Let Us Now Praise Famous Women and Men

This is the first installment of an essay about some of the women and men I met and how they impacted me. 

Martha:

Team kitchen is the group of volunteers who prepare the delicious and sustaining meals for Camp Casey.  Martha is the leader of that team.

I have no idea how she lives because I know that she has spent at least a year cooking for Camp Casey when it is in session and at other times for Katrina victims.

A little weathered and limping slightly sometimes, she may be from Texas but I am not sure.  She is definitely a nononsense kind of volunteer, not so much a little sunbeam in the kitchen, but the one who gets the work done, so don’t hinder her thank you very much.  And, put the dirty dishes in the bin provided or better yet just go to the dish washing station and wash them yourself, and put the recycling in the right bins and the compost on the pile.

She went on the first Fort Hood action saying she has had an issue with that place for thirty-five years.  Obviously her activitism goes beyond cooking, though cooking comes first.  She has the good sense and the experience to know that the first priority is to meet the needs of the activists.

I am moved by her dedication, her focus, and her skills.  She is a merciful person “whose righteousness will not be forgotten.”

Lobo:

I think I spell his name right.  A former service medic, I am not sure which branch, and then a civilian police officer, Lobo is one of the former warriors who say no more war and work toward that end.

He always wears a brimmed camouflage hat with a feather in the band.  Tall and lean, he is easy to spot.  Nearly the first thing he says to people is, “How long has it been since you had a drink of water?”  If he doesn’t like your answer, he directs you to one of the huge thermoses of cold filtered water that Camp Casey makes available by dint of herculian effort. 

I don’t know when he sleeps because Lobo is up and about the camp all night.  Security is one of his duties.

Some of you may remember how much I loved the work of Maybury Lewis called Millennium.  In that book he relates how he took his wife and family to live with the traditional societies he studies.  Their first night in one of those villages, they were awakened from sleep in the fllimsy thatched hut they were living in (the kind of housing for all in that culture) by a kind of rustling outside and some slight noise.  At first, they were a little alarmed but the rustling went away.

In the morning, they learned that the men of the village take time about guarding the people all through the night.  They grew accustomed to hearing the quiet rustling in the night and felt safe when they did.

My first night at Camp Casey I was awakened as Lobo and the others moved quietly by my tent, but I remembered Maybury Lewis’s story and I felt safe.

The last night I spent on the site, a bad night for me, Lobo was getting me medication at 2am and helping me back to my tent.   I was safe and cared for.

Always quiet and cheerful, often funny, he is one of those whose children are also great and one who “will be buried in peace and whose glory will not be blotted out.”

I know because I met his son Eric who was also in residence.  On several occasions I had the pleasure of chopping vegetables with Eric.  A sophomore in high school, he plays the guitar in some kind of rock group and likes school (well, not all the study part, but school he likes).  Slightly heavier than his dad and as tall already, he is another giant of a man in the making.  Also cheerful and helpful, kind and gentle, he, too, “will lie down in peace.”

Patrice:

A short little dumpling of a woman, Patrice is a native Texan who lives in Austin with her husband and family.  Her twenty-five year old son says he aspires to being as happy as she.  Very active, she is a member of a drumming circle, a busy parishioner of her church, and one of the original members of Camp Casey.

She is responsible for the nightly vigils and asked me to dance.

Patrice suffers seiously from the heat and had to be iced down at one point.  She went home to Austin for a few days to cool off, but returned raring to go.

Patrice drove me to the original camp site and related adventures.  She told me of the time she was harrassed by the Secret Service the day the group who call themselves the Prairie Dogs were arrested for camping in the ditches in defiance of what may be an illegal ordinance not to do so.  Patrice was driving the shuttle and trying to get to the camp, but the Secret Service agent kept blocking her route and cutting her off.  Her cell phone was out of power and she was alone and really frightened.  As a ruse and partly to keep up her courage, she held the dead cell phone to her ear and sang the lyrics of her favorite country music song that was playing on her CD player in order to appear to be in contact with someone.  She did finally get to the camp, only to find the few campers who had not defied the order, the others having been arrested.  She gathered them up and they got the water into the van and went back to the Peace House.  It was a scary memory.

Patrice is a Sam Rayburn/LBJ sort of Texas democrat.  Think a Bill Moyers sort of person.  She is from an educated Texas family and knows a lot about and loves her state.  She showed me a gorgeous limestone rock formation in a creek bed close to the Bush property; to her the country there is beautiful.

To me, Patrice is beautiful and I treasure her.  As we drove into the motel parking lot on the last night of my stay (she, too, had decided that sleeping out in the heat was too much for her), I told her that it felt as though I had known her for a long time.

“The people will tell of her wisdom and the congregation will show forth her praise.”

Zachery:

Blond and cute, she was an army brat and wears a fanny pack that says “BRAT.”  Trained in theater in New York and elsewhere, she now teaches theater to children in California.  She is the volunteer who coordinates the programs of Camp.

She says she came to Camp Casey last year with her HazMat suit ready to clean the toilets.  At the time, she didn’t know that PortoPotties are serviced by the company that provides them.  She was just ready to do whatever needed to be done, to work.

What lives in my memory is her response to one of the Iraq war veterans who is struggling to recover from PTSD and who has made several suicide attempts.  He finished his story by saying that he hoped God would forgive him for killing so many innocent women and children and that he was making what amends he can by speaking out against the war now.

In the dead silence that followed, Zach told him that he is not to blame, that it is she who is responsible.  She said she had not stopped the government from invading and occupying Iraq and sending him and the others into that situation.  He was in the service obeying orders; she has no excuse.

A powerful French film made about the Nazi death camps asked repeatedly “A qui est la responsabilite?” (Who is responsible?)  Like Zach, I believe that I am responsible.  I have worked but not well enough since 2000 to save my country when failure is not acceptable.  I went to Camp Casey to see if I could find some new ways to respond and, like that wonderful marine, to make amends.

Zachery has long since made amends.   She is “the glory of our times.”

NB The quotations are either direct or slightly paraphrased from Chapter 44 of the book of Ecclesiasticus.  Note also the work by James Agee, fellow Southerner and one of the literary pantheon of my youth, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Houghton Mifflin/Mariner.

Nancy, 24 August 2006

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Let Us Now Praise Famous Women and Men”

  1. Nancy goes to Crawford » Blog Archive » PRAIRIE DOGS AND MORE Says:

    […] Patrice sent word about the first Prairie Dogs trial this week in Waco.  (See http://danceforpeace.org/nancy/?p=43 from August 24, 2006).  As you may recall, this is the group from Camp Casey who chose to camp in the ditches in defiance of an ordinance that may itself be illegal before Cindy bought the land on which Camp is now located.  I met some of these valiant people while in residence at Camp and would love to be there for the trail. […]

  2. Nancy goes to Crawford » Blog Archive » MARTHA Says:

    […] http://danceforpeace.org/nancy/?p=43 […]

  3. Dance For Peace » Blog Archive » Who Is Responsible? Says:

    […] The spirit of this statement reminds me of what Zachery said at Camp Casey which you can read again here. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: