I have been travelling around the country for five weeks now, flying home on breaks to be with my kids. The message — what do we do to fight and win this war against citizens and against our freedom.
While I have had to focus on assimilating new news and information, checking reports, blogging and taping and speaking, my mind is so full of the people I have met and the stories they have told. Each city has crystallized a scene or moment that will stay with me forever. I wish I could show you each of them. They are the real story.
North Carolina: I gave a speech at UNC. A lovely mother of a beautiful 19-year-old girl brings her to me. The young woman is a Ron Paul supporter and she is on fire to change the world. She is one of those shining lights — a star, just radiating a hunger for truth and a readiness to get on her path. The mother is stoic at first — telling me her daughter is determined to go further with her activism and she, the mom, is scared. I don't blame her: in my talk I had referred to the many escalating kinds of harassment and intimidation activists from all walks of life are facing. I blurt out — half-joking — the mom in me speaking, not the citizen — that if she was my child I would lock her up to keep her from getting into all this. The mother notes sadly — and half-joking — that she would like to but can't — the young woman is of age. Suddenly the mother is weeping and I am holding her. I cannot honestly tell her not to worry. I say I will keep her and her family in my prayers and she says she will do the same for me.
Later, at drinks, a student — who has come of age in the Bush years — notes that "people say you can say anything you want here but it's not really true. You can get blowback." Her professor remarks that a local right-wing talk show has been encouraging listeners to pressure the administration to discourage them from letting people like me on campus to speak. She adds that students are encouraged to tape their teachers to catch them saying anything that might be "political" and that her department head, rather than defying those tape recorders, tells faculty to be cautious in what they say.
In Chicago, a young man — Ian Bicking — comes up to me after my talk. Middle-class, middle-American, the suburban guy next door in every way. He is trembling with emotion. His sister, Monica Bicking, is one of the "RNC Eight." She was charged as "a terrorist" for protesting at the RNC under the Minnesota Patriot Act and is facing a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees and years of her life fighting the charges even if she is successful in defeating them. Years more if she is found guilty. He is in computers. His girlfriend or fiancee is a potter. A quarter of a million dollars is hard for most anyone to come by. I feel the fear and grief around him that I sense when I read about people whose families are targeted by the State in Chechnya or Turkey. I tell him I will ask people to raise money for her.
I was told before I left by members of the Ron Paul community that many are under continual surveillance and that their materials were confiscated by Secret Service at the RNC. Also in Chicago, the head of the state Libertarian Party says he thinks he is on the Watch List.
Seattle — I tell the audience about the deployment of the First Brigade to — somewhere in the United States. I explain why this is so terrifying a step — we have been protected from military on our streets for 200 years by the Insurrection Act of 1807 and by Posse Comitatus of 1879. This brigade — three to four thousand battle-hardened warriors — have been redeployed here from Iraq, with lethal and nonlethal weapons and an initial stated mission of "crowd control." (A month later, not a single mainstream media outlet has reported on their whereabouts or mission, let alone asked questions.) A young man in the audience tells me his brother is with the First Brigade and they are "engaged in exercises." He will tell me where after the talk. I have his number but have not yet called him. Honestly, I am reluctant to find out. Last time I was in Washington State — Spokane — an audience member had told me and others had confirmed that Blackwater had been engaged in exercises on government land and that Secret Service had taken offices on a floor of a tower in the local University.
I meet another young man — a firefighter — who has started an organization of firefighters for "9-11 Truth." He is with his lieutenant. They explain to me why, as professional firefighters, they are raising questions about the "official story." I am not a firefighter, of course, or a physicist or an engineer, but the emotional tenor of the explanations they give me about what they see seem very solidly grounded in their own professional experience. Both men strike me as individuals of balance and integrity, very practical and sincere men and very down-to-earth. Given the delicacy of the role of firefighters in 9-11, and how much blowback these men could receive, it seems more notable to me that they have come forward with their questions than it does to me that architects or engineers or academics have formed such organizations. They do not strike me as wild-eyed fanatics. They strike me as they guys you would want to have save you from a fire.
San Francisco — I am honored to share a stage with Daniel Ellsberg — who had risked 120 years in prison in order to release the classified Pentagon Papers to American citizens. He noted the last time I was with him that all the things that got Nixon impeached are now legal.
There are about a thousand people there from all walks of life.
I feel hopeful.
More of this journal tomorrow — thanks for joining me on the journey.