The Road to Crawford

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 8/24/2005

As you can see on our Home Page or in the Section on the Iraq-US confrontation, in August I had a moving journey to and encounter with "Camp Casey," organized by Cindy Sheehan in memory of her son who was killed in Iraq.

The camp is directed at demanding that the President briefly interrupt his lengthy vacation in Crawford, Texas, to meet face-to-face with Ms. Sheehan and explain what "noble cause" had required her son's death.

I first connected with Cindy after a farcical version of a Ted Koppel "Town Meeting" about the Iraq war. I had been specially invited to speak there of the concerns of the religious community; but once I wrote the question I planned to ask and gave it to an usher/ overseer, I was quickly told I would not be called on.

I stood, denounced this fake "town meeting," and walked out. I wrote an essay about the fakery, and sent it into the Internet. Cindy saw it. She had been at the same "town meeting," had been invited and then shushed the same way, and was happy to connect with a kindred spirit.

For the tale of Ted Koppel, see my blog entitled "Why is that White-Bearded Man Interrupting Ted Koppel's Town Meeting?"

I met Cindy face-to-face on April 4, 2005, at Riverside Church in New York City. I had proposed that the Clergy and Laity Network hold a memorial service there on that day for Dr. Martin Luther King, who had died on that day in 1968 and who exactly one year before, at Riverside, had given a profound and brilliant speech on the roots of violence and war in American society.

He challenged the Vietnam War and predicted others like it if America did not radically change direction. — And here we were. And are.

Among the speakers that April evening were Cindy Sheehan and Celeste Zappala, founders of Gold Star Families for Peace. It turned out that April 4 was the first anniversary of the death of Casey Sheehan.

Celeste Zappala, like Cindy, charges George Bush with sending her son to his death for no "noble cause." She lives three blocks away from me in the West Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, and both before and after April 4 spoke at several peace events The Shalom Center co-sponsored.

So when Cindy began her vigil at Camp Casey, I was ready to support it. I was aghast though not surprised that the White House and its pet Radio Assassins tried to attack Cindy by making up quotations from her about the reasons for the Iraq War. What they made up was especially intended to upset American Jews, but Cindy's authenticity as the mother of a war-killed soldier is unassailable.

When suggested holding vigils all across the nation to support the one in Crawford, I called Celeste Zappala's church in Philadelphia — First United Methodist Church of Germantown, FUMCOG to suggest they organize one. It became one of more than 1700 vigils in support of Cindy and Camp Casey that were held across America on a single night.

Among the 500 vigilers from all over Philadelphia and from every religious grouping were three rabbis (and a number of congregants from Mishkan Shalom, an activist Reconstructionist synagogue). The candle-bearing vigilers lined both sides of a major avenue for two long city blocks.

Rev. Beth Stroud, the church's pastor, invited me (I guess because I had awakened so early in the morning as to be the first person to call the church's voicemail about holding a vigil) to offer a prayer to begin it. I used the expanded "Oseh shalom/ May You make peace" prayer that later I used in Crawford.

It was literally as I arrived home from that vigil that I got the message inviting me to Crawford.

And the rest of the story is above.

With blessings of shalom, Arthur


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