by Tom White by Tom White
I'm ready to get out in the streets and carry a sign in protest against the Iraq war and the Bush administration, but I don't want to walk alone.
My sign will salute Cowboy Warrior Bush and Five-Deferment Cheney and suggest we all jump on the Cindy Sheehan-Rep Murtha Bandwagon and bring the troops home pronto, at once, a.s.a.p.
In one of Patrick O'Brian's great British Navy adventure novels, The Nutmeg of Consolation, Captain Jack Aubrey, R.N., trusting, with the greatest and most charming sailor's navet, in the honesty, majesty, and benevolence of the British system of law ("best system of law of any great nation in the world, Sir," etc., etc.) winds up as the result of a fraudulent case against him in the Guildhall Court, sentenced to a heavy fine and an hour in the pillory in the heart of London.
What that meant in the early 19th century was that you would be placed in stocks and presented to the passing public for rebuke as anyone chose, including grown men with bags of rocks and buckets of slime and small boys in for the fun, too. Men were routinely blinded or even killed. The thing was a horror.
As the hour approached for Aubrey's time in the stocks, sailors and Naval officers from all over London and "down river" converged on the site, hundreds strong. They rapidly dispersed the rock- and slime- throwers assembled by Captain Jack's enemies, and surrounded him to protect him.
In the end the demonstration brought down the crooked judge and the high-level traitors who had arranged for his incrimination. Lovely justice at last as a result of the "best system of law of any great nation in the world," but it took a movement of scores of honest men, outraged at a miscarriage of justice directed at one of their heroes, to accomplish it.
I want to be walking out in protest surrounded by the equivalent of Aubrey’s Navy compatriots. Where am I going to find it? I cannot go to Washington or San Francisco or Dallas or Chicago or Kansas City. I am too old and too poor. I need to do this here, in Odessa-Midland, Texas, the Permian Basin, the "Oil Patch," my home of record. Where are the good men and true to at least march, if not fight, for the honor and future of our land?
What is wrong with my thinking? Why do I not already have these stalwart fellows to protest with me? Am I wrong to insist on their being such others and how would I know of them or get in touch with them? Do I, do you, in the end, have to walk alone? It might be. I shall think on it.
Tom White [send him mail] writes from Odessa, Texas. He is the author of Bill W., A Different Kind of Hero: The Story of Alcoholics Anonymous (2003), and the newly-published Lost in the Texas Desert.