Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cindy Isn't Speaking For You Anymore

Cindy Sheehan was a mother who lost her son and wanted to know why. Her initial trip to Crawford inspired a flashmob of thousands to join her in the ditches outside Bush's ranch and gave, as they say, a "face" to the anti-war movement. Unlike the other faces we see on our TVs, hers wasn't all pretty and polished like the professional pundits - the ones that are paid to tell us what to think. Her features showed quite plainly the sadness of her lot. Nevertheless, Cindy looked better on camera than the real faces of the antiwar movement - the ones that had been shot away or melted off inside a burning Humvee.

To be perfectly honest with you, I've felt like writing a letter like Cindy's damn near every day. Of course, being the Freewayblogger I'd have to keep it short:

When I started doing this, I didn't think it'd take more than a couple hundred signs, at most, for people to "get it": the simple, obvious and irrefutable fact that when you put a sign on a freeway, a HELL of a lot of people read it. With 200,000 people seeing the same sign, day after day for weeks, it seemed reasonable that at least one of them would say to themselves, "Hey! I could do that!" and that the ball would just start rolling from there. Didn't Happen. Which is kind of amazing when you think about it, and frankly still confounds me.

Before I became the Freewayblogger I used to bring clothing to villages in the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico. I did this because it seemed that the most useful thing I could do with the resources I had was to collect warm clothes, put them in my truck, and then go find the coldest, poorest people I could. Like freewayblogging, it was a simple idea, easily executed, that practically anyone could do, provided they were willing to break a few small rules in defense of a greater one. (Bringing used clothing into Mexico is illegal, even for charity, if you don't have a bunch of impossible-to-get permits. I'd usually get through customs by explaining who the clothes were for and hoping they'd let me through. If that didn't work, leaving a couple of twenties on the drivers seat usually did the trick. On the rare occasions they sent me back, I just went to a different crossing, or waited a bit and tried again at the same one. I always got through.) It took about three years and a hundred thousand miles of driving, but I managed to clothe damn near everybody living in the northwest Sierra Madres. And believe me, compared to that sticking signs up on freeways is a piece of cake.

The reason I’m bringing this up is to emphasize the power that one person can have when they decide on a plan of action and then just Do It. Don’t get together with friends, don’t form a group and for God’s sakes, don’t hold another meeting. Figure out the most useful thing you can do with the resources you have and then Just Do It.

I know most of you out there are afraid to put up signs because you think it might be illegal. Stop and think about that for a moment. Think about it and then think about everything this country is supposed to stand for and you’ll realize what utter bullshit that excuse is.

Here’s a picture of a sign that says “Impeach” with an American flag placed next to a freeway on what is indisputably Public Property. If you honestly think this is illegal, or should be, then I honestly think you should find yourself a new country, because this one’s just being wasted on you.

Last week I got questioned by a motorcycle cop while I was taking pictures of one of my signs. He asked me if I’d put it there and I said yes. Then he asked me to take it down, so I said, “Okay” and did. End of Story.

I suppose if he’d wanted to he could’ve arrested me, or given me a ticket or a fine. On the other hand he could’ve just as easily given me a Citizenship award: America is funny that way. Apart from some awful sort of Rodney King scenario, the worst thing that can happen to you for public signposting is that you’ll have to go to court and explain your actions: that you felt it was your civic responsibility to speak out to as many of your fellow citizens as possible, and that this was not only your right, but your patriotic duty. I’d consider it an honor to be the defendant in such a case, and you should too. In any event, it’s certainly not something any of us should be afraid of. (And let's face it - how illegal could it be if I've done it over 4,000 times?)

Free Speech is an amazing thing: probably the greatest blessing Democracy has to offer, and we’ve got to start using it more effectively. We’re not going to get our country back with signs that look like this:

Granted, we may not get it back with signs that look like this either:

But dammit... at least it'll look like we tried.

Cardboard and paint people… cardboard, paint and a little bit of nerve. That’s all it takes.

Cindy isn’t speaking for you anymore.

send pictures to freewayblogger@yahoo.com


Anonymous said...

Right on. I went out today and got a few supplies with the intent of redoubling my freewayblogging efforts, which have waned of late, due to health problems and well, life. But since I too, have wanted to put a big "F*** You" out there after numerous long winded, useless anti war meetings, with arrogant types who never got enough attention as children going on for days, I decided some paint and a few bungee chords will fix me right up.
Cindy Sheehan shouldn't have to speak for me, I'll do it myself. Thanks Cindy. We love you!

Psychomikeo said...

"Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives," she wrote

I feel her frustration...

It hurts when you find out the ppl you voted for to change this country are no different than the ppl you want out... A BIG FUCK YOU! TO THE DEMS! You have let America down...

aimai said...

Dear freeway blogger,
YOu have inspired so many. Please don't ever give up, and don't even think for one minute that your work hasn't made a difference. This year for the first time I'll be putting up some signs this summer on some freeway overpasses. You have touched many many people--those who have seen your site here and those who have seen your signs. I don't htink there is any way to measure the difference you are making, but know that you have made one.


Radiohumper said...

"Don’t get together with friends, don’t form a group and for God’s sakes, don’t hold another meeting. Figure out the most useful thing you can do with the resources you have and then Just Do It".

I just got from taking my daily 'desensitization trial' drive on the freeway during the third week of a disability leave due to a recurrence of my own PTSD. I am almost positive I inherited this nameless terror and hypervigilence from growing up around my father's untreated PTSD. Very few things in my life give me pride - the fact that I continue, even now, to hang freewayblogs, two years after I started, and in such honorable company, gives me endless pride.

Cindy, I could have told you, but no one can tell anybody anything. This Memorial Day, I remember you as another casualty of war and keep some peace in my heart for you and hope for some in the world.

spocko said...

Cindy pulling back saddens me tremendously.

I think she needs a break. When I'm done being sad I look at the people who attacker her for YEARS because they disagreed with her. Not just the usual attacks but the personal attacks, "Well she's a public figure.."

Those people, whose stock and trade is to support the war and are well paid for it really deserver our scorn.

I remember listening to Daniel Elsberg talk about releasing the Pentagon papers. How hard it was for him to do and how he wanted to respect himself to live with himself and the respect of a woman that he loved.

The media used her for their stories maybe they should be paying for her health care. They made a lot of scratch off of the confrontation story.

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

Thanks FB... I posted this at my place. On our way out of town (we're moving, USAF calls), I'm posting stuuf I'll send pictures of. Thaks for all you hard work.

Anonymous said...

The Freewayblogger, another great American unsung hero. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

clothing poor people, damn dude you really are cool.

I don't think you should be to put off that you're one of the few putting in such a great effort to make your free speech seen. One voice calling out can be louder that a cacophony of a 10,000. If there were a dozen "Chimpeach" signs on every highway they would just become "white noise" rather than a unique eye-catcher.

Don't ever think that one isn't a strong number.

Freewayblogger said...

The Sierra Madres project was pretty much win-win all the way around. People knew their clothes were going straight to the people who needed them, the people who needed them got what they needed, and I got to drive through some of the most beautiful and pristine lands on the continent to destinations-unknown, which is my favorite thing to do.

Take to the Hills is still going strong under the hands of my friend Delfino, (who used to help me smuggle clothes across a couple boxes at a time.) I'll be writing more about it.


Anonymous said...

You're a sincere inspiration to all of us that have the words at the tip or our tongues but are too paralized to do anything. I couldn't thank you enough for the awareness you have put out there. Thanks for the inspiration and awesome work you do for all of us!

Anonymous said...

Cindy is being maligned at HouseofPolitics.com, a political discussion forum with an inordinately large number of misinformed people. She could certainly use some defending and the people at that forum some educating! I just hate to have their comments (such as "so long b*tch") go unanswered, and I am not up for the task. Go to http://www.HouseofPolitics.com, U.S. Politics, and the subcategory is something like "Say Good-Bye To Ms. Sheehan."

Anonymous said...

What exactly does it accomplish when you put up a sheet with "FUCK YOU" written on it over a freeway? Is that a political statement, or are you trying to annoy people? I don't get it.

Freewayblogger said...

Dear anonymous - the "Fuck You" photo was photoshopped - gotta pay attention to those conditional verb tenses...

If we're gonna keep belching out poisons sitting in traffic though, a sign that says "Fuck You. signed your grandchildren's grandchildren" wouldn't be too out of order.

someone's gotta speak for them.

Duckman GR said...

That big Fuck You is art, man. Who wrote it? Who were they writing it too? What prompted the outburst?

What does it say about our society that that is how somebody has chosen to express themselves?