(IN 2007-2008 I went on a two-part book tour of the United States that overall took about two years to complete. On the tour I wrote a column. During the tour I talked about two books: The American Dream, a novel I had written, on the first leg, to the east, and Cost Of Freedom, a non-fiction project I was involved in, on the second leg, to the west.)
by Mike Palecek
“He was born in Oklahoma. His wife’s name is ol’ Betty Lou Thelma Liz.
He’s not responsible for what he’s doing. His mother made him what he is.”
— Ray Wylie Hubbard, Up
Against The Wall Redneck Mother
The folks in Tulsa are there for us, every day, thank God …
DALLAS-FORT WORTH — “Fuck the FCC. Fuck the FBI. Fuck the CIA. I’m livin’ in the mother-fuckin’ USA.”
Wouldn’t you feel a little more like standing if that Steve Earl song were the National Anthem?
And it’s not anti-patriotic. It’s very patriotic, more in line with the Founding Fathers than what we have going on today.
What we have now in America, in terms of say Christianity and government are anything but what their founders intended.
Luckily, things are not totally out of control. We don’t have anarchy in the streets.
There is help out there. Some folks working to maintain the moral order.
Not along the lines of Dr. Phil.
More so along North Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
… “Is this the bible belt?”
That’s me asking another dumb question, this time at the Tulsa Peace House.
Joni and Timbre Wolf respond together politely.
Yesterday I drove from St. Joseph, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma to speak.
This afternoon I am sitting in a hotel in Fort Worth, watching college basketball on the television. I spent the morning on the back roads.
It was warm on Tuesday when I was in Oklahoma, about sixty-two degrees. It was one-below the morning before in Iowa.
I thought I had never been to Oklahoma, but I do remember something now about a few days in the 1980s spent at El Reno Federal Prison. I think it was during the time of riots at the state prison at McAlester. I remember being glad about the rioting, somebody fighting back. It’s easy to hate when you are inside a prison bus wearing handcuffs and shackles.
Sometimes I think I hate America to this very day.
I see what we do and don’t do.
But on a long drive like this I realize I don’t hate as much as maybe I thought I did.
Last year on the tour I took the Interstate, whizzing, fighting traffic — and it kind of gets to you — by the end of the trip I was ready to fight if somebody in front of me didn’t react to the green light like a Formula I drag racer.
This time, when I can, I think I’ll take the blue highways, as William Least Heat Moon called them.
And so I got to drive through Coffeyville, Kansas. And I have now seen my first armadillo, albeit deader than shit.
I have been to Bowlegs, Oklahoma now, and seen some of the Sac and Fox, Cherokee and Seminole people, land, casinos — whatever that was close to the road. I also passed by Prague, Oklahoma and the Czech Car Wash. I thought for a moment about stopping and saying hello to “my people.”
And I have now driven past the sign for Osawatamie, Kansas, where John Brown took the slavery issue into his own hands, or rather at Pottawatomie Creek. Some say he started the Civil War, some say he was a hero, some say he was the first American terrorist.
“Now they’re draggin’ me back with my head
in a sack to the land of the infidel.”
— Steve Earle, John Walker’s Blues
And there was the sign outside the Highway Baptist Church, near Seminole.
“Will The Road You Are On Get You To God?”
That’s a good question. I was driving and did not have a chance to really read the map, so I really don’t know. Have you seen the film “Zeitgeist?”
Along the way to Tulsa I saw the tops of all the trees bent and broken, for miles and miles. I thought it was a tornado, a big-ass tornado, but I guess it was The Ice Storm of December 2007.
You know, I have done a few of these book tour “events” with last year’s eastern swing, but this was the first one this year, and it’s hard to get going again. It’s just weird to see signs set up with your name and to have people take time from their day to come listen to you.
At home there are no signs that say “Welcome Mike Palecek, Author & Activist.”
But I start in, get back to work, start shaking hands and meeting the people. They are mostly old friends and they welcome me into their circle, tell me about their lives, past and present.
And I remember why I am there. It is for them. Not for me.
That’s true, and that’s the way it should be, although in the end I get more out of it than they do.
I got to meet “B” and Huti and Jean and Joni and Timbrewolf and Brian and Gary and others. I hear them discuss intently their campaigns against high school military recruitment and depleted uranium and global warming.
Timbrewolf is a big man with long, graying hair. He was a music composition major at the University of Oklahoma years ago and used to be in a band called “The People’s Glorious Five-Year Plan.”
Huti is part Cherokee, and was in the Navy, and also worked in electronics in Silicon Valley, where he once worked on a project to provide “offensive weapons” for the Saudi government. “They said it was defensive, but we knew it wasn’t.”
Jean and Huti live in Muskogee. Jean has her white car plastered in bumper stickers, putting mine to shame. She is a registered nurse and often stands on street corners dressed in a polar bear costume to draw attention to global warming. She has been interviewed on National Public Radio, All Things Considered, within her polar bear capacity.
Joni got arrested at a few local protests, along with Huti and Jean, during visits by Cheney and Bush. Joni fought her conviction and was found not guilty by the necessity defense. That’s a big deal.
We went out to eat at a China buffet afterwards. The talk was about politics, about Obama and Hillary, locals like Senator James Inhofe, whom these folks despise, and his challenger, whom they love. They refer to Kucinich as “Dennis.” Joni is the organizer for the local Green Party and talks about a recent visit from Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. As always, I know waaay less about the issues than my hosts. It’s … well … disapointing to always-always be the stupid honored guest, but I am growing used to it.
Afterwards we take a drive around town. Tulsa is much bigger than I thought.
We stop at the praying hands at the entrance to Oral Roberts University — two gigantic paws in sculpture. We stop and everyone looks up, straining to take it all in out the window.
Huti wonders out loud how much money it would take to open up the hands.
For those of you who have negative thoughts about the Bible Belt, about the state of our nation, of Christianity, about what passes for theological discourse in this country at this time, take heart.
You can rejoice in knowing that there is a strong, small group of people in Tulsa who also do not buy the bullshit, the propaganda.
They get it.
They are there, on the ground, fighting every day for this country.
They are the ones we owe our freedom to. That is what I believe. That is what the book “Cost of Freedom” is all about.
That is what this tour is all about.
p.s. I have been to Texas before.
I did not forget La Tuna.
“That’s right, you’re not from Texas,
you’re not from Texas. Texas wants you anyway.”
— Lyle Lovett, “That’s Right”
And tomorrow before I meet with the Fort Worth 9/11 Truth group at Crystal’s Pizza in Irving, I’m going to Dealey Plaza, the Crystal Cathedral for those of us who think that was the day we lost our country and our future.
by Mike Palecek
“You can’t arrest me, I’m on a book tour.” — Michael Moore
I am somebody from Nebraska who now lives in Iowa, who will soon be taking a country drive, a road trip, because our country seems on the verge of something bad.
Really, I’m not trying to get away.
Actually my mother told me once that when they heard the War of the Worlds broadcast on the radio they got in the car and just drove. Just to be going somewhere seemed to help because they were so scared. They thought it was the end of the world. This time the fire.
Well, I suppose I’m plenty scared, but I’m trying to run towards the blaze, trying to see what I can do to put it out.
I have written some books during the Bush era. I’m going on a book tour to promote my latest, “The American Dream.”
Before I leave I’m also going to send a letter along with a tax form with a black Magic Marker X through it as a protest against George W. Bush.
My book, “The American Dream,” is a punch in the nose to George W. Bush and Karl Rove. Somebody needs to punch those two in the nose.
They smirk while others die. They are getting away with murder. They are robbing us blind.
By sending off this crossed-out tax form and taking this drive around the country in my ’90 brown Honda with the driver’s side window and radio that don’t work I’ll feel that I’m at least doing something.
Can we say it? … Out loud? … In public? … Won’t people think we’re crazy? … Won’t they roll their eyes? Wouldn’t it be easier to just talk about American Idol? The people on Fox and the announcers on the radio don’t say this. They’d say it if it were true. … Right?
They— Bush & Co. — did 9/11 themselves.
They killed Paul Wellstone.
They sent the anthrax.
They lied about WMD.
They stole two presidential elections.
They would never have told us about Abu Ghraib.
They have secret torture prisons around the world that we were never meant to find out about.
They spy on us. And not because of “terrorism.”
They steal the oil.
They want power. They want to be rich.
They could care less about us, about the soldiers, about the freedom of the Iraqi people. They snicker about all that in the back rooms. Sure they do.
And there’s more.
Some [many?] of our news media “professionals” are actually professional propaganda ministers for this cabal. Who cannot wonder about Fox, Tom Brokaw, Rush Limbaugh, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings in this regard.
It sure seems that way.
What’s that expression about talking and sounding like a duck?
I was in third grade when our principal, Sr. Ellen, walked into the room just after lunch recess and said the president had been shot.
A few years later I went to sleep wondering if Bobby would make it through the night. And of course, they had killed Martin Luther King two months before.
So, well, now I’m 51, and those my age would do anything to really understand what happened during those few minutes after lunch in Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22 1963.
My kids will grow up wondering what really happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
Perhaps none of us will ever know. They keep the truth locked away, marked to be opened after we are all dead. The rest the strike out with a black Magic Marker.
But the Bush family is in power.
And American oil companies recorded record profits last year.
The world turns.
They want power. They want to be rich. Human traits, desires.
The American Dream.
You look outside your window, you see robins and squirrels and Snickers wrappers and Labrador poop.
Fair to partly cloudy.
It’s all a fairy tale. You are a living character inside of a children’s book, with dragons and monsters and evil kings and queens.
How did we come to this?
We have fake history — our junior high and high school history books should be all in italics, presented with a wink by the teacher handing out the textbooks on the first day of school: Remember the Maine, Pearl Harbor, Gulf of Tonkin, Iran-Contra, Waco, OKC, moon landings, Watergate, stolen elections — millionaires in Washington D.C. who spend long days agonizing over the lives and living conditions of dump truck drivers and nurses aides. Right? Sure they do.
But even so, to talk about conspiracy in the United States … it’s like being … a person who has spent the day upstairs alone writing poetry … and he steps out onto the corner to hand those poems out to passersby. You can imagine the looks he’s going to get from people.
Because we accepted the Warren Commission we got the “9/11 What Controlled Demolition?” and our children will get the “XYZ Non-Investigation By Rich People Covering Up For Other Rich People Leaving The Poor Folks To Drown, Again.”
After the Supreme Court stopped the counting of votes. …
Stopped the counting of votes.
Stopped the counting of votes.
I sat by the upstairs window and looked out at the robins and the squirrels and the Labradors and thought, of course they killed the Kennedys, they can do whatever they want.
I thought about tossing a concrete block through the military recruiters offices over in Sioux City, just to put up some kind of resistance against all this. I even drove over there, about an hour away, to drive around the area and see how I might do it and get away.
I asked others to join me. Nobody wanted to.
Then I drank a quart of beer out on the patio and sort of measured in both hands the weight of a concrete block against a piece of paper, and decided to keep writing. (And looked around at the house and yard and wanted to stay there instead of jail.)
I don’t know what good I can do. Maybe I’m just driving around just to be moving because I’m scared.
Kurt Vonnegut once said that an anti-war novel is as likely to stop war as an anti-glacier novel is to stop glaciers.
But you still gotta. You gotta walk out the back door and put yourself up against that ice and push. Set your feet and lean and get your hands cold. Push with all your might, until you’ve got no push left.
There are many of us who see the murder of the Iraqi people for gold as evil, and who want their children to grow up in a world not perverted by the mind of Karl Rove. Those are also human traits, desires.
You got something better to do?
Join me. I’ll be writing a column along the way.
From Newton, Kansas to Omaha to Sioux Falls to Des Moines to … well, here’s the whole schedule. Here’s where that brown ’90 Honda will be pointed over the next three months.
March 28: Drinking Liberally, Kansas City
March 29: Faith & Life Bookstore, Newton, Kansas
March 30: Lawrence, Kansas, public library
March 31: Crossroads Infoshop, Kansas City
April 2: A Novel Idea Bookstore, Lincoln, Nebraska
April 3: Soul Desires Bookstore, Omaha, Nebraska
April 4: The Reading Grounds Bookstore, Omaha
April 6: Wayne State College, Wayne, Nebraska
April 6: Zandbroz Bookstore, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
April 10: Hill Avenue Bookstore, Spirit Lake, Iowa
April 12: Southeast Minnesota Peacemakers, Rochester, MN
April 13: Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
April 14: Ritual Café, Des Moines, Iowa
April 15: Iowa City, Iowa, Public Library
April 16: Magers & Quinn Bookstore, Minneapolis
April 17: Magus Bookstore, Minneapolis
April 18: Duluth: College of St. Scholastica
April 18: Duluth Catholic Worker
April 19: Mondragon Bookstore, Winnipeg, CA
April 21: Rainbow Books, Madison, WI
April 22: Cream City Collective, Milwaukee, WI
April 23: New World Resource Center, Chicago
April 23: Unitarian Church, Park Forest [Chicago]
April 24: Revolution Books, Chicago
April 24: Barbara’s Bookstore, Chicago
April 25: Volume One Books, Hillsdale, MI
April 26: Drinking Liberally, Indianapolis
April 27: Saginaw, MI, 303 Collective Bookstore
April 28: The Planet Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
April 28: Drinking Liberally, Detroit [Oakland Co.]
April 29: Drinking Liberally, Cleveland
April 30: Boxcar Books, Bloomington, IN
May 1: Drinking Liberally, Pittsburgh
May 2: Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo, NY
May 2: Literary Café, Buffalo
May 3: Drinking Liberally, Rochester, NY
May 4: Bluestockings Bookstore, New York City
May 5: ETG Café and Books, Staten Island
May 7: AS220 Performance Space, Providence, RI
May 8: The Book Cellar, Brattleboro, VT
May 10: Lucy Parsons Center, Boston, MA
May 11: Elizabeth, NJ Catholic Worker House
May 13: Wooden Shoes Books, Philadelphia
May 14: Robin’s Books, Philadelphia
May 15: Drinking Liberally, Wilmington, NC
May 16: McIntyre’s Books, Pittsboro, NC
May 17: Internationalist Books, Chapel Hill, NC
May 18: Revolution Books, Atlanta
May 19: Beyond Your Ordinary Bookstore, Atlanta
May 19: Bound To Be Read Books, Atlanta
May 20: Koinonia Community, Americus, GA
May 21: Iron Rail Bookstore & Collective, New Orleans
May 22: That Bookstore in Blytheville, Arkansas
May 23: Monkeywrench Books, Austin, TX
May 24: Drinking Liberally, San Antonio
May 26: Peace Farm, Amarillo
May 28: Albuquerque, La Semilla Bookstore
May 29: Taos/Food Not Bombs
May 30: Tucson, Prescott College
May 31: Drinking Liberally, Las Vegas
June 1: San Diego Drinking Liberally
June 2: Metropolis Books, Los Angeles
June 6: Oakland Drinking Liberally
June 7: San Jose Drinking Liberally
June 8: Sonoma Peace & Justice Center, Santa Rosa
June 9: Revolution Books, Berkeley [?]
June 11: Medford Oregon
June 13: Drinking Liberally, Corvallis OR
June 14: Bend, OR: Book Barn; Bend Brewing Co.
June 15: Tsunami Books, Eugene
June 16: Laughing Horse Books, Portland
June 18: Last Word Books, Olympia, WA
June 21: Revolution Books, Seattle
June 23: Village Books, Bellingham
June 25: Vancouver, CA
June 27: Northern Idaho, sponsored by The Oberver, Don Harkins
June 29: Free Speech Zone, Salt Lake City, UT
June 30: Off The Beaten Path Bookstore, Steamboat Springs, CO
July 2: Left Books, Boulder, CO
July 3: Drinking Liberally, Colorado Springs
“It has been many years since I picked up a book and didn’t put it down till I finished it. Mike Palecek’s “The American Dream” smacks you right between the eyes with every turn of the page. This book tells the God-awful truth that none of us wants to accept.”
— Guy James
“No more than a few degrees from what currently passes for reality, ‘The American Dream’ is a societal vision that hits too close to home(land) to be called a futuristic satire. Channeling both Orwell and Bill Hicks, Mike Palecek has created more than a powerful and engaging novel; he has let loose a global wake-up call.”
— Mickey Z
“Dark, brutal, blunt and disturbingly funny, Mike Palecek’s “The American Dream” is an inside joke for the outsider looking in. A satirical metaphor for the life we Americans now live, and the choice we Americans will soon have to make: At what cost is the American Dream worth and who should ultimately pay it?”
— Ty Rauber, Producer & Director, “Who Killed John O’Neill?”
“Mike Palecek writes with passion, wit, and always with a profound social conscience.”
— Howard Zinn