietnam, Gulf War, Kosovo bombing, abortion bombers, John Brown, Chechen rebels."
Sam turned to his father to gauge how far he had gone, then looked down at the middle of the table and continued to talk.
"It happens. We can't keep going like this. My family, your family. Every family in the county ... won't be here in ten years ... five years ... if the rich folks have their way. And let me tell you ... they could give a sh*t. They don't care about your kids or my kids or if any of 'em lives or any of 'em dies. Never have cared about poor folks, never will."
Karen sat up. Her jaw roiled.
"We are the campesinos of El Salvador and they are us. When you scratch the surface and get to the bone, it's all the same," said Sam in a calm, serious, bass voice.
"The only thing we don't know, is if we will fight."
KGB [Killing George Bush], The Truth, Joe Coffee's Revolution, Terror Nation, The Last Liberal Outlaw, Looking For Bigfoot, Twins, The American Dream .
Mike Palecek website: http://www.iowapeace.com
Contact Mike: firstname.lastname@example.org
Palecek books are available through local bookstores, Amazon, or by going to cwgpress.com, howlingdogpress.com, badgerbooks.com, newleafbooks.net, essentialbooks.com, mainstaypress.com.