Why is My Country Bombing These Poor People?

cuito61 at onebox.com cuito61 at onebox.com
Mon Mar 31 20:46:21 MST 2003

it's nice to be reminded that a lot of ordinary americans are not the mindless, flag-waving neandertals that the media and their "opinion polls" would have us believe...

Monday, March 31, 2003 by the Times/UK
Why is My Country Bombing These Poor People?
by James Doran

THE words of Emma Lazarus inscribed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty should be adopted by Greyhound Lines as a corporate logo.

At the Port Authority bus depot on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, the tired, the poor and the huddled masses whom Lazarus invited to the United States gather to take long, cramped journeys by road.

At the front of the 1375 to Pittsburgh is Mary Singletary, 60, from Connecticut, who is off to visit her daughter in Newark, New Jersey. Like many Americans, she does not like the idea of flying during the war. Her son, Raymond, 38, is in the US Navy aboard the USS Constellation somewhere in the Gulf. She hears from him almost every day, but still worries constantly.

“I don’t like war, period. That’s it,” she says, “but all you can do is keep on living. And hope that he does, too.”

Hearing a discussion about the war, the dozen passengers aboard the stuffy bus look up from their newspapers or open dozing eyes, hopeful for a distraction from the stench of the chemical lavatory.

None of them likes the idea of war — and none understands why the US is engaged in conflict in Iraq at all.

George Aroserea, 57, a kitchen porter from New Jersey, says: “I am frightened by this. I think if we keep fighting, maybe the terrorists will come back here and we will be fighting in America.”

Hilda Navarro, 70, agrees: “I would like to tell George Bush: ‘Stop it! Right now!’ ” The three passengers have seen many wars during their lives as immigrants in America, each one fought by their sons and daughters. “You don’t get Bush and his family going over there,” George says.

Greyhound buses skirt around the edge of American society. Approaching towns on the early part of the route, the driver sneaks us through back streets into the forecourt of a crumbling concrete depot, as much a remnant of the 1950s as the bus itself. While the Iraq debate rages, a quiet man in the fourth row stares at a photograph.

He is Lobsane Tsultim and he is from Tibet. The woman in the picture is Kisan, his wife, whom he has not seen in five years because she is living in exile in India, like his parents and his brother. In broken English he says politely: “If George Bush wants to help people who are not free, then why does he not help people in Tibet and fight a war to get rid of the Chinese? Thank you.”

The point is lost, however, as a child at the back of the bus screams. His mother shouts: “Joshua, if you don’t shut up I’m going to punch you in the mouth.”

Ruel Stewart, 60, from Handsworth in Birmingham, was a paratrooper before emigrating to the US. “I don’t think Mr Bush has any right to go around the world telling people how to behave in their own backyard. As for that Mr Blair — he is just a lapdog.”

At Camden, New Jersey, the bus fills up. .Cassandra Fitzpatrick, 34, and her sister, Yolanda Smith, 17, are keen to join the argument. “I’m from Panama, and boy, we’ve seen it all before, when they went to get Noriega. They took their time looking for him, killing people. Seems to me they should have knocked on the door where they was mailing the checks to, right?” Cassandra’s uncle is in the US Army, based at Fort Bliss, Texas, waiting to be deployed. “Sure, I worry about this. People are putting their lives on the line so Bush can go finish something his Daddy started. We are living day by day. All the billions of dollars on the bombs and reconstructing Iraq. There’s people here in Jersey need food and houses. What about reconstructing America?” Cassandra gets a little round of applause as the back of the bus turns into an episode of the Ricki Lake Show.

It is only a couple of hundred miles to Philadelphia, but it has taken the best part of four hours to reach the so-called “city of brotherly love”. At the bus station, a security guard is busy breaking up a fight in the men’s lavatory while bored travelers shove quarters into the clockwork televisions in the waiting room. They are all tuned to the news, and pictures of war.

But Sheila and Benjy Garcia do not watch. “My feelings towards the war is I hate it,” Sheila says. “Me, too,” Benjy agrees. “We want peace.” She worries about the Iraqi people. “Why is my country bombing these poor people? They are more poor than people here, and we bomb them. It is terrible.”

At King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Robert Mann, 62, a lorry driver from Columbia, Mississippi, boards. “You writing about the war, fella?” he asks. “Well, you got protesters here, I can tell.”

Some students shift nervously in their seats. “Damn protesters. You got billionaires paying them $25 a day to go protesting. Its un-American.” His outburst is too much for Kyra Klossner, 18, a student from Kalamazoo University, Michigan. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Have you heard of the Council for the New American Century? Do you know that Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have been itching for this war for, like, ten years?” she says, as her friend, Emilia Wright, nods.

In pitch-black night through driving rain, the bus grinds its slow progress up Blue Mountain. We have covered a circuitous 500 miles or so in a little under 12 hours. Elena Zhdankina, 35, a linguistics PhD student from Vladivostok, says: “In Russia we say we are always armed and neutral. Ready for anything. This is a good position. You Americans know nothing about geography and history. You are always too quick to fight and too quick to make mistakes.”

James Pearson, 47, from Birmingham, Alabama, laughs at her. “What about your guys in Chechnya? All countries are the same, man. They spend all this money on fighting when we should be spending money on education.”

Approaching Pittsburgh, the driver says over the loudspeaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, there are some things we can change and some things we can’t. Now remember: ‘Lord grant me the serenity to change the things I can change and to accept the things I can’t change.’ Thirty-two years driving for Greyhound taught me that. Oh yes sir, they taught me that.”  [...]


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