Not Taking the Fifth on the Fourth

As someone was speaking about the Troops Home Fast as it began here in D.C. they said it wasn't being done in the hopes of changing Bush, but of reaching out to others. I happen to be standing next to Cindy Sheehan at the time, and she muttered "and to change ourselves."

That's why I love Cindy Sheehan. Cindy Sheehan certainly says a lot of what's wrong with Bush, but she derives her strength I think from acknowledging her own flaws. "I knew this war was wrong, I knew the invasion of Iraq was wrong -- but I didn't do anything about it [before it started] and I'm going to regret that for the rest of my life."

Too many people have spent too much time talking about what's wrong with Bush -- and sometimes missing the point entirely, I think, because we rarely talk about what's wrong with us. What can we do differently to change the world? Asking questions like "Who would Jesus bomb" is a way saying how superior to Bush we are -- without saying what we should do.

At the fast, Raed Jarrar and some others have been wearing t-shirts which said "We Will Not Be Silent" in Arabic and English. I am silent much too much. One time I was not silent was July 4, 2005, the day I met Cindy Sheehan.

Some soul spent lots of money to have a stage and a sound system for a protest near the Capitol. Only 20 or 30 people showed up, but one of them was Cindy. I said to her: "There will be hundreds of thousands of people later today near the Washington Monument for the fireworks, let us reach out to them."

We did. We passed out flyers featuring some writing from Cindy. I approached each huddled family or group listening to a military band on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Some thanked me; some gave me the flyer back when they read some of it. I kept doing it. I felt free.

Taking charge like that reminds me of the best of Flight 93. Taking charge like that reminds me of the best of the Declaration of Independence. Taking charge like that is a part of articulating human freedom.

To the extent that the U.S. flag and July 4 represented that sort of self-determination, it has atrophied. To the extent that they have symbolized unjust domination over Native Americans and others, it has proliferated.

That must stop.

Whatever nobility has been symbolized in the flag is desecrated every day by the actions of our "leaders."

That must stop.

It is many Palestinians and Iraqis and others who are upholding both decent tenets: Self determination and protecting indigenous culture from illegitimate attack.

We must reach out. By fasting, by empathizing, by listening, by engaging. Each other and ourselves.

[originally published at on July 4, 2006]