In Winnemucca, Nevada (pop. 8,004), a place we were pretty sure the Bush and Kerry campaigns hadn’t targetted, we did a whistle stop in the shadows of the “biggest piece of driftwood” ever found in North America. It is actually part of the trunk of a Redwood. (Why it’s in Winnemucca, Nevada? Well, you got me.) Now while I wasn’t sure about the driftwood, I told the Humboldt Sun newspaper that I was sure: “I don’t want my children growing up in a world laced with pollution, global warming and ozone holes, often from the burning of fossil fuels [commensurate with our selfish desire in this country to drive as far as we want, to stay as warm, or cool, as we want, to manufacture as much as we want…]”
We stopped at the “Historic Wendover (Utah) Airfield” where I met with Airfield Manager Jim Peterson. He has formed a foundation and is trying to restore what’s left of the now closed Army Air Base. This once “secret location” spans 3 and a half million acres of desert and was used as a training base for bomber crews during World War II. Among these was the crew for the Enola Gay, who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. (“Hanger 5,” where the Enola Gay was kept, still stands here.) Peterson explained to me he wanted to restore the field to honor the sacrifices made by service people here. I told the Wendover Times newspaper that I applauded Petersnon’s efforts and said the country should, indeed, remember the sacrifices — and also remember the agony of war in general. And with that in mind, I also told the newspaper about our proposal for a U.S. Department of Peace. As part of this, we would suggest providing much more incentive for people to join the Peace Corp. I said we also believe if we mobilize much more social justice help for people in the Third World and other disadvantaged countries, more worldwide tension would be diffused. As an example, I said kids growing up in dead-end inner city situations in this country sometimes join gangs. Kids growing up in dead-end situations in the Third World sometimes join terrorist cells. “If we want to fight terrorism at it’s roots, we need to address poverty in the Third World,” I added.
We stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming, not to campaign, but to go to the Wrangler Store. (“The place all the cowboys and cowgirls go,” said a billboard.) Liz’s parents are here from New Zealand for the first time and are part of the “campaign caravan.” They have been particularly captivated by American television westerns over the years, and at the Wrangler Store Liz’s mom bought a “Buffalo Bill” shirt (she apparently hadn’t heard what I had said at the last stop, plus the Wrangler Store didn’t have any “St. Patrick” shirts), and her dad got a big, brown Stetson hat. That evening on Rte. 80, Stuart drove through the wide-open expanses of Wyoming into an absolutely breathtaking sunset — with his Stetson on, windows down and country music blasting. What a scene!
We headed further south to North Platte, Nebraska, where I told North Platte Telegraph reporter Jenice Johnson that on a previous visit to the area I had noticed that the parking lot at the Buffalo Bill Museum here was full, while the lot at St. Patrick’s church here, which features the story of St. Patrick in stained glass and some literature, was empty. “In the scheme of life, St. Patrick and his life might have a lot more important things to say to children than Buffalo Bill,” I said. “In a saner, more wholesome America for children, perhaps some of the tourism draw to the North Platte area should be touritst coming to learn the story of St. Patrick with their children.” –While that might have cost us a few votes in North Platte, I nevertheless felt it important to say.
We headed south on Rte 83 through “The Badlands” to the Rosebud Reservation in southern South Dakota. There I talked with pastor Ed Bausell of the Tiospaye Bible Baptist Church. He has worked among the Lakota Sioux here for the past 25 years. Pastor Bausell said he believes that just as God worked with the Isrealites over generations in preparation for the coming of Christ, He too had worked with the Native Americans in the same way. Pastor Bausell said many of the Native American rituals and lifestyle all revolved around spirituality and, uncannily, a type of Christian spirituality. He points, as an example, to the age old “Sundances.” In this ceremony, Lakota men are pierced and hung on a tree. Before this, the man goes through a long “hanbleca,” or vision quest. According to tradition, he is preparing himself to be peirced and put on the tree as a sacrifice “that his people might live.” Pastore Bausell said he believes, strongly, that the revelation of Jesus as Savior was merely the next phase of the Native American history and God was, indeed (again, like He had been with the Isrealites) carefully shaping their spirituality. [Paradoxically, what the Native Americans experienced from many of the early settlers, who proclaimed to already be “Christians,” was anything but Christian.]
We headed farther west this afternoon, stopping in De Smet, South Dakota, a “Little House on the Prairie” site. Because of what we believe, in many cases, has become an increasingly damaging influence, our family doesn’t do television. So, for instance, we read to the children at night. In the past couple years, Liz has read our children the whole “Little House on the Prairie” series (nine books) about the early pioneers. Besides looking at the Ingall’s home here and a one-room school house that has been preserved, a couple days earlier we had stopped in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, another “Little House” site. A rather memorable scene in one of the books is of Laura Ingalls, the main character (and author), as a child of about our Sarah’s age (8), wading in Plum Creek here. We took Sarah and Joseph down to the same creek to wade that afternoon. And the look of wonder and sheer delight on their faces, with the books coming even that much more to life for them, was worth the whole trip, campaign, or no campaign.
We did a whistle-stop event in downtown Brookings, South Dakota today. The Brookings Register reporter John Kubal asked me about my proposal for making tangible amends to the Native Americans for past wrongs. I said, for one, I would propose establishing creative Land Trusts to give them some of the land back. I mean we stole it from them, plain and simple, I told Kubal. And if something has been stolen, you give it back — no matter how many generations have passed. And it is our childrens’ innocence that is being stolen in the sea of violence, drugs and sex that is now permeating our culture, I told ABC reporter Rob Wilson after the event today.
We stopped in Oregon, Illinois (pop. 3,945) where, just a few days earlier, “higher than accepted” radium levels were found in a city well. The Byron Nuclear Power Plant is just north of here. And while an explanation from an Environmental Management Corp. is the radium is probably “naturally occuring” — is it? What’s more, I told the Oregon Republic Reporter newspaper that we should be stridently questioning the nuclear power industry in general, in tandem with tremendously increased efforts to shift to much more non-polluting wind and solar energy sources.
We left from Ohio on our “Coast-to-Coast Tour” heading west. We stopped first in Shipshewana, Indiana (pop. 509). Amish country. We toured a rather elaborate, and quite interactive, Amish-Mennonite Museum called “Menno-Hof.” During one of the documentaries, it was explained Old Order Amish and Mennonites dress for simplicity, modesty and their fashions “never seem to go out of style.” In that spirit, our family tries to dress with a good degree of modesty and simplicity as well. [On a Midwestern Tour last summer, I told a regional network news TV reporter in Merrill, Wisconsin that although you couldn’t necessarily legislate modesty, as the First Family — or the almost First Family — you could model it.]
Where’s Joe? – Check back regularly to find out “Where’s Joe?” today.
The following is a recap of his most recent campaign tour.
Joe has recently completed a 10-state, 3,600 mile campaign swing – bringing his Campaign 2004 mileage total to 32,000 miles, and counting. (And he is currently back in his hometown of Bluffton, Ohio readying for a 7,000 mile tour this summer.)
“pro-life across the board”
During his most recent tour, the candidate, 49, talked at a Moral Theology class at St. Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Indiana. He said to the class that he is “pro-life across the board.” That is, he said he is against abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, embryonic stem cell research…
The Jasper (IN) Herald noted the candidate’s pro-life stance also sets him against poverty, pollution and anything else that can bring about premature death.
In Boon, Indiana, on Joe’s next stop, the candidate told Fox News he was running as a “concerned parent.” He said he was concerned about mounting levels of violence, drugs and sex in America.
With the camera rolling, Schriner also told a group at Yesterdaze Restaurant in Boon, that no matter how much he wanted their vote, “brain sandwiches” (an actual favorite menu item in southern Indiana) would not be served at his Inauguration dinner.
“I have my limits!” Schriner laughed.
However, Schriner wasn’t laughing when he caught up with another group in Mt. Vernon, Illinois on his next stop. Here the candidate walked in solidarity with a group of people from area churches during a Friday night protest-picket of a local “Gentleman’s Club” that features exotic dancers.
Rev. Ron Lash of Corinthian’s Baptist Church here told Schriner that the Club sends the wrong message to area youth and it was time the adults took a public stand.
And it is a stand of another sort that Bob Eddleman and other Knights of Columbus in Poplar Bluff, Missouri are taking. Eddleman told Schriner the Knights here spearheaded a drive recently to get a “SAVE THE UNBORN” gravestone designed and placed in front of Sacred Heart Church here.
Schriner told the Daily American Republic newspaper in Poplar Bluff that with abortion we are living in a “modern day Holocaust.”
$4.50 a plate
The campaign then headed to Wichita where the night Schriner arrived, vice-president Dick Cheney gave a $1,000 a plate fundraiser at a posh downtown hotel here.
The next morning, Schriner talked at Emilia’s Restaurant in Wichita for $4.50 a plate (and it was only that much if you got the bacon) event.
Schriner talked to a Men’s group from Hope Mennonite Church at Emilia’s, not about the campaign, but about a book he’d recently written about his hometown: America’s Best Town (Bluffton, Ohio 45817). He explained his hometown is “best,” or at least one of the best, when it comes to civic participation, social justice outreach, diversity, environmental stewardship…
“Often in America when we think ‘best’ quality of life, we think affluence, climate, and so on,” said Schriner. “But shouldn’t we be looking deeper than that?”
After the talk, Schriner met with the director of a non-profit agency that is looking deeper at quality of life issues in the inner city of Wichita. Interfaith Ministries here has set up “Go Zones,” which are 15 block areas in the heart of the city.
In each zone, churches from outlying areas twin with these inner city churches and with AmeriCorps volunteers to create a safety net network that the candidate said is one of “the most creative models he’s seen in the country.”
Schriner then headed into Texas for a tour along Rt. 82.
He told a reporter for the Gainsville Daily Register thtat “…if we heal the family in America, we heal the country – at it’s roots.”
In Sherman, Texas the candidate met with Joan Smith, whose sons have been serving in the military in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Later, when Mrs. Smith was interviewed by the Sherman newspaper about the likelihood of Schriner someday making it to D.C., she replied: “They all thought Noah was crazy.”
And with that endorsement, Schriner continued east.
back to basics
In Paris, Texas Schriner talked with city council candidate J.L. Nick Hammond who is running on a no-nonsense, basic platform. His campaign literature simply says he want to: “Improve Basic City Services.”
And it’s getting “back to basics,” Schriner told Hammond, that his campaign was all about as well. Schriner explained for the past 12 years he has traveld America looking for basic, common sense people going the “extra-mile” to make a difference.
And he wants to take these people to D.C. with him.
postcards from ‘Paris’
While in Paris, Schriner also picked up a postcard of a local museum to send to his friend Dale Way back in Bluffton, Ohio. (To put food on the table in between tours, Schriner will sometimes work with Dale, who is the town handyman.)
Just the month prior, Dale had gone to Paris, France to visit the museums there.
The candidate said he was torn between sending Dale the Paris, Texas museum postcard, or the Paris, Texas postcard picture of the Eiffel Tower – with a cowboy hat on top.
“I hope the decisions in D.C. aren’t as tough,” Schriner smiled.
Schriner then made a decision to drop down from Rt. 82 into Bastrop, Louisiana. Schriner told KTRY radio host Henry cotton there that modern farmers are using harmful chemical cocktails, in the form of herbicides and pesticides, that are tremendously depleting the soil and adding considerably to cancer rates across the country.
The candidate’s agricultural platform calls for a sweeping shift to going back to growing organically and he has researched a number of models to help lead farming this way, en mass.
Friends & Neighbors
We headed into Mississippi, stopping first in Eupora (pop. 2,326). There we met with GlenMary Sister Alies Therese. (The GlenMary Sisters work throughout the rural south.)
Sr. Therese told me she has helped start a Friends & Neighbors project where town people, all town people (Hispanics, Blacks, Whites…) are invited to weekly potluck, story telling, quilting… to increase community building here.
I also talked to Sister’s GED class for the underprivileged, which is operated through her church, St. John Neuman here.
We then headed farther east, where I talked to a Catholic Student Association connected to Mississippi State University.
I told the students, as president, I would work to end the U.S. Space Program. I told the students that we are spending literally trillions of dollars to explore Mars to see if there was ever any water on it, while children all over the world every day on this planet: are dying from drinking contaminated water in the Third World.
“Where do you think Jesus would put the money?” I asked.
The next day on the personal website of the Catholic Student Association’s Vocation Director, he wrote that I got him to thinking, social justice wise, about things in a light he otherwise wouldn’t have.
Note: The night I talked to the MSU students, their basketball team (ranked 4th in the nation) was playing the last home game of the season. I, light-heartedly during a prayer before the talk, asked God to consider letting MSU beat Vanderbilt by 10 that night.
A couple days later, a story appeared in MSU’s campus paper The Reflector about my visit. One student at the talk told the reporter he was “unimpressed,” saying I’d prayed for MSU to beat Vanderbilt.
“And we were playing Auburn,” he said.
Ok, maybe we do need some more consultants.
From Mississippi State University, we headed north to Greensboro College in North Carolina where I gave a talk to a Political Science class there.
Learning my lesson, I didn’t pray about any of Greensboro’s sports teams, but rather talked about the current debate regarding: “separation of church and state.”
I said I didn’t believe there should be a separation.
I asked the class what a common sight is on every third, or fourth street corner in America.
They said: churches.
I said if there’s that many, that must mean spirituality is important to a lot of people in America. And if it’s important to a lot of people, wouldn’t it make sense, “average Joe” common sense, that this spirituality influences government policy?
In Staunton, Virginia we had lunch and ‘pressed some flesh’ in their downtown Brown Bag Express. Each week the menu changes, I was told. One of the employees, Tommy Tigert, who has strong political leanings he said, regularly proffers editorial comments on current affairs in between the list of food items.
What’s more, each week there is a different theme (of all kinds) which the food items themselves reflect.
For instance, this week was ‘Shakespearean Week’ and one of the sandwiches was listed as: “Et Tu Bratwurst.”
While Tommy said he couldn’t guarantee he’d vote for me, he did say he’d consider naming a sandwich, or two, after me.
[And he made good the following week with: “The average Brat for the average guy.”]
Further into the mountains, we stopped in Beckley, West Virginia where we met with Fr. Samuel Malacaman who shares the same stance as us (and the Catholic Church) on one of the most debated issues of the day. Gay marriage.
He said in God’s Natural Order, “man and woman” were joined together for two things: the fostering of love and procreation. Fr. Malacaman said a gay union can’t do the latter.
Or, in more “average Joe” common sense terms: the parts don’t fit.
What’s more, when we start tampering with God’s design for the nuclear family, or with His genetic codes for cloning, and so on, not only are we off spiritually – we’re nuts!
Also while in Beckley, I gave a short talk to the “Ladies of St. Francis de Sales.” I commended them on their work with Birthright to help end abortion, their prison ministry and the wonderful church library that they run.
Having said all that, I paused, then I said something else. Something that, I’m sure, will cost me a few votes in Beckley.
I said just the day before I’d met with a woman in Staunton, Virginia, who has been to Haiti twice as part of a sister church project. I told the women that this woman said here eyes had really been opened to “the plight of the poor,” and that she had been struck by how “skinny” most people in Haiti were because of lack of food.
I then said to the group that, given this, I wondered if the $3,400 they were about to spend on a dishwasher for the church here was, oh, the best expenditure. I also said the $3,400 could go a long way in feeding some of those people in Haiti (Uganda, Biafra…). And whatever happened to a little elbow grease and friendly community-building chatter while hand washing the church dishes anyway?
*I was just kidding earlier when I said earlier that we: “pander to everyone.”
Then it was back to Ohio to prepare for the next tour.