World Can't Wait, OHIO

World Can't Wait is organizing people living in the United States to take responsibility to stop the whole disastrous course led by the Bush administration. We seek to create a political situation where the Bush administration's program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking U.S. society is reversed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Photo from Goodale Park in Columbus OH before we left for the car caravan to Rod Parsley's "World Harvest Church"

Bus Tour in Ohio: Stolen Elections, Biker Gangs and Mega Churches

World Can't Wait reports on it's tour stop in Ohio and calls for dozens of bus tours to be launched across the country this summer as part of mobilizing for October 5th.

I pay for my coffee and glance down at a bright orange sticker that reads: NOV 3- Never Forget, in large black letters. The bus tour has arrived in Ohio.

All eyes were on Ohio the night of the 2004 elections. A nation held its breath as votes were tallied and people shook their heads in disbelief when George W. Bush claimed victory after watching crowds of people locked out of voting stations on television. After talking with folks in a café in Columbus, one would think it was still Nov. 3rd, 2004. There is a homegrown movement of activists in Ohio determined to put the evidence of 2004 voter fraud in the national spotlight and challenge the legitimacy of Bush's presidency.

I greet people at the café and show them the World Can't Wait Call and a print out of the second Not in our Name Statement of Conscience that reads; "No election, whether fair or fraudulent, can legitimize criminal wars on foreign countries, torture, the wholesale violation of human rights, and the end of science and reason". The opening sentence of the Statement and the Call sparks interest and debate about the Bush Administration and about what kind of resistance movement is commensurate with the situation the world is facing.

The conversation about the elections and Bush spills over into the car ride home with Mary, a World Can't Wait organizer from Cleveland. She turns to me and quietly tells me that she has relatives in Columbus, but is choosing to avoid them because of their blind support for George Bush. She said that she has exhausted all of her efforts to change her families' views on the war and has lost contact with some family members over political disagreements. I stare out of the window and think about how there must be thousands of similar stories out there; families divided over the war, homeland security and future of the country and the world.

Self Contained World & Bible Based Law
A crowd of people have gathered in the park to create signs and to deck out their cars with banners and posters for a car caravan to protest Rod Parsely's World Harvest mega-church, just outside of Columbus. Parsley's World Harvest Church is home to over 12,000 worshippers and employs a 400 person staff. Parsley is infamous for his fiery and militaristic sermons, where he claims that "gay sex is a veritable breeding ground for disease" and has made a distinction between Christianity and Islam by stating "I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam".

Dubbed a "new general" in the rising movement to create a Christian Nation, Parsley has forged strong alliances with influential politicians like Ohio Secretary and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell and was consulted by George W. Bush shortly after the announcement of John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court.

The protest took us outside of city limits into a small town in Ohio surrounded by cornfields and shopping plazas. Our caravan brought World Can't Wait's message to thousands of World Church congregants and held signs that exposed the lies of the Bush Regime and challenged the repressive and hateful nature of Parsley's theocratic agenda.

The Rust Belt and the Bible Belt
The car caravan was an appropriate way to kick off the Ohio leg of the tour and an organizer remarked that this was the first time Parsley's church was protested as we ate lunch and prepared to do outreach. During lunch it was heartening to talk to an activist and college student who recently moved to Cleveland from a small town in Ohio that was virtually governed by Christian Fundamentalist laws and values. He talked of being forced to go to bible study while attending public school and described how the town's main church has a special section in the church pews for divorced women, in order to keep them separated from the rest of the congregation.
Ohio is a state of abandoned factories and churches. Through the process of taking out the Call and mobilizing for October 5th, we talked to many people who were trying to survive in a world where the factory jobs they have always depended on have been replaced with demeaning, low-wage positions at Wal-Mart. We talked to people like a father who moved from Dayton, a city that used to be the world's largest manufacturer of cash registers, to Columbus to work for a computer software agency. There was the couple who moved into a neighborhood that made national news after a "Flag War" pitted Gay couples against the residents of a traditionally Black neighborhood. (The conflict surrounding middle class, Gay couples moving into low income Black neighborhoods were dubbed "The Flag Wars" due to Gay people hanging up rainbow pride flags in their windows.)

We talked to all types of families and people who were outraged about how Bush was handling the economy and the war. Most people hated the fact that we went into Iraq to begin with and really questioned the legitimacy of Bush. The Bus Tour organizers focused our conversations with people on pulling these outrages together to present a coherent picture of the fascistic package the Bush Administration is ramming through society and the dire need to act on October 5th.
People's hope in the 2006 elections ran through their conversations, were made into bumper stickers and were trumpeted in op-ed pieces. Rarely has anyone seen so much at stake in the outcome of this political process. Now, more than ever, people need to hear this part of the message of the World Can't Wait: Even if the Democrats win, we will still lose! Even if we could guarantee that the people will be able to participate in a fair election; what will they be voting for? What kind of political climate will they be forced to compromise to with their vote? Torture, or Torture-lite? This sentiment was strong among activists in Columbus, but also mixed with the widespread disaffection people felt toward politics.

All of this pointed to the importance of mobilizing for October 5th and for the protests that were organized in Ohio for the bus tour. There is a way and a day to give expression to people's outrage and impact the course of history. We held actions against Ohio Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, staged a spy-in to protest the police state atmosphere developing in Ohio and around the country, and protested an anti-immigrant motorcycle club called The Paul Revere Riders.

Hit the Road- Spread the Word
As this leg of the Bus Tour concludes, we are preparing for another phase of the Bus Tour to hit the road in Pennsylvania to confront anti-abortion Democrat candidate for Senate Bob Casey and gather momentum in mobilizing for October 5th. The world is crying out for people to resist Bush's horrific agenda and for dozens of new Bus Tours to hit the road. Organizers on the West Coast have joined this movement of Bus Tours and car caravans to protest theocratic measures being taken in Bakersfield, California. Plans are brewing in other areas around the country and need to be taken up very broadly. Large or small, the tours need to be launched with a Cindy Sheehan spirit of confronting the ugly manifestations of the Bush Regime at their front doors, and they must aim to galvanize millions to step into this historic mission of thoroughly rejecting the Bush Program and bringing it to a halt on October 5th.