By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Presidential peace candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the scheduled headline speaker, backed out at the last minute, but there was plenty of political star power — Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, for instance — and the fact that Kucinich was scheduled at all is significant. This is a group who went for George Bush by a 3-1 margin.
“If Bush came to speak at this event, he’d be booed today,” said Dr. Mohamed Auwal, a CAIR board member. “On the issues that matter to us, from civil rights to Iraq, he and his administration have been a disappointment. We are waiting to see who the Democrats put up.”
“Does that include Senator Joseph Lieberman?” I asked.
“We’re very similar, the Palestinians and the Jews,” said Fadwa El Guindl, a USC professor. “If it weren’t for politics, we’d get along. After all, we’re the same people, you know?”
Things heated up considerably with the appearance of Imam Siraf Wahhaf, all the way from Brooklyn. A large, boisterous African-American gent in flowing white robes, he was a huge contrast to the generally low-keyed procession of Californians who proceeded him. He began his pitch, as good speakers do, with a little joke about reading the wisdom of Britney Spears in Timemagazine — the dancing thrush gushed over unconditional support for Bush policies, “because he’s the president” — and contrasted her thoughts with General Wesley Clark’s remarks in the same periodical about fighting in Vietnam to protect the rights of Americans to protest whoever the president was. This led to a passionate parable about Martin Luther King Jr.’s donation of his Nobel Peace Prize money to the civil rights cause in 1964, and segued into the imam’s main purpose, shaking the tree to raise CAIR’s goal, $500K. “Dr. King donated $54,000, can someone in the house match his donation to CAIR?” he asked. Amazingly, the imam was able to persuade four attendees to pledge just that, exhorting the faithful with tak-bir and hamdi-hillah (“thanks to Allah,” “bless you”), like something right out of Reverend Ike. With pledges that ranged from 25 grand to $280, CAIR managed to raise $487,000. In George Bush’s America, maybe the night wasn’t so out-of-the-ordinary after all.
To Live and Die in L.A.
The 24-Hour Insurance Nurse is typing over the phone: “Severe pains in chest and back . . . nausea . . . numbness and tingling in left arm . . . dizziness . . . sweatiness . . . ” More typing, followed by a beep. “Our recommendation is for you to hang up and dial 911.” She pronounces it “nine-eleven.”
“Is it okay if I drive myself?”
I wonder if I’ve watched too much TV. I wonder if I will be stricken at the wheel and crash the car through the glass doors of the ER. (Just like on St. Elswhere!) The sign at Huntington Park Hospital reads: Emergency Room…Let us park your car for you! I pull up by a gauntlet of Latino men wearing white shirts and black pants, who only acknowledge my existence when I am two inches away. “Who is the patient?” one of them asks.
Wave of a finger. “Over there. Parking garage.”
Locking my car, I realize I’ve lost my parking ticket. If I die in there, I won’t have to pay the $20 penalty fee.
In the waiting room, 10 or so people, blacks and Latinos, sit with their sick children or by themselves. A little girl with a dandelion of puffed hair talks into the pay phone: “…and then he sat on me and punched me a coupla times and hit me in the head and strangled me.” I am called back before all of them.
The room is small and white. I tie on my hospital smock and lie down on the cold butcher block paper. The people come through like well wishers: a guy from the front desk (“Uh, were you able to complete that form?”); a Latino woman from Minnesota who wheels in the EKG and tapes the cords down to my chest, arms and legs with metallic sticky Post-it notes; a woman named Meredith who sprays nitroglycerine under my tongue like it’s a cologne sample, then gives me baby aspirin and tells me to chew. Meredith smoothes my hair back and tells me that they’re going to come and take my blood and that all the tests should be ready in an hour and then we could decide where to go from there. Then everyone leaves. I lie on the gurney, eyes wide open. I look up at the digital face of the heart monitor and watch the lines loll lazily up and down to the beep. In the hallway, people stare in as they shuffle by. I arrange the features on my face to show a brave and dutiful acceptance of fate.
I call my better half on my cell phone, then hang up, realizing she is at a play and has shut her phone off. I call my mother in Wisconsin but it is already two hours later there and she is in bed and has shut hers off as well.
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