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September 2001 - Jeanette Wallis

Amendment I
  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

  Before December 1, 1999, this phrase was trivial to me. I remember a time in my life when I didn’t care about things like our Constitution.

Now it IS my life.

  You could say this life began with a baptism in tear-gas. I got swept up in the police crackdown on the WTO protests in Seattle as I was walking home from the store that fateful winter day in ’99. I guess the cops wanted us to go home and hide under our beds, but the gas and rubber bullets awakened something in me I never knew I had… RAGE! Rage against the system… the mindless machine that forces us to follow orders and consume and obey until we die, leaving behind nothing but our social security numbers. I never saw the world in that way before – but in that hour, on that day, I saw my destiny laid before me. I knew I would spend the rest of my life working to break that system. I was forever changed.

  I became an organizer. Now – I never so much as organized a sock drawer prior to this, but I signed up to be on the steering committee for the “Post-WTO Coalition” (no – we could NOT consense to a better name than that). As any of you out there with experience knows – organizing is a beautiful, powerful and AGONIZING process. We spent HOURS deciding on things like “how to make a decision”. Mission statements were written and re-written. I had to learn an entire lexicon of new language, not to mention “Robert’s Rules”. I loved it – but after a while, I realized that this was somehow not my mission. I didn’t know what that mission was, but I kept my eyes and heart open.

  Then the Presidential Election of 2000 happened. I watched the TV with horror as teams of lawyers and politicians and judges battled it out over what to do with our votes. They were OUR votes, but not one of our so-called representatives bothered to ask us what WE wanted to do. For the first time since the 4-hour barrage of tear gas in my neighborhood, I felt that RAGE rear its beastly head.

With Ken Riley, an amazing freedom fighter from South Carolina. Read his
story HERE

  For some reason, the First Amendment kept popping to mind. I knew from my Seattle experience that this constitutional guarantee was only given lip service in the New World Order, but I became obsessed with the idea of “petitioning the government for a redress of grievances”. What did that really mean? Hadn’t I been spending the last year and a half petitioning the government for various grievances at picket lines, rallies, and protests? When, exactly, does the “redress” come in?

  I first heard about Doris Hadduck (www.grannyd.com) at around that same time, and inspiration hit me like a riot baton. I decided to exercise this First Amendment in its most literal interpretation. Against the better judgments of just about everybody, I began gathering “grievances” (hand-written letters to the President) on Inauguration Day, and vowed to walk from Seattle to Washington, D.C. – gathering more along the way – to personally deliver to the President for their “redress”. You see – the real impact of any action lies in the reaction from the opposition. We all saw the reaction of our new President to the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to protest his Inauguration – he simply ignored us. Why not give our Commander-In-Chief NEW and BETTER things to ignore – like a girl from Texas who’s walked 4,500 miles by herself across America carrying the grievances of the people?

  As of this writing, I’ve walked 845 miles, crossing three states. I’ve met hundreds of people, and have gathered over 300 grievances. To my surprise, the only RAGE in my life right now lives in the Walkman I carry when I’m out strolling. The people of this country amaze me with their kindness and wisdom. If only we could dispense with party affiliations, religious dogma, and all the other petty labels that keep us divided, the system would cease to hold any power over us.
To all you future freedom fighters out there, I have a bit of advice:

  • One – Never doubt your beliefs! I agonized about embarking on this campaign – “Was I smart enough? Strong enough? Who will possibly care about what I have to say? I’m just a nobody!” That was harder to deal with than fundraising… and fundraising is a BITCH! Just remember – if your vision is FOR THE PEOPLE, you will never be wrong.
  • Two – ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS WILL THINK YOU ARE CRAZY AND WILL STOP TALKING TO YOU. Don’t take this personally. They are worried about you, and don’t know how to deal with it. You will make new friends. The future of the world really is more important than what your friends think.
  • Three – Take a class on fundraising, or hire a professional fundraiser if you can. Everyone may love you, but that doesn’t mean they will want to give you money. (MAN I wish someone told me that sooner!)
  • Four – Have faith in yourself, even if no one else in the world believes in you. There will be MANY times when you won’t see a shred of evidence that what you are doing is worthwhile, but please have faith that NO EFFORT is wasted. That’s still a tough one for me, but I’ve only walked 840 miles. I have a long way to go.

So what are you waiting for?? Get out there and FIGHT!

Ya Basta!
Jeanette Wallis

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Photos provided by David Atlas and Maayan Zach

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