Labor Day weekend visit to Cleveland

When I went to language school in Antigua Guatemala for eight weeks back in 1987, I stayed with a Guatemalan family. That was part of the program. You live with a family that does not speak English, which offers you two options: 1) speak Spanish or 2) don’t talk. Anyone who knows me knows that 2) don’t talk isn’t a very realistic option for me. So. I spoke in Spanish. There were times when I felt as if I were talking about as well as a two-year-old child, but it was Spanish.
Three other language school students stayed with the same family. One of them was a Sister of Mercy who was preparing to be a missionary in El Salvador. Her name was Sister Peggy. She was very enthusiastic and very funny. Her favorite word in Spanish was “increible!” She said this with great gusto, virtually all of the time. The other two language school students were a young married couple. They were planning on working with Witness for Peace for a year and, after that, going to Brazil and becoming missionaries there for three years. For that, of course, they had to attend another language school, to learn Portuguese. Their names were Maria and Charlie, although he was always called “Carlos.” Maria was an attorney and Carlos was a Presbyterian pastor.
After my eight weeks in language school expired, I returned home. I was able to stay in touch with Sister Peggy for a short time but, eventually, lost touch. Before we lost touch, I did find out that Maria and Carlos had become parents to a son when they were in Brazil.
So… fast forward to 2007. I was in prison for the third time for crossing the fence at Fort Benning to protest the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. One day, as I was perched on my upper bunk, reading letters and plotting mischief (I wasn’t very good at following pointless rules that were invented because someone with a little bit too much power for his own good got bored and started inventing pointless rules), I saw a letter from someone in Cleveland named Maria. I opened it and started reading, Dear Alice, Do you remember me? We went to language school together…
Oh yes, I remembered you, Maria! You kept singing, “Quiero pensar en espanol. Quiero pensar en espanol” over and over, like a mantra.
It was great to reconnect with friends. I truly never expected to see them again. Since I was turned loose from the federal prison camp at Danbury, Connecticut, I have visited Maria and Charlie several times. I saw them in 2008, before I started the “Witness Against War” walk and after I finished it. A year later, I saw them before the very soggy “Walk for Peace.” That was a three-day walk from Camp Douglas to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. It rained nonstop. We camped out at a state park in monsoon conditions. That adventure ended with the military tossing four of us Fort McCoy protesters in jail in Madison. That was a weird experience.. defense department police drove us something like 75 miles to the Dane County Jail. Bonnie, Joy, Brian, and I were held there overnight on a “federal hold.” Fortunately, we were released the next day. We were never charged with anything after that experience. Oh well. At least the jail was dry.
Anyway, I digress.

Charlie Hurst and Maria Smith on the shores of Lake Erie

Maria and Alice on the southern shore of Lake Erie

So I went to Cleveland for the Labor Day weekend. Maria is one of the organizers of the “Peace Show,” which is held on Labor Day. She had invited me to come to experience it. It is purposely held at the same time as the “air show,” which features all sorts of airplanes flying through the air with the greatest of ease (stolen from the man on the flying trapeze). The Peace Show is a protest against the militarization of the Air Show. The criticism of the Air Show is that  those beautiful military planes that are flown in such an exquisite way are used to cause fear and panic and death in far-off countries. OK. I do understand the criticism. Actually, I agree with it. But darn. The Blue Angels are beautiful. They are blue. They fly in formation, like geese, and they make big circles in the sky.
Oh. sigh. I’ve always loved flight. Airplanes are beautiful. I don’t like that they are being used to deliver bombs and death to far-off countries. Still. It’s hard for me to stop watching the amazing flying machines.

Kids riding in “the world”
The world in downtown Cleveland
Julia Shearson, executive director of CAIR (Council on Arabic Islamic Relations) shares a fun craft activity with kids and adults alike

The Peace Show, however, was fun. It featured music and face painting and crafty activities and even the flying of paper airplanes.

Singing and playing drums near the air show

more scenes from the Catholic Worker witness

Works of mercy vs. works of war

Peace through song

Another fun activity during the weekend was the Catholic Worker witness outside of the entrance of the Air Show. Maria and I joined that group. We got to sing all sorts of satirical songs about the government and the military. The songs were funny. We had a great time. We used the songbook from the Raging Grannies. And, even better, no one threw tomatoes at us. So I guess we weren’t bad singers either!!!

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