Long before it was “cool,” our family home in Norwalk, Ca (where my three youngest children were born) had solar space and water heating. We recycled and combined errands to try to use the least amount of fossil fuel as possible. Still, in California, (as in most other places in our nation), it’s almost impossible to live and work without a car: reliable, cheap, and useful public transportation just isn’t here.
However, when my son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in a war waged for the major, international oil companies and other profiteers, my opposition to fossil fuel usage grew along with my guilt for my own oil gluttony.
When I moved to San Francisco in 2007 to challenge then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for her Congressional seat, I detected a perfect opportunity to sell my car and wrench myself out of the that “prison made of plastic and metal comfort zone” to learn how to use public transportation. Despite all of ‘Frisco’s faults, it is easier to be without a car there. As a matter of fact, with the dearth of available and free parking spaces, the speed with which the tow trucks steal cars (costing hundreds of dollars to get them released from impound), and the greedy stalking of the parking Nazis, it’s actually a detriment to have a car there.
So I did sell my car, (a light blue VW convertible) and timidly began to learn BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Fortunately, I found an apartment a few blocks from the 24th and Mission BART station and the campaign office was a couple of blocks away from the Civic Center stop. It took me awhile to figure out which side of the platform went downtown and which side went to Daly City, but within weeks, I was a fairly competent train rider and am able to navigate even the most complicated systems, now. Once you discover that it’s not a big deal to get on the wrong train, or bus, availing oneself of public transportation begins to be an adventure.
After the campaign, I moved back to Vacaville, where NOT having a car poses some serious challenges. Because I travel so much, getting to and from airports is challenging, but I have started to take buses and trains when I travel within California—I feel so free—no car payments! No insurance crap to pay for and deal with! No repair costs and a secret little place inside of me sniggers as gas prices rise while I outwardly (and truly) am outraged at speculation and exploitation. It’s an obvious assertion, but high gas prices hit the poor and working-class hard because it raises prices on everything, and we have very little options, as stated before.
Eventually, I thought that getting a bike with a basket would help me run my errands, so I bought a Schwinn Legacy cruiser and named her “Roxy.” I got a basket and a bell for her and away we went!
I absolutely LOVE to ride my bike (though, I have now upgraded to a Schwinn hybrid 21-speed). Either walking, or riding, through a town at ground level, rather than speeding through from Point A to Point B, only concentrating on the destination and not the journey, is so eye-opening and enlightening!
For example, I have met many “attack squirrels” on my rides. It seems like the squirrels are intentionally trying to make me dump my bike! They rush out just close enough to my front wheel to make me swerve, but they always stop abruptly and run back to their tree. I learned their game quickly so I no longer panic when I am under the attack squirrel game, but I also learned rather quickly, that my bike bell only made them bolder and more aggressive. Thus, the title for this article.
Figuring out the squirrel games is an amusing side affect of outdoor cycling, but a more sobering observation about riding or walking all over town is the amount of homeless people in our bedroom community.
I am not talking about the mostly scam artists that hold signs asking for money at the entrance to shopping centers. Living in Oakland and San Francisco gave me a very good idea what chronically homeless people look like.
Vacaville has a few creeks running through town and riding over bridges, I see much evidence of camping and the invisible souls with their lives in shopping carts become very apparent when one travels at street level where these street people live. My town wants to promote its “family friendliness” and with concerts in the park in summer and traditional Christmas Tree lightings in the winter, that can be very, very true; but the Dino-Mobile commuters can’t, or don’t want to see what I see.
Once, I happened to be walking and I passed a young homeless woman who had parked her bike near an abandoned orchard where she was picking fruit. I asked her what the fruit was and at first, she didn’t answer me. Finally, she turned and told me that she didn’t mean to be rude, but recently, someone had called the police on her when she was picking fruit from this obviously abandoned orchard. So, one of the “good citizens” of my “family-friendly” town would rather see perfectly good food go to waste than see it eaten? Being an urban forager is another unexpected benefit of car-less travel. Oftentimes, I come home from one of my rides with my basket filled with fruit that I glean off of the street or sidewalks. One home, near downtown, with a very prolific lemon tree, even generously lines the delicious and healthy fruit up on a wall for anyone to take! And, of course, stating the obvious, walking, or cycling, is light years better for ones body than Dino-Mobiling.
Our economy runs on fossil fuels. Gas, diesel, natural gas, plastic, fertilizer: it’s difficult to totally avoid and even harder to defeat. However, I am committed to creating a life and community where our addiction to fossil fuels is greatly reduced, if not completely eliminated.
The future of human life on our planet demands that public transportation that runs on clean, renewable and sustainable energy be made free and readily accessible. Purchasing used goods and food that is grown as close to where we consume it is also something that WE can do today to help reduce energy consumption and costs.
Fossil fuels need to be eliminated from fertilizing our food. Not only do we breathe the fossil fuel pollution, but we ingest it and the dirty energy is being insidiously incorporated into every aspect of our lives.
The Pentagon and US Military Industrial Complex is the biggest consumer of fossil fuels in the world, and US addiction to war must be ended by the people. There’s wrong and then there’s Army WRONG. Don’t participate.
To highlight these things and educate people that the Empire is an able servant of oil companies and/or the war machine, I am organizing a ride (Tour de Peace) across the US from Vacaville, Ca to Washington, DC: from April 4th to July 3rd.
To join us for all, or par of the way, to volunteer to host the Tour, or to help financially support this cause, please go to: www.TourdePeace.org.
Tour de Peace
by David Swanson
21 February 2013
Between April 4 and July 3, the entire country (and the other 96% of humanity too) is invited to join in a bicycle ride from California to Washington, D.C. You can join as a bicycler or as a sponsor.
This won’t be a ride to raise awareness about cruelty to animals, but it will raise awareness about war — by many measures the greatest destroyer of the natural environment we have, as well as consisting first and foremost of the mass killing of that peculiar animal we’re all rather fond of: the homo sapiens.
This won’t be a ride to raise money for cancer research, but it will raise money for the campaign to abolish war — a carcinogen if the people of Fallujah ever saw one.
This paragraph is exclusively for supporters of President Obama. If that’s not you, please skip to the following paragraph right now. With Republicans out of the White House and no election this year, there is no need to fund election campaigns or to work against particular wars. This is a moment in which our time and our resources are freed up to support long-term structure building so that the plague of war never returns. Remember all those promises to engage in policy-based activism once the most important election of our lives was over? This is the time to get in better physical shape before phone banking season. Pump up your tires and polish your handlebars! Stop reading and get riding right now.
With presidential war powers expanding rapidly and war gaining widespread acceptance among liberals there is an urgent need for an educational and organizing effort that pedals under, over, and around the barricades of the corporate media. U.S. forces are in more nations than ever before, the military budget is still rising and will still be rising even if the sequester “cuts” go through, the CIA has been handed war making powers, the president has claimed the power to spy without warrants, imprison without trial, and murder at will. Wars are launched on nations like Libya in defiance of Congress and the United Nations, with blowback spreading rapidly. Pentagon friendly dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are backed against their people’s nonviolent movements for democracy, while violence is encouraged in Syria and Iran. Palestinians are left to their fate, while a new kind of war launched from flying robots slaughters men, women, and children, traumatizes populations, and generates refugee crises, engulfing nations in boiling hatred of the United States of America.
When MSNBC assigns David Axelrod (who refused to deny that President Obama maintains the power to torture anyone as he sees fit) to analyze and punditrify John Brennan’s refusal to deny that President Obama maintains the power to murder U.S. citizens within the United States (never mind anyone at all outside the United States or 96% of humanity within it), the triumph of freemarket journalism will have reached a pinnacle unsurpassed in history, putting the Soviet Union’s efforts to shame and finally concluding the Cold War, unless nobody notices.
You know who just might wake some people up to what’s staring them in the face?
Cindy Sheehan. Cindy has proposed the Tour de Peace. She’s been lining up events and participants along the route. She’s ready to ride, and to me she is an inspiration. Cindy’s appeal, both before and after the corporate media made her a story in Crawford, Texas seven-and-a-half years ago, was her uncensored honesty. She’s still got it. I’ve seen a lot of people dump their heart and soul into the peace movement over the past decade and burn out and quit. I appreciate their efforts. We need sprinters, just as the Tour de Peace needs short-distance riders.
But when I see someone become even more aware of the evil that has swallowed up our government, and continually find new ways to confront it, I see a model others should follow. Cindy’s gone at it as hard as anyone. She’s taken nasty blows from the right and the so-called left. She’s burned out and quit, too, but never for more than a day or so. She just keeps coming. Cindy has quit paying her taxes because of the wars they fund. She’s been arrested for nonviolent resistance countless times. She’s traveled endlessly, speaking and inspiring. She’s written a stack of important books. She’s hosted a radio show, blogged, and run for Congress and the Vice Presidency. And in this age in which pundits openly say they’d oppose the president’s abuses if he were a Republican, Cindy goes ahead and opposed them anyway, with plenty of opposition left over for the Congress, the courts, the funders, the weapons makers, the lobbyists, and the White House Press Corpse.
Creating a mass of people in the streets for peace or justice usually requires money and staff, bus rentals and leg work, coalition building and compromising. Two moments stand out in my mind when none of that was needed. One was when Cindy went to Crawford. The other was when Occupy went to Wall Street. Both were moments of brilliant principled and courageous activism. Neither would have ever been heard of by most who heard of them if not for the corporate media. I’ve seen Cindy attempt to recreate Crawford countless times since (not to mention before), without the same success. She does so fully aware of the forces at work. She does so with every effort to create our own media and bypass the corporate censors. And she does so knowing that the only way to guarantee failure is to not try.
What if we were to create a movement capable of thinking of itself as real and national or international even outside of our television sets? One of the side effects would be its inevitable infiltration into our television sets. But the primary effect would be the beginning of hope and change as something more than perverse slogans of star-gazing servitude.
When the Tour de Peace leaves Casey Sheehan’s grave in Vacaville, Calif., on the ninth anniversary of his death in Iraq and the 45th of Dr. King’s in Memphis, it will follow the mother road, Route 66, to Chicago, and other highways and byways from there to D.C. The tour will conclude on July 3, 2013, with a ride from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House.
This August will mark 8 years since Sheehan began her widely reported protest at then-President George W. Bush’s “ranch”. She was demanding to know what the “noble cause” was for which Bush claimed Americans were dying in Iraq. Neither Bush nor Obama has yet offered a justification for a global war now in its 12th year. The Tour de Peace will carry with it these demands:
To end wars,
To end immunity for U.S. war crimes,
To end suppression of our civil rights,
To end the use of fossil fuels,
To end persecution of whistleblowers,
To end partisan apathy and inaction.
as well as the names of everyone who signs on in support.
Watch the trailer here.
Updated: Feb. 25, 2013
Tour de Peace on “Breaking The Set” – 2/25/2013
Cindy Sheehan·Feb 25, 2013
“Abby Martin talks to peace activist, Cindy Sheehan, about ‘Tour de Peace’ an ambitious initiative to bike across the country and demand an end to US wars and militarism.”