"He was born in Oklahoma. His wife's name is ol' Betty Lou Thelma Liz. He's not responsible for what he's doing. His mother made him what he is." — Gary P. Nunn, UpThe folks in Tulsa are there for us, every day, thank God ...
DALLAS-FORT WORTH — "Fuck the FCC. Fuck the FBI. Fuck the CIA. I'm livin' in the mother-fuckin' USA."
Wouldn't you feel more like standing if that Steve Earl song were the National Anthem?
And it's not anti-patriotic. It's very patriotic, more in line with the Founding Fathers than what we have going on today.
What we have now in America, in terms of say Christianity and government are anything but what their founders intended.
Luckily, things are not totally out of control. We don't have anarchy in the streets.
There is help out there. Some folks working to maintain the moral order.
Not along the lines of Dr. Phil.
More so along North Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
... "Is this the bible belt?"
That's me asking another dumb question, this time at the Tulsa Peace House.
Joni and Timbre Wolf respond together politely.
Yesterday I drove from St. Joseph, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma to speak.
This afternoon I am sitting in a hotel in Fort Worth, watching college basketball on the television. I spent the morning on the back roads.
It was warm on Tuesday when I was in Oklahoma, about sixty-two degrees.
It was one-below, the morning before in Iowa.
I thought I had never been to Oklahoma, but I do remember something now about a few days in the 1980s spent at El Reno Federal Prison. I think it was during the time of riots at the state prison at McAlester. I remember being glad about the rioting, somebody fighting back. It's
easy to hate when you are inside a prison bus wearing handcuffs and shackles.
Sometimes I think I hate America to this very day.
I see what we do and don't do.
But on a long drive like this I realize I don't hate as much as maybe I thought I did.
Last year on the tour I took the Interstate, whizzing, fighting traffic — and it kind of gets to you — by the end of the trip I was ready to fight if somebody in front of me didn't react to the green light like a
Formula I drag racer.
This time, when I can, I think I'll take the blue highways, as William Least Heat Moon called them.
And so I got to drive through Coffeyville, Kansas. And I have now seen my first armadillo, albeit deader than shit.
I have been to Bowlegs, Oklahoma now, and seen some of the Sac and Fox, Cherokee and Seminole people, land, casinos — whatever was close to the road. I also passed by Prague, Oklahoma and the Czech Car Wash. I thought for a moment about stopping and saying hello to "my people."
And I have now driven past the sign for Osawatamie, Kansas, where John Brown took the slavery issue into his own hands, or rather at Pottawatomie Creek. Some say he started the Civil War, some say he was a hero, some say he was the first American terrorist.
"Now they're draggin' me back with my head in a sack to the land of the infidel."_____________________
— Steve Earle, John Walker's Blues
And there was the sign outside the Highway Baptist Church, near Seminole.
"Will The Road You Are On Get You To God?"
That's a good question. I was driving and did not have a chance to really read the map, so I really don't know. Have you seen the film "Zeitgeist?"
Along the way to Tulsa I saw the tops of all the trees bent and broken, for miles and miles. I thought it was a tornado, a big-ass tornado, but I guess it was The Ice Storm of December 2007.
You know, I have done a few of these book tour "events" with last year's eastern swing, but this was the first one this year, and it's hard to get going again. It's just weird to see signs set up with your name and to have people take time from their day to come listen to you.
At home there are no signs that say "Welcome Mike Palecek, Author & Activist."
But I start in, get back to work, start shaking hands and meeting the people. They are mostly old friends and they welcome me into their circle, tell me about their lives, past and present.
And I remember why I am there. It is for them. Not for me.
That's true, and that's the way it should be, although in the end I get more out of it than they do.
I got to meet "B" and Huti and Jean and Joni and Timbrewolf and Brian and Gary and others. I hear them discuss intently their campaigns against high school military recruitment and depleted uranium and global warming.
Timbrewolf is a big man with long, graying hair. He was a music composition major at the University of Oklahoma years ago and used to be in a band called "The People's Glorious Five-Year Plan."
Huti is part Cherokee, and was in the Navy, and also worked in electronics in Silicon Valley, where he once worked on a project to provide "offensive weapons" for the Saudi government. "They said it was defensive, but we knew it wasn't."
Jean and Huti live in Muskogee. Jean has her white car plastered in bumper stickers, putting mine to shame. She is a registered nurse and often stands on street corners dressed in a polar bear costume to draw attention to global warming. She has been interviewed on National Public Radio, All Things Considered within her polar bear capacity.
Joni got arrested at a few local protests, along with Huti and Jean, during visits by Cheney and Bush. Joni fought her conviction and was found not guilty by the necessity defense. That's a big deal.
We went out to eat at a China buffet afterwards. The talk was about politics, about Obama and Hillary, locals like Senator James Inhofe, whom these folks despise, and his challenger, whom they love. They refer to Kucinich as "Dennis." Joni is the organizer for the local Green Party and talks about a recent visit from Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. As always, I know waaay less about the issues than my hosts. It's ... well ... disapointing to always-always be the stupid honored guest, but I am growing used to it.
Afterwards we take a drive around town. Tulsa is much bigger than I thought.
We stop at the praying hands at the entrance to Oral Roberts University — two gigantic paws in sculpture. We stop and everyone looks up, straining to take it all in out the window.
Huti wonders out loud how much money it would take to open up the hands.
For those of you who have negative thoughts about the Bible Belt, about the state of our nation, of Christianity, about what passes for theological discourse in this country at this time, take heart.
You can rejoice in knowing that there is a strong, small group of people in Tulsa who also do not buy the bullshit, the propaganda.
They get it.
They are there, on the ground, fighting every day for this country.
They are the ones we owe our freedom to. That is what I believe. That is what the book "Cost of Freedom" is all about.
That is what this tour is all about.
p.s. I have been to Texas before.
I did not forget La Tuna.
"That's right, you're not from Texas, you're not from Texas. Texas________________________
wants you anyway."
— Lyle Lovett, "That's Right"
And tomorrow before I meet with the Fort Worth 9/11 Truth group at Crystal's Pizza in Irving, I'm going to Dealey Plaza, the Crystal Cathedral for those of us who think that was the day we lost our country and our future.
— March 13 - Fort Worth
Location: Irving, Crystal's Pizza
Address: 930 W. Airport Fwy, Irving/(972) 579-0441
Time: 6 pm.
— March 14: Austin, Brave New Bookstore
Location: Brave New Books
Address: 1904 Guadalupe, Ste. B, downstairs/512.480.2503
Time: 7 pm
— March 15: Amarillo, Peace Farm
Location: Unitarian Universalist Church Fellowship Hall
Time: 6 pm