Guest Blog: Favel Stoda in New Mexico- “Bush Made ME Political!”

In addition to short updates, I’ll be featuring “guest blogging” from my friend Favel Stoda, who has traveled from Los Angeles to New Mexico to work in these final days of the election in a “swing state.” She’ll be posting front-line commentary as she can while she’s busily assisting efforts in that state.
Ten days before the 2004 National Election, I find myself staying with some very nice people that I didn’t even know a week ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I ask myself what brought me here?  The answer: George W Bush.
Two weeks after 9/11, I was having dinner with some close friends.  One of my friends was born in Baghdad but her family immigrated to the United States when she was a child.  She was telling us that within a year the US would be at war with Iraq.  She believed that President Bush would use the “terrorist excuse” to finish off what his father had started along with gaining control of the oil. I knew she was wrong.   After all, the terrorists were in Afghanistan and that was several countries away from Iraq and most strict Moslems despised Saddam.
Thirteen months later, there was a large peace rally in downtown Los Angeles.  I didn’t attend because I believe Bush was only posturing to get the UN inspectors back there and surely we weren’t going to war.  I celebrated the holidays hoping that we would find Osama.    My brother-in-law, is full time army and was on notice that his unit was going to be deployed for Iraq and he was to get them ready.  My hope for world peace was beginning to waiver and I was very worried about my sister and their kids but I was still hopeful.
In January 2003, I began to have some serious doubts about the posturing.  Our elected officials had already voted to give our President the authority to go to war with Iraq.  I attended a very large peace rally in Los Angeles and realized that I had been naïve for too long.  I bought myself a pair of Doc Martens and took a bus to San Francisco and joined over 400,000 protesters.  It felt great to be a part of such a big movement; surely the President would take notice.  My Doc’s gave me blisters and I attended two more rallies but it ended to be all for naught as all of us discovered on March 20th.
In April, my brother-in-law went to Baquabah, Iraq for a year.  I organized care packages for our troops at work and realized that I needed to learn more about how my government works and the Middle East.  I wanted to do more but  didn’t know what to do.
I started following politics and was quite pleased when Wesley Clark got into the race.  Finally, someone I believed in and felt like I could trust.  I
joined up with some other Hollywood supporters and worked on fundraisers for Clark.  I loved it but then Clark had to drop it.  I have no hard feelings, running a national campaign costs tons of money and he had entered a little too late.  I followed Clark’s lead and jumped on the Kerry bandwagon.  I gave money to almost every appeal that came my way (I had never given to anyone running for office before Clark!)
In April 2004, my brother-in-law returned safely from Iraq and I started
volunteering with the Veteran’s for Peace in Santa Monica.  A wonderful group of volunteers and on Sundays they put up “Arlington West” just north of the pier.  Arlington West is a temporary cemetery of three-foot high crosses and each cross represents a serviceperson who has died in Iraq since the war started.  We start at 7:00 am and have the 1,000+ crosses done around 10:00 am and then take them down at sunset.   I learned to wear gloves after the first time I volunteered and got blisters on my hands from raking the sand (more blisters for Bush-it kind of sounds like a country song).
Now, it’s October 24, 2004 and I’m in Santa Fe with over 500 volunteers from the Santa Fe area, California, New York, Texas, Arizona, DC, Virginia and numerous other locations.  I’ve met housewives, retirees, students, people like myself taking time off from their jobs to help in a swing state. On my first day as a volunteer with the New Mexico Victory 2004, I made 300 phone calls beside a retired 75 year old Methodist Minister (he’s amazing on the phone).  Later, I attended a rally in Espanola where a group of low riders (wearing “Vatos for Kerry” t-shirts and I really want one) escorted a bus carrying the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a few other Hispanic leaders came to town.  I got to shake hands with Deloris Huerta and General Baca!
I spent today in Las Vegas (New Mexico, of course) phone banking and canvassing the town for potential volunteers and voters.  Although, I’ve had an altitude headache for two days I’ve never been more excited about this volunteer work.  It’s so important that Kerry wins this election but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years-what Margaret Mead said over 50 years ago is even more true today “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world-indeed it is the only thing that has.”
I’m feeling confident that Kerry is going to win on November 2nd but what’s equally  important is for all of us to decide what are we going to do on November 3rd.
Stay tuned for my next update on this novice’s grass roots campaign on probably the most important election of our lifetime…it really is.   (Yes, I sent in my absentee ballot before I hit the road.)
All my best,
PS (Californians don’t forget to vote yes on Prop 72!)
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