tampabay.com

Peace rally fuels little debate

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published January 27, 2007


SPRING HILL - The man got up to introduce himself after just about everybody else had. He was wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt that said USA and a black ball cap that said USMC. He stood straight and held both hands tight by his sides.

"George Weeks," he said.

"United States Marine."

Then he sat back down.

Weeks was one of about 20 people who came to the big meeting room at the new library on Spring Hill Drive Thursday evening for the town hall meeting on the Iraq war organized by Brian Moore. Moore is a local political activist and the chair of the Nature Coast Coalition for Peace and Justice. Another meeting is scheduled from 1 to 3 next Wednesday afternoon at the same place.

Moore, 63, wants desperately for someone to disagree with him and to come to these sorts of get-togethers to start some conversation with some friction. He read at the beginning of the meeting Thursday from a passage from the Iraq Study Group Report: "Our country deserves a debate that prizes substance over rhetoric."

Here, though, there was plenty of talk of NPR and Democracy Now. A lot of discussion, a lot of anger, a lot of agreement. But debate?

"Our guys and girls are getting killed over there every day," said Dan Riley, a World War II Navy vet who spends his winters down here.

"And for what?"

"Last weekend, we had 25 kids die," said Joe Lemieux, the owner of the Green Bean organic market on Northcliffe Boulevard. He had on sandals and tie-dye socks. "I remember when it was 1,000. Then it was 2,000. Then it was 3,000. When's it going to stop?

"People need to be vocal. People need to let other people know what they think."

"Hear, hear," said Paul Boston, who reports for the small area newsletter called JUST US, which stands for Jauntily Uniting Society Through Understanding.

Jennifer Sullivan of the Green Party of Hernando County held up some DVDs she thinks are particularly good. The titles included Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War; Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers; and How to Impeach a President.

Moore was standing behind a small waist-high lectern.

"Anybody here who agrees with the president?" he asked. "Anybody think what he's doing is right?"

Silence.

Weeks sat still.

"We are growing terrorists every minute of the day," said Ginger Wielk, the treasurer of the peace and justice coalition.

"We can talk and talk and talk until we all have laryngitis and nothing is going to be accomplished," Navy vet Gerald Thackham said.

He talked about Tiananmen Square and that famous photo of the man standing in front of the tanks.

"We have to get in the way," Thackham said.

Weeks sat still.

"We have to talk to people at work or school, and have meetings like this," said Steve White, a senior at Central High, "because people have absolutely no clue."

"We, as a nation, many of our people are stupid," Wielk said.

"Look at our president," coalition member Susan Nordstrom said. "He can't even talk."

Weeks sat still.

"When should we leave Iraq?" said Sullivan of the Green Party. "I say now."

"I want us out," Wielk said.

Then George Weeks got up.

"If you go to war," he said, "you go to win.

"You don't dance."

Weeks talked about Korea. How he "cleared" places. And he said the soldiers in Iraq should be allowed to do what soldiers are supposed to do. Fight. Kill. Win.

"We have to obey our commander in chief," he told Moore. "I know you don't like him, but that's not my problem.

"Love it or leave it."

He sat down and was quiet again.

The meeting ended not too long after that.

On his way out of the room, Weeks, 77, introduced himself to a reporter as "Honest George."

Then he told a joke.

"Do you know how to save a Democrat from drowning?" he asked.

No, the reporter said.

"You don't know?" he asked again.

No.

"Good," he said.

His eyes got big, and he laughed, and his straight white top teeth showed.

Then he said he'd be back.

"Next week," he said, "I'm bringing a buddy of mine. A Marine buddy. Next week we're going to put this place on the map.

"I'm going to bring backup," said Honest George Weeks.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.