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Walk Blog: Alice Gerard, July 20

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July 20, 2008

Yesterday (July 19), for the first time on our walk from Chicago to St. Paul, it rained. Although the dampness covered us, it did not get inside our spirits. We were ready to continue on the journey, to share our message of hope and peace with those whom we might encounter on our path.

In the morning, the Racine Dominican sisters sang a blessing with their gentle voices. Then they sent us on our way.

I left Racine, feeling refreshed and joyful about making new connections and new friendships. The “action day” on Thursday was a day to regain strength and to experience the rhythms of the city. Visiting Rep. Paul Ryan’s office had been interesting. We all had the opportunity to express our viewpoints by filling out comment sheets. Will our many (written) voices change Rep. Ryan’s viewpoint from “stay the course” to finding a new way to end the violence? Will the stories told by our eyewitnesses to war of its destructive effects on civilian populations help Rep. Ryan to see that war does not bring about peace or freedom for anyone, including the perpetrators of the war?

After our Congressional office visit, we went a park to have lunch and to listen to a concert. Cheryl, who had offered me hospitality in Racine, and I are both classical music fans, so we decided to forgo the rock music concert, featuring a band titled the “Radioactive Squirrels.” We headed straight to the Racine Art Gallery, where we saw exhibits of wooden bowls by three generations of the Moulthrop family, a grandfather, a father, and a son, all Georgia-based woodworkers. The bowls were shiny, full of fascinating patterns and designs. We also saw an exhibit of the crafts of Earl Pardon (1926-1991). The majority of the exhibit focused on his jewelry and the utensils that he had designed. We were intrigued by his attention to the small details… clasps on necklaces, knots in chains, etc. The colors were rich and vibrant, full of greens, blues, oranges. We also commented on the intricacy of the designs. We also saw a maquette (a sample piece for a much larger work) of a sculpture wall. The maquette is the only surviving piece, as the sculpture wall was destroyed some time ago.

It is sad when art is destroyed. It can never be replaced. Iraqi art, destroyed by war, and American art, destroyed for other reasons, were all unique creations and cannot be replaced.

After our art museum visit, Cheryl and I walked around town. In Racine, the current public art project featured spheres. Artists were given large blank spheres and could decorate those objects in whatever fashion that they chose. The themes varied widely. One of the spheres was almost completely covered with marbles, except for a few bare spots. Apparently, someone was “losing his marbles.” Another sphere featured a sun, a moon, and stars. Other themes included a ball of yarn and a rose. The spheres were place near store entrances. Cheryl and I went into a few small galleries and stores, just to “window shop.”

We observed people walking around the downtown area, either walking on their own or with friends or with entire family groups.

It was a very peaceful scene.

One would never suspect that we were at war.

As Lou, the lady with whom Kathy and I stayed with in Kenosha, Wisconsin, said, we are not called upon to make any sacrifices. She said that she was born during the Great Depression and that she remembered being a child during World War II. She told us about the rationing of food and clothing and fuel. If, for example, your shoes wore out, you could not replace them. You had to go to the shoe repair store and have them re-soled. If you used up your gasoline ration before the week was up, you could walk or take the street car but you could not use your car.

By contrast, now, the government tells us to do our patriotic duty and shop. The government even handed out (borrowed) money (not to everyone) so that people would shop and stimulate the economy. As long as you still have your job, shop ‘til you drop doesn’t seem like an onerous task.

I suppose that we don’t do sacrifice anymore. We put the wars on the credit card instead of raising taxes (political suicide).

It’s time for the credit to be cut off… then, perhaps, we wouldn’t be able to do war anymore.

In the evening, at the Racine Dominicans’ Siena Center, Kathy Kelly and Mike Miles reminded an audience of the human cost of war. They talked about Iraqi families broken apart, with people being scattered all over the world. They talked of children not being able to go to school because they had to forage for food. They talked about their friends, people with faces and names. We were told of people who were very much like ourselves, except for the misfortune of being caught in a war zone, victims of a war that our government chose.

After the presentation, we all returned to our host families, ready for the next day’s adventure, a walk to Oak Creek.

In the morning, we began walking in the rain. We walked down streets with such names as “Gallant Fox Lane.” Eventually, we ran into a roadblock… a railroad track and a huge freight train. If we walked in one direction, we would be on the grounds of a shooting range. If we walked in the other direction, we would be trespassing on private property. The security guy told us, “The police will have to be called.” And, sure enough, before long, a police car came. The cop told us that, if we continued in that direction, we would be arrested for trespassing.

While we were waiting for a support vehicle to take us away from that spot, we met an Army recruiter on a bicycle. He had read about us on the internet. He was an interesting individual who told us what a difficult job being a recruiter was. Apparently, he didn’t know about the roadblock either.

He rode away shortly before the support vehicle came.

We continued to Oak Creek, some by walking and a few on the Wheels of Justice bus. We arrived in Oak Creek wet and tired, but happy to be there.

We were all invited to have dinner at the home of Frank and Karin. The couple met when Frank was serving in the U.S. military in Germany. After Frank left the military, he brought Karin, who is German, to the United States. The couple has two sons and a daughter. The house is cozy, homey, and full of books. Karin has a spinning wheel, and she makes her own yarn, which she then knits to create all sorts of different things. One can find knitting projects everywhere in the house.

I was so fascinated by the spinning wheel that I drew its portrait in the little sketch book that I always carry.

The dinner at Frank and Karin’s was a delight. We enjoyed good food and good conversation and were very grateful to our kind and generous hosts for sharing their home and themselves with us.

Later, Kathy, Helene, Mary, and I returned (in the van) to the Siena Center to spend the night. The rest of the group stayed at Frank and Karin’s house. We were warmly greeted by the sisters, who chatted with us and made us feel at home.

We head off to Milwaukee in the morning!