Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Squirrels are Jackasses and Other Tales from the Road by Cindy Sheehan


Squirrels are Jackasses
(And other observations from the road)
Cindy Sheehan

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.




1 comment:

  1. i wish there was good public transportation where i live instead i have to rely on friends and family to give me rides. the main reason i don't drive though has to do more with fear. i get really bad anxiety behind the wheel, but i agree with everything you say too. it pisses me off that they can create unmanned drones to kill people with but they can't create a better transportation system in our cities, one that makes us less dependent on fossil fuels. stupid scientists need to get their priorities straight and stop being used as tools for the military industrial complex.

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