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We Must Not Really be Here if There's No Celebrity

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Its no secret that Americans are fascinated with celebrity. Sometimes those who take a courageous and honorable stand, and who happen to fall into the media spotlight, become celebrities themselves.
Cindy Sheehan, who decided to confront George Bush and his policies that led to the death of her son Casey, has achieved that status. She agreed to come to Vermont July 30 to help us mobilize citizens to take action to end the illegal conduct of our government.
Her celebrity created a buzz that led the organizers to expect 1000 people or more to attend an afternoon rally in Brattleboro, and several hundred the same evening in Montpelier.
When she pre-empted her rally appearances in order to accept an offer to go to Jordan to discuss reconciliation plans with members of Iraq's parliament, we knew that we would lose many members of the public who would have attended more out of their curiosity about Cindy than from their passion to impeach.
It wasn't too surprising that Burlington television news coverage evaporated with her cancellation, or that the Burlington Free Press declined to report on the story. But it is disheartening that Vermont Public Radio seems to share the same requisites for coverage. While VPR had not yet mentioned Cindy's upcoming visit as of last Thursday, it aired the story of her cancellation all day Friday, and on Saturday, read verbatim the entirely incorrect AP wire report that the talks in Brattleboro and Montpelier had been cancelled. VPR was quickly informed that all events of that day were continuing as scheduled.
But without Cindy, it just wasn't news.
So for those of you who missed it, here is some of what isn't news, according to the professionals from Channel 3, The Burlington Free Press, and VPR, about the events of July 30.
Its not news that Joseph Turcotte, from Derry NH, told the crowd in Brattleboro that when he took part in the "shock and awe" start of the Iraq war, he was told by his Marine Corps commanding officers that they were bombarding civilians, and that those officers encouraged their men to cheer this bombardment.
Its not news that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker excoriated the Bush administration for lying to us about Iraq, and leading us into the chaos we currently face.
Its not news that Parker congratulated towns on their efforts to call for impeachment, and voiced his support.
Its not news that 60 activists from five northeastern states, representing such diverse groups as Iraq Veterans Against the War, Code Pink, West Point Graduates Against the War, Boston United for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, Peace Action Maine and NH, Amherst MA Democractic Town Committee, Traprock Peace Center and many others met and agreed to join forces to create a peace/impeachment groundswell across the region and to endorse The Declaration of Peace running from September 21-28, with non-violent civil disobedience actions taking place daily in Washington D.C. and elsewhere.
Its not news that several of these groups decided to work to together mount a teach-in tour throughout New England, or that others committed to initiate direct actions in opposition to the Iraq occupation, or that others still will coordinate November ballot initiative and special town meeting petition drives.
Its not news to hear Maine Veteran for Peace Dud Hendrick tell of his first hand experience seeing the horrors of fetal deformities in Iraqi hospitals, victims of U.S. depleted uranium ammunition.
Establishment media take their cues from the corporate culture that funds them. They saw our town meeting impeachment vote as a "good citizen human interest story", they can't even grasp that this story is much bigger than any one of us. This is even bigger than their cosmos of politicians, pundits and the moneyed elite who set their "what is news" parameters.
I've got a little news for them. American citizens are not willing to defend immoral, illegal and reprehensible behavior by their government. Even through the veil of happy news and government promises of "substantial progress towards a lasting peace", Americans can detect the lies that they are being told, and they detest the liars who tell them. American citizens are not willing to accept as right and just the daily murder by bombing of Lebanese civilians by an American ally with American weapons.
Less prominent media outlets thought the events of July 30 to be newsworthy. The Guardian, as well as The Commons, The Rutland Herald and The Brattleboro Reformer sent reporters to learn what some Americans are doing to restore our democracy and defend the constitution.
The next time Public Radio solicits your donation, ask them why they are interested in your wallet when they don't take seriously your actions to save a sinking democracy. Maybe their answer will make the news.
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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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