Monday, December 24, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth (of Ruth's Report): This month Iraq Veterans Against the War's Jason Hurd and Steve Casey distributed brownies, cookies and material about the Iraq War on Fort Bragg and were 'detained' for four hours as a result. Among the many other actions IVAW has done in 2007 was a summer bus tour of military bases.

I was thinking about while reading an e-mail from a community member. It was entitled "Important to me." I had written my report and was online to post it. Instead, I have scrapped the report and am writing this one.

What was "Important to me"?

A community member, who is a lesbian, has a gay bookstore in her community. Or, at least, that is how it prefers to present itself. Prior to 2004, she had a gay bookstore and could find a variety of books, magazines and newspapers. Then a clothing store on the same block bought the bookstore, a male clothing store.

Suddenly, the magazines began to vanish. One by one, magazines geared to lesbians vanished. Then the magazines geared to women. Finally, you were left the likes of G.Q and any other magazine that might feature George Clooney on the cover nattily attired as well as magazines of naked men. Then fiction dropped from general interest, women and men to just "men's fiction."

What was filling all this 'freed up' space? Men's thongs.

The community member complained repeatedly about how she felt she was being shoved out of a bookstore she'd supported for years. She complained to the endlessly changing clerks and she complained to new management.

"Books don't sell," she was told by management in 2005. "I'm trying to serve everyone."

However, books had sold.

It was the only gay bookstore in her city and books, of all kinds including mainstream, regularly sold. Entire displays would sell out of a general interest fiction, political writers who were neither gay nor wrote of LGBT issues would sell very well. The place was packed and it was difficult to walk through the aisles. The cafe was always overflowing.

But clothing merchants like clothing. Soon thongs were joined by belly shirts. As the last feminist, forget lesbian, magazine disappeared from the store's magazine rack, she looked around at the store and realized it was not a bookstore. For one thing, bookstores do not generally blare loud techno music and have flashing lights.

She was off from work today and on her way to another store when she saw the "50% off Closing Sale." She walked in and saw the same management that repeatedly blew off her concerns and reminded him that he ran off lesbians, reminded him that he said he knew what he was doing, reminded him of all the "additions" he made.

She even reminded him of his claim that he was attempting to serve everyone.

She wrote that she never thought she would be happy to see a bookstore go under but today made her very happy. "And then," she wrote, "I realized, a bookstore didn't go under. Something that wanted to be about everything other than selling books went under."

What does that have to do with IVAW?

IVAW is focused on the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.

They are focused on them every day.

They do not one day decide, "___ is not selling. We better ditch that section and add something else, something flashy."

Many other organizations cannot make the same claim. While giving lip service to ending the illegal war, they run their organizations a lot like the clothing merchant decided to run the bookstore. They appear to have little interest in the ongoing wars and go running off after everything else they can think of.

IVAW stays focused and, from March 13 through 16th, they will be staging an action in DC:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

That is their time and has been announced with sufficient notice that no one should be crowding in and staging events that pull attention elsewhere.

The community member e-mailed me about the closing bookstore because I wrote in Hilda's Mix two weeks ago about going to a gay bookstore with my grandson Jayson who is gay but, apparently, not old enough to walk freely through the store so he needed an adult. She thought I might enjoy the story, which I did, and that it might offer a contrast to what Jayson and I had seen, a well stocked bookstore, which it did.

But what it really did for me was underscore that when you are supposed to be one thing but you keep cutting down on the time you devote to that in order to chase after other things, you might as well start making the signs and marking down the merchandise.

In my own opinion, any organizations that refuses to respect IVAW's request not to stage national demonstrations or DC actions during the Winter Soldier Investigation should grab the markers and poster board to prepare those "Going Out of Business" signs because I cannot think of any organization in the U.S. that has made Iraq their focus. I can think of many who did in 2003. Like the frock merchants that took over the now-closing bookstore, they had other interests to pursue and, very often, offered us the 'political' equivalent of a thong.