Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ansbach Peace Rally and March

Today, we made good on our promise to support the German peace movement, the Ansbach Peace Coalition, and the Ansbach Appeal. After a press conference in the morning, we met at the staging area in the middle of the city. The crosses for the die-in were arranged in peace symbol in the middle of the plaza. There was a police escort present, which performed professionally the whole time.

We unfurled our banner and the German Expeditionary Team fell in line where we were told. While we were waiting, there was a commotion on the other side of the plaza. It looked to me like a fight had broken out, but the scufflers disappeared momentarily into an alley and we could only hear the screams, some of which were in English. Then, a small crowd victoriously emerged, escorting a raving lunatic in an orange jump suit who looked strangely familiar, screaming obscenities: “Who do you think you are! I’m George Bush! You can’t do this! I’ll call the Marines! You can’t stop me. I am the ruler of the world!“ They put him in a cage and everyone had some fun taunting him, poking him, and rapping on the bars.

The march was on. We left the plaza, and after a few minutes we were asked to get to the front of the column. We were surprised by the request, but quite honored. The police escort led us along the route, which included parts of a major road, a divider on a very busy street, and then back through the pedestrian area to the plaza at the center of the city. I could still hear the anguished cries of my once commander-in-chief behind me.

Reverend Hansjörg Meyer led off with a prayer and a speech, and then I was asked to speak on behalf of IVAW:

“Wir sind Irak Veteranen Gegen den Krieg! My name is Adam Kokesh and I was in Fallujah in 2004 with the Marines. I want to thank the Ansbach Peace Coalition for inviting us to participate today and support the German peace movement. You have been accused of being anti-American, but if it is anti-American to call for peace in this time of war, then I too, am anti-American. But I’m not, I love my country as you love yours, and we do this because it is our patriotic duty. It is great to see the people of Germany stand up to their government to say that it does not reflect the will of the people, especially here in Ansbach, where you have made a stand against the expansion of the US Army base. We support you in your resistance.”

While a WWII air raid siren blared over the loudspeakers, a handful of people in the crowd stepped forward into the cleared area and performed a die-in. Then came the sounds of jets and bombs falling. Our translator was there and told me that this is still a very scary thing for Germans to hear. He had just been speaking to an older woman who was a child during the war and said that she still jumped at certain noises and was rather unnerved by the sounds on the speakers. It occurred to me how lucky America is to have not had to experience modern warfare on our own soil. This does, however, make us somewhat ignorant of the conditions of “affected people.”

Chalk outlines were drawn around the bodies and the crosses that had been a part of the peace symbol were placed upon them. Then the sound of bombs dropping faded into the Jimmy Hendrix rendition of the national anthem. The violence of his interludes made this the perfect song to capture the sentiment. I wonder if Hendrix had thought of the power of that song when he performed it, but presented in this context, it brought tears to my eyes. Apparently, he didn’t mean for it to be a political statement, but as a portrayal of American in distress, it was very effectively used as part of one.

Then, Boris Meyer of the Ansbach Peace Coalition and coordinator of the event gave a speech. Although I missed most of it because it was in German, I picked up enough to get that he was talking about the Democrats in Congress, the proposed timeline, and the American anti-war/anti-troop debate. It really is a sad sign that America is in distress when Germans care more about American politics than most Americans.

The Subhumans in Frankfurt

Meike Schubert arranged for another concert appearance for the IVAW German Expeditionary Team in Frankfurt Thursday night. The Subhumans are back together and back on the road, and they were kind enough to loan us their mic and their audience for a few minutes. Jeff Englehart was particularly stoked as a long-time fan of the Subhumans.

When we were backstage, Jeff got a chance to sit down with lead singer Dick Lucas. The Subhumans are a British band and they talked about the differences between the anti-war movements in the US and Britain. It seems that in Western Europe and increasingly in Eastern Europe, the movement has a lot more enthusiasm, and by comparison, Americans are apathetic and feel helpless. They also discussed the global implications of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the complicity of the world, especially Germany.

As Jeff said onstage, “The war is not an American problem, or a German problem, but a global problem.” Naturally, the G8 came up, as it was on the minds of many of the punks in attendance who are planning on protesting when it comes to the Heilegen Dam in June. And of course, Jeff also got to ask him about their new album, which they will start recording next week.

The crowd was authentic punk. You can still pick out the people who wash the gel out of their hair and put on a suit the next day, but there are a lot more with excessive piercings and serious mohawks and bihawks. In the US, I think the ratio is usually reversed. When we spoke, the crowd was very receptive. Dick called us up on stage and I introduced us in German. After I said that I had been in Fallujah, a British guy in the crowd handed me his beer and said, “Here you go mate. This will help you forget about it.”

Then Chris announced that he was an Army deserter and the crowd went nuts. Jeff spoke about German complicity in the war and the global implications. Then the British guy yelled, “No, it’s America’s problem!” And Jeff said, “No, it’s the world’s problem.” “It’s George Bush’s problem!” “No, it’s not just Bush. It’s bigger than that. It’s a systematic problem.”

After the show, I got to meet some young men from Yugoslavia who had left for Germany years ago because of the war. After listening to their stories, including that of one who had been randomly shot through the leg, I got a new sense of what it meant to be one of the “affected people.” I was struck by how much I had been one of the “affecting people,” and had been trapped in that typical American mentality. But more on that later.