Monday, June 26, 2006

This Is How Freedom Dies

I am pasting in an email I received today that shows exactly what kind of stormtroopers are in charge of our precious freedoms. I never thought I'd live to see the day when there were "rainbow tribunals" set up to interrogate and punish those who did nothing wrong but try and attend this year's Rainbow Gathering. You are welcome to cut and paste it, link to it, tell people about it in any way possible. Some of my fondest youthful memories are of attending Rainbow Gatherings because I learned that we can live in peace and harmony if the desire is strong enough. We can make a better world. We can step lightly upon the earth. If this is what threatens Bushco, then I fear for us all.

Dear Friends and Family,

I need your help to protect my family, the collective efforts of tens of thousands of citizens known as the "Rainbow Family." This week, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the U.S. Forest Service has taken illegal action to stop this annual assembly for _expression and prayer, in gross violation of the participants essential Constitutional rights.

The 'Rainbow' Gatherings have borne a legacy of spiritual & cultural pilgrimage to the National Forests since 1972, the purest exercise of open consensual assembly in our time. The annual 'Gathering of the Tribes' draws thousands over the first week of July, focusing on the 4th as a holy day of prayer for peace and freedom. In recent years small regional events in this mode have emerged, and such gatherings have taken place in many nations around the world.


Some say the "Rainbow" Gathering is the continuation of the idealism of Woodstock. I think of it more as my annual spiritual retreat and family reunion. Since 1980, I have gathered with my family to compare ideas and pray for peace. I arrive loaded with the burdens of my work, depressed about the world situation. Each year I depart with my faith in humankind renewed and with the energy to fight the beast another year. The rainbow family is not organized in any way; it is an exercise in self-determination and cooperation in the public interest, without need of government controls. We understand that no matter what comes down, it is the respect and care for each other that win in the end. We have no leaders or leadership, we have no offices or officers, we have no treasurer or treasury. We sit in counsel, often for days at a time in order to make mutual decisions, but there is no power to enforce these decisions on any individual. In the end, just like in society, it works because enough responsible people make sure that what needs to be done gets done. We have been doing rainbow gatherings for over 30 years, each time in a different national forest across the country. We come in and set up a village in the woods. Cooperative kitchens pour out a wide variety of foods. Seminars on just about any topic are run by the hour. The Rainbow is known as a healing gathering; people with various ailments come for help. Here in one place they can receive healing, from herbalists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and masseuses working with place they can receive healing, from herbalists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and masseuses working with osteopaths and physicians. These healers work as a team and share their knowledge in a holistic approach that teaches all involved a lot about the roots of medicine. Religious groups, ranging from Christians to Hare Krishnas set up camps. It's truly a free society. We go pretty far back in the woods to get away from the ills of civilization like alcohol and hard drugs. We have our gathering and then restore any damage we cause to the woods. And we have a perfect record of restoration of the forest. It's great to walk through a gathering and see so many people but not a scrap of paper on the ground, not a cigarette butt in sight. Each year we train thousands of newcomers how to get along in the woods without destroying the place. Knowledgeable Forest Servide 'Resource' personnel love us; it's the Federal bureaucrats and police from Washington who are on our case.


The Bush Administration has spent millions of dollars trying to stop the Rainbow Gatherings. They are enforcing a 'Noncommercial Group Use' permit regulation that is impossible for unaffiliated individuals to comply with 36 CFR 251.54 They require that that someone sign as an agent for a fictional group entity named as permit Holder -- which then must assume full liability from the Government and bind participants vicariously to its terms. By the creed of the gatherings, no one can appoint themselves to such a position. More importantly, such an ad hoc gathering has no legal capacity to designate agents or act as a group party in any way. As a result, individuals are denied personal standing in First Amendment exercise and subjected to harsh criminal prosecution for being anywhere near the area. The Forest Service requires that a permit be applied for in advance of the gathering. And they use any excuse possible to deny a permit application when we manage to submit one. This year their denial was based on the fact that a logging company had a permit to log in a nearby parcel of the national forest, even though there is no logging activity present whatsoever. The site is far remote from any inhabitants -- but still the Forest Service is all over our case. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent to block this harmless gathering from taking place. The scariest aspect of all this is how Homeland Security is using these gatherings to perfect their techniques of martial law. Regulations written for the Federal Emergency Management Authority to deal with natural disasters are now being used to crush dissent in this country. Each year the Rainbow Gathering is declared a "National Incident" and federal military law ensues. A Special Agent is appointed "Incident Commander", with a Delegation of Authority, a large law enforcement "Team", and huge budget to control the gathering. Qualified Forest Service administrators lose their power, while the county sheriff and other officials are brought into targeted law enforcement actions by inclusion in the Incident Team and other inter-agency agreements. Each year Homeland Security gains more power over the individuals involved.


At this writing Forest Service law enforcement has issued over 500 tickets to the early arrivals at the gathering in Colorado. They have blocked the road and have prevented food and water from reaching those who managed to get into the gathering before the police roadblock was set up. The 500 people with tickets are being herded into trials like none anyone has seen before in America. These pseudo trials are prototypes for what Homeland Security will use in the cases of insurrection or even a plague. Defendants lose the right to a public hearing (this year these hearings are being held behind closed doors in a firehouse garage near the site. Attorneys and legal observers have been denied the right to even view these trials. The defendants are not explained their rights nor afforded the right to an attorney, the right to summon witnesses, the right to a jury trial, etc. Defendants ordered to appear each day at 9:00 a.m. and sit in the hot sun without water or sanitary facilities until their trials. Some have now been waiting for several days. These abbreviated trials only take a few minutes. Last year I tried to help a string of defendants defend themselves in these trials but felt helpless to do much as the system was clearly stacked against them. This year is especially frustrating to me as I have to watch this come down from 6000 miles away. Right now I am in Hungary at a medical conference for my employment. I am flying home on Thursday and plan on being in court Saturday, July 1st, to defend some of my best friends who got a ticket for illegally gathering as they drove down a public highway.


The confrontation this year is getting more intense by the minute, which is why I am asking for your help. The only way to stop a massive conflagration in Colorado in the next few days is to get thousands of people to contact their political representatives as well as the responsible administrators at the Forest Service to demand that this repression stop immediately. Please, even if you can never conceive of yourself at a Rainbow Gathering, you must understand that if these citizens lose their constitutional right to gather, we all lose such rights. This year the Rainbow Gathering is being used to set precedents that will be turned against drug policy, civil liberty, anti-war or other activists in the near future. Following are some instructions on who to write and/or call. We hope to start flooding the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service with complaints starting Monday morning and not stopping until harassment stops. It is especially important that we get a few Congressional representative and Senators concerned enough to write the Forest Service for an explanation of why so much money is being spent to keep people from camping in the National Forest set aside for exactly that purpose. Please keep the pressure on these bureaucrats until we are able to spread the word that the government has backed off and that the gathering can proceed unhindered. If you do not know the contact information for your Congressman or Senator, you can find this here. You can call your representative at 212-224-3121. Besides your representatives in Washington, please call and write the following people to voice your protest to this harsh treatment of people who just want to go on a camping trip in the woods. Keep the calls coming until word is passed around that the government has called off their dogs. Please forward this letter to your friends and feel free to re-post it on any listserv or website you wish. Email me if you have any questions.

Don E Wirtshafter
Attorney at Law
Box 18 Guysville, OH 45735
740 662 5297

USDA, Natural Resources & Environment
Mark Rey, USDA Undersecretary
1400 Independence Ave. SW, .. 217-E
Washington, DC 20250
202-720-7173 Fax: 202-720-0632

Kathleen Gause, Director 202-205-8534
USDA Forest Service
Civil Rights Staff
Stop Code 1142
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington., DC 20250-1142
Tel (202) 205-1585

Office of the Chief
NetZero Message Center 06/26/2006 01:52 AM
Page 5 of 6
Dale Bosworth, Chief
USDA Forest Service
Yates Federal Building (4NW Yates)
201 14th Street, SW - Washington, DCÊ20250
202-205-1661; Fx: 202-205-1765

Executive Assistant...Karla Hawley, 202 -205-1195
Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests,
Mary H. Peterson, Supervisor
2468 Jackson Street -- Laramie, WY 82070-6535
307-745-2300 Fax: 307-745-2398

U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (R-2)
Rick Cables, Regional Forester
Mail: P.O. Box 25127 -- Lakewood, CO 80225-0127

Richard Stem, Deputy Regional Forester, Resources: 303-275-5451

Steve Silverman, Office of General Counsel, Regional Attorney: 303-275-5536

Bill Fox, Law Enforcement & Investigations, Special Agent in Charge: 303-275-5253

Jerome Romero, Deputy Director of Civil Rights: 303-275-5340

Some resources to research these issues further:

The best Rainbow website: Welcome Home

A good article written before the feds came down hard: article

More recent coverage: Rocky Mountain News

Denver Post

thanks to

Design from Ursine Logic


Friday, June 23, 2006

Why YOU should care about Darfur

Sometimes I get asked why I care so much about a country so far away. I also hear people say it's too huge a problem, too far along, too beyond our control to do anything about. They view it as a hopeless cause, and goddess forbid we waste our time on hopeless causes! My answer is always the same: we must care, we must get involved, we must let people know what is going on there because if we do not, we lose another piece of our already frail humanity.

Throughout history, there are numerous examples of societies and cultures remembered by how they treated or mistreated those beneath them in power, how they defended or failed to defend the weak and powerless, how they failed or succeeded as human beings. Those who remained silent are judged the harshest because with their silence they implied consent. By not speaking out, they let their neighbors be dragged away in the night and killed. They let living, sentient beings undergo torture and abuse. They let entire generations be wiped out and the face of nations be forever changed.

Think about it. If you are walking down the street and you see a very large person attack a very small person, what would you do? Would you turn your head, walk away and say it wasn't any of your business? Or would you at least make a phone call as you were running away? That phone call, small and insignificant as it may be, could very well be the one act that saves a life.

Let's take it in another direction. You see a helpless creature such as a dog, cat, horse or other sentient creature being abused. What do you do? Do you run away? Do you say it is not your problem? Do you say there is nothing you can do? Or do you respond because everything in your heart tells you what you are seeing is wrong, that something weak is being abused by something strong? Do you see NOT responding as a condemnation of your own humanity, your own right to call yourself a human being?

What all those questions demonstrate is that we will be defined for posterity by the actions we take or don't take on issues like Darfur. Our humanity will be judged by how we live as a WORLD community. And most of all, we will be judged by the children who died because we didn't think they were any of our business. They are the reason I speak up. They are the reason I try and educate people about what is going on in Darfur. Children are not political. They are not policy makers. They are not armies. They are not militias. They are not the knock on the door in the middle of the night. They are children. And they are our conscience. They are why we must speak up and demand the rest of the world, the bigger reaches of our world community, look at Darfur and see what is happening. It is called GENOCIDE and with our silence, we let allow it to continue.

What you can do:

1. Get educated. I'm not going to provide links because there are so many and so much is changing day to day. I recommend typing "Darfur" in any search engine. There are thousands of people like yourself who have devoted their time and energy to educating the rest of us. Go read what they have to say.

2. Call your elected representatives. Most of us have cell phones with national plans, so it will cost most nothing but a few minutes of your time to call. Emails are easier and will do if you can't afford to call, but from talking to politician's staffers, it's the phone calls that get attention and not the emails or ten mile long petitions.

3. Get loud. Tell others what is going on. Donate to groups who are doing something to increase awareness. Write a song, poem, novel, or create a work of art as there are many ways to get loud. The image at the top of this posting is my contribution. I've made it available on t-shirts, buttons, and stickers in my store Darfur Items

I keep a supply of mini buttons on hand to give out at concerts, fairs, and other events where people of conscience can be found. I remind them it is about the children. I call my representatives and ask them what they have done lately to bring this matter to the world's attention. Some of them are tired of hearing from me. That is my intent because maybe they will act from their conscience so I won't have to call anymore.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Sickness of Hate

I've spent a good deal of my life trying to understand hate. I read about the usual representatives of particular hate cults throughout time--the sociopaths who turned one group against another for political and personal gain, the murdering bastards who preached from one side of their mouth as they killed from the other, the groups who existed only to target other human beings with their spewed hatred. I studied them as one studies a fascinating but disgusting piece of something offensive on the bottom of a shoe.

I don't understand them any better than when I began reading the first word about them. I have more information about them. I know who they hated, the words they used to fire up other haters, the lies and delusions they fed their minions. I know their victims. I wept for many of them. I despaired over the fate of our planet. I read more, wept more, and despaired more.

And then I noticed something: with each rock I turned over to learn more about these aberrations of humanity, the more I felt them in my own body. My heart began to physically ache. My stomach that clenched at the descriptions of horrible atrocities began to stay that way for days at a time. My head hurt from trying to understand. And my anger grew. My rage grew. And I began to hate them with the beginnings of a fervor they sought to foment in their own minions. I may not have believed what they believed, but the pit in my belly felt the same. I became physically ill, poisoned by the burning rage that had taken over my body.

I began to realize an awful truth : hate will kill you just as fast, if not quicker, than most diseases. It eats at you like a cancer. It fills your mind and heart with a rot so entrenched that it seems impossible to break free from it. You wake in the morning with the bad taste of it in your mouth. You stumble through your day from the intrusion of your dreams by fear and despair and disgust and all the ugly cousins of hate who take up residence each night, leaving you exhausted, muddled, confused--and ripe for the manipulation. Someone who hates is already more than halfway to total control by a McCarthy, a Hitler, a Bush, a Rove, a Limbaugh, a Fox News.

Against all that it seems almost absurd to fight back with love. It seems like such an inadequate response. It seems small and quiet and willing to step aside in the face of a stronger power. But that is a mistake because love IS the stronger power. It requires nothing to keep it going because it already exists in us. It is hate which must be fed continuously. It is hate which wakes up everyday and looks for a reason to hate. It is hate which devours all the morsels thrown to it by hatemongers with a ferocious hunger that is never satiated.

If you think that what I say is crazy, think of this, think of the last time you were in love. Think of how that felt, that moment of newness, those days where you existed on a little cloud of loveliness, of tolerance, of acceptance, of bliss, and peace, and total joy. You knew the world was a good place. You had room in your heart for everyone because love does that; it opens up your heart to everything and everyone around you. And remember how little it took to feed this feeling: you just opened your heart and it was there. This is why it is stronger than hate.

The only difficulty is remembering that love lives inside you, that it is a seed waiting only your blessing to emerge once again and help change the world into a better place. Draw from its strength and no amount of hate can touch you, but maybe, just maybe you can give something different to a planet and people in such great need of its healing power.


Design available at: Ursine Logic

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Whispering For Peace

The other day I was talking with a woman who was disheartened that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were becoming background noise, that people were getting used to the idea of war. "I want to shout from the rooftops for peace," she said wistfully, as if the idea was so absurd she almost felt guilty for wanting it.

The soft tone of her voice made me realize that was at least part of the problem. When the Bushco warmongers wanted to get the Iraq war going without too much oversight and accountability, they enlisted the help of hate radio to hold "eat a hot dog for the warmongering jesus" cheerleading campaigns to build up support for the war. Those red, white, and blue balloon and flag infested cook-outs held in parade grounds stinking of bullshit, were very similar to the kinds of rallies other dictators and murderous heads of states held in their own countries to build up support for their hate-filled agendas.

The major difference is that many Americans were bought far more cheaply. They sold their country for a few bad hotdogs and corporate cokes. And for that insulting price, they then became propaganda soldiers in Bush's Armageddon army, spreading the word that war was good, that their god was bigger and better than everyone else's god and he wanted them to kill all the unbelievers in foreign lands. And anyone who opposed such madness was shouted down, had their books and records burned, had their reputations smeared and swift-boated by paid liars, were put on no-fly lists, were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to camps where no one heard from them again.

The few protest marches against the war were subdued affairs of respectability with the ever-present soccer moms holding professionally painted neutral statements of war not being helpful. Everyone was so damned polite. No one wanted to be too so out there they drew the attention of "the authorities." After all, everyone was so respectable now with mortgages they lived in fear would rise an interest point, maxed out credit cards, and big old gas guzzlers that they bought with incentives and tax breaks. They simply could not afford to speak up too loudly. So they marched quietly with neat clothes, perfect little signs, and then went home and told themselves they had done all they could.

Now, thousands of deaths later, those same people are talking wistfully about an end to war and killing because you know, it is just so damn barbaric and uncivilized. And to these people and to myself as well because as a Pacifist, I deplore confrontation and violence of all kind, I say the time has come to speak up and please, let's not be polite about it either.

This war and those to come were not started or kept going by people who were nice. It was started by mean, selfish, greedy liars without a shred of humanity or dignity. Do not worry about offending crap like them. It is your obligation to speak up loud and clear so they can hear you. It is your obligation to do what they do: call your congressional representatives and make some noise. Call those radio hate mongers and get your voice out there. Write a letter to the editor.

You don't even have to leave the computer. Everyone has email these days, even the letters to the editors section. Talk to people. Go out on the streets even if you have to go out there by yourself. It takes one brave and committed human being to bring out the humanity in everyone else. And it also takes a very loud voice. Let yours be heard.

Peace (loudly please)

Design from Ursine Logic

Saturday, June 10, 2006

How Are We Different From Them?

There is no clearer example of how much we have lost of our humanity than to watch the cheering squads of death celebrate the killing of the latest scary guy of the week. Leaving aside the politics that demand we live in constant fear so papa government can kill in our names under the guise of protecting us, and conspiracy theories that claim this latest boogie man was created in a Pentagon basement movie studio. Or that he was no better than a street urchin blown into mythic proportions by a government who needs big bad guys to continue killing in our name. Or that he was an umbrella man that all the Iraqis who want us the hell out of their country can be swept under when they dare to complain or criticize the occupiers of their land.

If you set all that aside, the question still remains, what the hell is wrong with people that death has become something to celebrate? Isn't that the kind of mentality our own troops are supposedly dying to stop? What separates us from the monsters if our own behavior is no different than theirs? Has it been that long that we were outraged by scenes on television (later rumored to be staged by our own government) of children dancing in the streets celebrating the destruction of the Towers?

At the time, before our sophistication grew enough to recognize propaganda, we discussed the social meaning of such a terrible scene. We were told these children were not raised in a democracy, they were some horrible splinter cult religion, their parents who danced along with them were blood-thirsty terrorists who cared nothing about human life. We were told how awful these people were we put on display to shame and humiliate, we were told they deserved to be tortured them because they did not deserve to be treated as human beings.

We were portrayed as the good guys while committing the acts and atrocities of the bad guys on television for everyone to see but not see. Because if we looked too closely, if we started to question what the difference was in how we treated them and they treated us, if we began to feel a bit queasy over it all, then we were accused of being traitors, of abetting the enemy, of being cowards.

And then so much time went by that our voices became useless. The time to speak up is at the first death because by the second the scabs start to form, the excuses start to form, the inner nausea becomes something that must constantly be pushed back.

We start to laugh at the obvious propaganda put out by the Pentagon instead of being outraged by it. We laugh over Bush the Idiot instead of paying too much attention to Bush the Religious Fanatic on a mission for the voices in his head. We look away from the blood, from the excuses, from the rising death toll. We stop looking because it hurts too much to see what we have allowed to happen with our silence, our fear, our misplaced patriotism and loyalty.

It grows in us, a giant and bloody fever. An ache that won't subside. A shame that lies between us but is never acknowledged. All feelings are pushed down. Denial becomes the word of the day.

And then a body is dragged before us. This is the face of the enemy, we are told. Go ahead, you can touch it. Just like that, give it a little nudge. Don't be afraid to kick it. Beat it a little. Let out sounds as you do so. Scream when it gets too close to tears. Cheer when the disgust threatens to bring up breakfast.

And then turn on the tv, read the newspapers, hear the radio hatemongers who know about your shame, your distaste over this whole matter of death. It is they who make certain the music gets turned up, the volume on the rhetoric becomes ear-splitting, the bands march and the crowds in the stadium cheer...for Nero, for Hitler, for Stalin, for Mussolini, for Bush, for all of them...all the killers who knew how to make the crowd cheer the killings so they wouldn't feel anything remotely resembling a conscience.

If we cheer these deaths, these government sponsored assassinations of monsters created and fed by our own government, how are we different from them? How can we continue to claim a humanity we no longer possess? How can we ever judge another for the crimes we have committed alongside them with our silence?

(One World design from Ursine Logic )

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Neighbor Died

My neighbor died yesterday. I didn't know him. He wasn't a friend. We had little in common. We were friendly but indifferent waves of hello to each other. We came from different worlds even though we lived in the same neighborhood. We had different lives that just would not mix without something curdling.

And yet I find myself feeling a deep sadness over his passing because he was too young chronologically. He should have had many more years of life. He should have had a chance to know what it was like to not work at backbreaking labor for most of his life. He should have had a chance to know what it was like to live without the constant stress of bills and being a member of the working poor. He should have been rewarded with an easier life for working so hard, not condemned to live somewhere on the poverty line until the day he died.

The first inclination of many is to see such a man as insignificant, as someone who was a cog in the machine of providing goods and services to those who could afford to buy them. He was poorly educated. He listened to loud, bad music that he played on an old boom box. He loved that box. He fished it from the dumpster when one of the college students in his apartment building threw it away. There was nothing wrong with it. It just didn't fit in the one suitcase he was taking on the plane when he went home after graduation. He knew he would eventually have a bigger, better, and far more expensive music system.

But I doubt he would ever enjoy that music system as much as my neighbor enjoyed his discarded boom box. It went everywhere with him. He set it on the balcony as he drank beer after cheap beer until he was so drunk he forgot most the words. He sang loudly and incoherently to the songs of his youth when he still believed that life had something called a future, when love was something sweet and filled with promise, when he looked in the mirror and saw a young man ready to take on anything looking back.

When he was really drunk, he played it in his bedroom late at night with the windows wide open until the neighbors on the other side of him called the police to shut him down. He was on first name basis with all the police. It became routine to knock on his door and tell him it was time to close down the show. It went with him in the car because the radio in his old beatermobile quit working sometime in the mid 80's. He played it at work on his break.

But he loved it second best. His first love was always his only love--his wife that he married when they were both sixteen and pregnant. They both drank continually when they weren't working. And every day like clockwork, they would argue. They were never violent. They were just loud. Loud like the music. The words and the music and the arguments. It was so much a part of our neighborhood, just like the mating cats and the raccoons screeching at each other over a scrap of cat food someone forgot to take in for the night.

She is why he could never be dismissed as insignificant. She grieves for him in a way only someone who has had only one thing of value in her life can grieve. He was her boom box, her treasured possession that brought her joy and love and noise, constant, reassuring and wonderful noise. They had children. Young adults now who gave them their first grandchild last year at much too young an age. They all grieve for him. They all make him significant with the ache of loss in their hearts and the tears that keep coming no matter how many have already come. And he had friends. People who valued him, who counted on the certainty of his friendship as if it were the purest gold. They also make him significant. They also cry for him.

I didn't know him, but tonight I opened my window and turned up the stereo. I put on the loudest music I had, music he would understand, music I would have given him had I known him better, had I been his friend. No one called the police to complain because the only thing that bothered us today was the silence. It was too damn loud.