(Puppet Insurgency of San Diego sends envoy to protest.)
Here’s one role I never expected to play in life: organic intellectual. It’s when someone stays and works from within a community, instead of bailing when things get uncomfortable and difficult or trying to effect change from some safe haven.
It’s a term I picked up in some college philosophy class. I’d thought, hell, if the Sandinistas, the Nazis, Taliban, nay even corporate pantyhose pillagers are headed my way, I’m out of there.
But we didn’t move to New Zealand after losing the second election.
In fact, we moved to a highly conservative, traditionalist, Republican enclave, East County. We waded through streets lined with “Bush-Cheney” campaign signs, looking for a house.
The farther east, the cheaper the land, and the denser the Bush-Cheney signs. We landed 10 miles out from our beloved North Park and spanky-swanky Hillcrest neighborhoods, where I would never need play the role of organic intellectual.
No cul-de-sac utopia for me, thanks, I just needed enough land where my neighbors wouldn’t have to see things to pray about. A place for fruit trees, vegetable and herb gardens, a hottub to get naked in, a place to throw the kinds of parties that attract fruit flies like me. So we’re rural, with one acre, but still sort of in a neighborhood.
A liberal democrat not getting chased out of East County after seven years gets careless, fearless of pitchforks. I volunteered at a “Vote for Change” bake sale in downtown La Mesa.
This is Big Truck country. Trucks with bumper stickers like “NØBama” and “Men for Palin.” Some of them drove down La Mesa Boulevard and hissed, booed, even flipped us off, but even more brave souls came and bought cookies.
Then an editor from a new online rag, East County Magazine, asked if I’d help write for them. A fledgling independent media outlet, with undeniable progressive leanings working in the heart of “McPain” territory.
I would become that organic intellectual. And I would do it for free.
So, for starters, I covered a protest at a new, some would say “covert,” Blackwater facility in southeast San Diego, Otay Mesa. Several police cars had arrived at the protest site and officers chatted with personnel at the facility. Gradually, many of the black & whites wandered off: It was a protest organized by people like the Peace Resource Center, for gods sakes.
To get “the other side” I called Brian Bonfiglio, the Vice President of Blackwater out here. He pulled into a parking lot just to talk to me and didn’t get where he was going for a good half hour.
If a voice could swagger, Bonfiglio’s did. This is a guy who heads the kind of corporation that, according to Representative Bob Filner (Blackwater’s in his district), “shoots first and asks questions later.” A corporation that George Bush couldn’t run his entire war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan without, according to author Jeremy Scahill. I kept my questions solely on the facility, and not about the Nisour Square shootings, which the Department of Justice is busy investigating.
Blackwater’s here to help train the Navy, but the protestors didn’t like that after “kicking them out of Potrero, where they wanted to open a mercenary training camp” they “snuck under the radar” and opened a new facility under front names in Otay.
I wrote all about that. I enjoyed Bonfiglio telling me, “I’m sorry, ma’am, there’s nothing in this process that would require me or my company to call the East County Democratic Club! Come on! That’s crazy.” I probably laughed. Bonfiglio was forthright and forthcoming, a good interview.
—Tho the protestors’ concerns are certainly no laughing matter. They’re worried about a powerful military training organization setting up shop along a border bristling with tension and racism, a mile from Otay-Mesa border crossing, a mile from the nearest ICE facility (Immigration and Customs Enforcement—that’s INS to you and me, just a rebranding), with military equipment manufacturing in Mexico and allegations they want to work with Border Patrol and drug enforcement activities in South America.
Bonfiglio said if I walked in there, I’d see ship simulators and Navy simulation stuff everywhere. (Don’t forget the firing ranges, Bri’.)
He said, “If you had real press credentials and you represented somebody, I’d be happy to show you around.”
“I don’t have official AP press credentials, because I’m working for a very small East County magazine, so, not yet.”
“You give me that name and we do a little bit of due diligence to fact check, to be honest. I don’t even care if you’re for or against a company like ours. I don’t care if you’re democrat or republican. None of that plays into this. But if you’re legitimately doing a story for a legitimate newspaper I’d be happy to show you around.”
“I’m legitimately interested in all sides,” I said, “let’s put it that way.”
So Brian Bonfiglio offers me a flak jacket. How far does the role of organic intellectual go? Is firing a gun a form of fact-checking to see if the enemy is not within?
I hope to post some more pics from the protest that were too inflamatory for pitchfork-wary East County Mag.