Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Crawford, Texas

August 27, 2005 – Crawford, Texas - It was a hot Saturday in Crawford, Texas. In the last weekend of President Bush’s 5-week vacation, a new occupying force moved upon the little town of Crawford. While much has been said about the Bushapalooza-like camp (and its sequel) that has spawned around Cindy Sheehan, few have given credence to the caravans of fair-weather Bush hawkers. After all, in this day when language betrays its very masters, and half-truths hinging on nothing but a single word can lead to wars of aggression, the freedom of speech should be held dear. This, at the very least, is one thing we all agree upon.

Welcome to Crawford, Texas.

Just outside of Waco, Pro and Anti Bush supporters somehow all picked here to stop.

"Cindy Sheehan is a stupid fucking whore," said a boy of about Seventeen years, standing with his back to a massive stone recreation of the 10 Commandments. "Why is 'thou shall not kill' on this one?" he asked nobody. "We should assassinate her."

Thou Shalt Not Kill?

A child no taller than the seat of a nearby motorcycle walked up to the stone tablets, focusing on the prized disruptor of the day: an un-cracked replica of the Liberty Bell. He reached forward and grasped a rope hanging from its base, tugging sharply. A loud ringing rattled nearby demonstrators with each resounding thump. A motorized wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet scooted past, thanking the boy for "1etting freedom ring."

The largest group of Bush supporters on Lone Star Blvd.

Across the street at the coffee house, the café was full as usual. Hungry, hot and thirsty patrons shuffled to and from the outpost, most wearing Bush-gear. A woman handing out samples near the entrance commented to this reporter, "Nobody who doesn’t support Bush comes through those doors. They know better." Walking through the crowded parking lot, overheard conversations forced their way into the prevailing climate.

Pro-Bush singers who couldn't attract an audience.

"I think the damn liberals should just stop already. This war is not going to end any time soon. They need to accept that and fall in line," said one Bush supporter as he smoked a cigarette and filled up on gas. "Why do liberals always take the side of the enemy?"

"Why are you smoking so close to a pump?" I asked. The man just glared back.

Crosses lifted from Camp Casey II by soldiers mothers supportive of Bush.

In front of the store, a woman holding her son’s hand and a sign reading "Freedom through Superior Firepower" stood captive of one so-called liberal's concerns about the Iraq war. "I am concerned about the method which Bush took us to war," he said. "Congress voted to give him powers to pursue terrorists, not to launch a war against another state. And now there are plans to attack Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea ... Its very frightening." The woman shook her head and walked away, silent.

Welcome to Camp Casey II, a.k.a. "Bushapalooza"

Beyond the Crawford Peace House, a group of the friends of Bush had set up "Camp Reality," crowding a football field near last year's Fahrenheit 9/11 screening site. Midday, Bushites numbered about 1,000 in town, with several hundred dispersed opposite Camp Casey I and II.

Camp Casey II from the street

"You fucking pussies are too scared to go to Iraq yourselves!" shouted a counter-demonstrator driving past the 3,000+ person crowd at Camp Casey II. "We don’t hate you!" sounded a small, brown-haired woman standing roadside with a box of water bottles.

The "fucking pussies" who are "too scared"

Back in town and across the train tracks, shuttles which had been backed up for more than two hours moved people, albeit slowly, to and from the Crawford Peace House and both Casey camps. Under the unyielding Texas summer, each ringing of liberty clapped like echoing thunder. Everyone was covered in sweat. At The Yellow Rose souvenir shop, a larger-than-life effigy of George W. Bush rests pasted across the side of the building. The image grabs attention due to an improvised marker drawing of a Hitler-esque moustache complimenting W's upper brim. Some stop and point. Others laugh and nod in approval of the defacement. One man brings masking tape to obscure the fascist facial farce. Covering the impromptu art, he shook his head. "Damn these people," he muttered.

Faces of the dead.

Around 4 p.m., the town of Crawford had begun to die down. The main strip played venue to two country singers, standing under a banner proclaiming, "THANK GOD FOR GEORGE W. BUSH! GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS AND PRESIDENT!" As they played, even presidential panderers did not stop to listen. By that hour the crowds of Bush supporters had already dwindled significantly. Finally, with about 40 people still holding ground near The Yellow Rose, traffic had started to flow a bit faster.

A Statue of Liberty replica outside the Crawford Peace House.

Fear and Loathing of the most rancorous architecture has crept into the sleepy Texas town of Crawford. The rhetoric has been amplified, the Propaganda has been Catapulted, and the battle lines have been drawn. As far as Crawford is concerned, Liberals have become the major occupying force. While the counter-protests did serve to light a fuse and spark several dozen bias and misleading network news blurbs, it ultimately attracted more dissent into the city’s limits. This day's fair-weather Bush hawks, having mounted their best and last attempt for this Presidential vacation, will be remembered as little more than an insurgency in an occupied land.

Over 3,000 people attended events at Camp Casey II. You won't hear that on Fox or CNN.

"I hope that bitch gets heat-stroke," said an older Bush supporter. "The press keeps this thing going like they want to destroy us, this town. I'm inclined to just drive over there and shoot somebody."

"But then you’d get arrested," his accomplice said. "Well, shit," replied the old man. "I guess we’ll just stay here then."

This Iraq vet broke down and cried after reading letters posted opposite the faces of fallen U.S. soldiers.

Walking past the row of shops which exclusively offer Bush-related paraphernalia, I stopped to notice a sign taped to a rocking-chair that read, "Lemon-ade, 10 year old boys - $.50 cents."

"If only that were the price of gas!" exclaimed a woman from behind, taking note of the same sign.

Young boy slavery in Crawford? Ah, no. But still ...

Laughing, I turned to give Crawford a final farewell. Mahalo, I mused. As we drove past the still-growing crowd in front of the peace house, a bolt of lightening cracked in the distance, as though to offer a warning of ominous conditions to come.

"Liar-Liar pants on Fire!" read the sign above this home-made doll.

We will march on a road of bones, I thought to myself. As I rode out of town a passer-by flashed the peace symbol in my direction. Watching Crawford disappear in my rear-view mirror, the peace-nic jogged across the street, framed, as he was, against the backdrop of a nation and town irreconcilably divided.

Cindy Sheehan supporters came from all over the U.S.

More photographs can be found by clicking the link below ...

Crawford, Texas photo index (all photos by Alison Wheat)

The Weird, Turned Pro.

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