"I feel scared for the future of the country"

North Carolinians of all ages and backgrounds marched against the looming war with Iraq. We asked them why.

| February 19, 2003
Patricia Garrett-Peters
Patricia Garrett-Peters
- Alex Maness
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Patricia Garrett-Peters, 38, of Durham, a child development researcher at the Center for Developmental Science at UNC-CH.

We've begun to question our government a lot more, especially since 9/11. I think a lot of things have come to light. We've become a lot more active in finding out the motives for other people's hatred of America--my friends and family and all.

This is actually something that's come up just since Sept. 11, when we've become, I think, more conscious politically and socially. And we were not before. My husband and I, my family, my parents, my sister, her boyfriend, everybody, we've just begun a lot more discussion about it since Sept. 11 and what were the motives for it. There just wasn't any discussion of it. Any time somebody commits a crime, we ask what were the motives for it, and I think that we didn't do that, our media didn't do that, didn't make it apparent that these are things that should be questioned.

It's hard for me to know [if other people are asking the same questions] because, as we've become more politically involved, we surround ourselves with others who are like-minded. We read CommonDreams.com and The Independent some, and other kinds of more liberal media, you know, and that gives me a false sense that everybody feels the way I do. Because we don't typically get exposed to people who don't feel like we do.

I remember when Bush won, I couldn't believe he won. I was really floored by that, because everyone I talked to wasn't going to vote for Bush. ... It was scary from that point on. I felt more uncomfortable with our government from that point on, I think. And the nature of the information that was released to the public.

Part of the problem is that we're so easily fed information without looking further [at] the source. And the major networks may have their own agenda for presenting information, and certain kinds of information. And in order to be informed and a responsible public, we really have to take extra steps to be aware of what's going on and how we're perceived in other countries. But I'm afraid people are just too willing to sit in front of their TVs and listen to the news and not question what they're hearing and the motives for presenting information in a certain way.

That's one reason we're here today. Because we can't talk the talk and not walk the walk. And if we feel this strongly about something, we have to show up and support it. We can't just sit at home and talk about it on our couches in the comfort of our own homes. We really need to come out and show our support for these types of things.

I'm scared more than angry. I feel scared for the future of the country. My main concern is that the public is just so willing to accept the information that's fed to them. It's easier to do that than to take extra steps to get a full understanding of what's going on.

Andy Silver, 61, an epidemiologist from Hillsborough, who was washing an American flag.

I've done this in Washington, I've done this in Durham. I've carried this to every demonstration. Norman Thomas, a socialist candidate for president in the 1930s --he was the Ralph Nader of his day--was asked what he though of burning the flag, and he said that's not a good idea. But the flag does need to be washed. What Bush is doing is piling a lot of crap on our country, on the flag, and on our Constitution.

Betty Ann Knudsen, 76, former chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, who came with her husband, Pete Knudsen, 77.

I go to St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Raleigh and we have established a peace fellowship and we wanted bumper stickers for our cars. I'm the one who arranged to have these printed. We're selling them for a dollar to pay for the cost of printing them. I've got a thousand of these and I've only sold 100 so far.

I'm an activist. And my husband and I have a son who lives in Cairo, Egypt. He's building a brand new city between Cairo and Alexandria. We've got tickets to go visit him on March 6. I'm concerned about him and I'm concerned about traveling. I think if we start a war on Iraq that all American citizens abroad, no matter what country, are going to be at risk for attack.

I'm excited. I really didn't expect this many people."

Gloria Winston Holloway, 42, a program associate with a nonprofit in Raleigh, who came with her 9-year-old son, Winston.

I came out because I wanted my son to witness a true peace rally, and to see all people of different races, ethnicity, sex, all people coming together in a common cause. Everybody's really on edge about this, and this is one good thing that we can do and witness.

I want him to know as he grows older, he's got to stand for something. He's very young. He doesn't know about what happened in the '60s. But this is his time, his age, and he can look on this as he grows up and say, I was part of a history, a moment where people stood for peace. He's also going to take this back to his class and give a presentation. This is a true form of education that at this point in his life is more important than any book he'll open.

The spirit here is so powerful. I'm so glad we're here.

Sister Gretchen Reintjes, 69, a nun with the Sisters of St. Joseph order in Greensboro and a longtime activist who works with refugees.

I tried to keep up. I'm very glad to be here and I'm terrified. I'm very scared for our country and our national conscience. As a country, we're going to have a terrible guilt, something like the Germans have. I think it's highly immoral what we're doing, and it has nothing to do with the Gospels.

Jacquelyn Cephas-Abram, 48, Fayetteville, mother of three, former Army staff sergeant, came to the march with Fayetteville Peace with Justice.

I'm a veteran and I know they are taking away all of our programs. I just want to be here to say, 'I support the soldiers.' Because when they get back, there won't be any services for them. I'm a Gulf War veteran. I worked at Fort Bragg in supplies as a staff sergeant. Anybody with Gulf War syndrome had it really hard. I have my other reasons for being here too--women, children, the elderly, I'm concerned about them, too. Innocent people are going to die. In the military, you do what you have to do. You really can't stand up. A lot of people go in because of the economy. It's not that we disrespect the president. I don't want anybody to get the wrong idea that we don't care about our soldiers. It just feels wonderful to be here. It's important. Those soldiers, they've got to come back!

Tina Plummer, 41, Fayetteville, factory worker, mother of three, member of Fayetteville Peace with Justice.

"I'm here because it's the right thing to do. It's good for the soul. And it's a treat to be around a group of like-minded people. It's inspiring! A lot of times, you're perceived as being unpatriotic for doing things like this. It hurts your feelings. My father is retired military; my son is in the Navy. I just don't ever think that violence is the answer to our problems. Sometimes I get mad about being in the minority. It makes me sad that people are so ignorant. I also belong to a group that works against the death penalty [People of Faith Against the Death Penalty] and we knew after Sept. 11 that there would be some problems. This group formed in October (2001) because we felt there needed to be a voice against any violent retaliation. It was just a natural outgrowth.

Neil Stewart, 18, Enloe High School student, plans to study art in college.

I'm against civilian casualties and against the pre-emptive use of nukes. I think it's awful that that's what this administration wants to do. I'm also completely against Bush as president. I've lived in Kentucky, New Mexico, Florida and here. I was in Florida shortly after the election mix-up. So Gore really did win. I'm here because of the horrifying factor of how Bush wants to approach this conflict. I do think Saddam needs to be dealt with. But not the way he [Bush] wants to. There are lots of people against the war at my school. Quite a few more of them should be here today. We had a major discussion in our sociology class about this. My parents are pretty active, but my siblings are sick so they stayed home.

Emily Rhyne, 14, Enloe High School student, Raleigh.

I'm a pacifist in general. I understand it's not possible to have no conflicts anywhere. But there's not enough of a reason to go killing thousands of people. It's the civilian thing. I'm not particularly frightened--this is North Carolina. I don't expect to be bombed. I feel more of a dread for the people over there [in Iraq]. I don't really talk about this much with my family. I mostly talk about it with my friends. My parents are liberal but they don't feel like they have enough information. My dad is unconvinceable

Steve Levine, 61, of Hillsborough, an East Asian specialist who teaches at UNC-CH.

What I see is a global outpouring of resistance against a war that seems totally unnecessary and that most of the world has rejected. Saddam Hussein is an awful tyrant, he's inflicted an awful lot of damage on the people of his own country, but there are unfortunately lots of regimes like him as well around the world, and if we try to remove him by force, it's also going to cause more damage, and it could also blow up the whole Middle East.

I think if there was a real, imminent threat to our security there, which I don't see, then something would have to be done. And if there were, there would be a genuine international coalition to get rid of him. But the reactions in the United Nations suggest that most of our allies don't agree with us, most of the world doesn't agree with us. And this is just an unnecessary war. I think it's going to come, but I think we've got to try to stop it anyway.

I have a feeling that the folks who are running our country are just going to go ahead and steamroller [us], and say that they know better than the world does. That's my feeling.

Pete McDowell, 60, of Carrboro, retired, former executive director of Democracy South.

The good news is the war is not inevitable after the latest meeting at the U.N. And after the demonstrations around the world today, it's going to be even less inevitable. And I think that'll be really energizing for the peace movement, because there's something we can do now, there's a feeling that we can make a difference.

The pressure needs to be kept on now, and just what form that will take, I don't know. Is there going to be another mass demonstration in two weeks, or a month? Probably a month. And I think there are going to be a lot of creative things that towns and counties and states do. You have everything from yard signs to people buying billboards and bus signs and resolutions from cities will go sweeping across the country. All that's going to be really pushed, and I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on Democratic candidates out there like John Edwards, who's way out on the wrong limb on this.

What I really like about this is, there's an awful lot of creativity being shown about what people are doing these days, you know? And all the web stuff. People are more informed than they ever have been now. I mean, what I didn't know about Vietnam. I got to be really good on Vietnam, but it wasn't like I could download 10 good things every day!

The other thing that's interesting is the whole media scene, and how incredibly narrow the mainstream media is getting. I mean, even PBS, they'll take one guy from the Brookings Institution. ... Mainstream media is exposed for the narrowness of what they're putting out there, because there's so much alternative media out there.

For instance, Colin Powell saying that Osama bin Laden latest speech means he's hooked up with Iraq--I mean, total, exposed overnight, but not on the mainstream media.

Charles Jarrell, 47, a carpenter from Rocky Point.

I have a 19-year old son. I have a vested interest in this. This is my first anti-war protest. No, I take that back. I did go to an anti-Vietnam War protest when I was 17, 18 years old.

I'm mad. I'm mad as hell. I think the war's over oil, and any idiot can see that. And oil's not worth dying over. Why not go ahead and let the United Nations do their thing. On a day to day basis, I'm frustrated, because like I said, I've got a 19-year old son, that boy's never been in a fight in his entire life.

Mark Thrift, 46, of Burgaw, a carpenter.

We're just hunters and fishers. We're just country boys from North Carolina. We felt compelled to drive the 125 miles it takes to be here just to be part of the headcount. We felt strongly enough just to show up. You could say I'm mad. Upset. I mean, what would bring anybody out to drive 125 miles on a Saturday that they could be spending elsewhere doing something they enjoy to do?

I feel strongly enough to be here. The last time I protested was when Gov. Jim Martin was trying to site a hazardous waste incinerator in Pender County and I came up and did a little lobbying against that.

I'm here for his kids. I'm more Democrat and definitely liberal. I'm a sportsman too. I dove hunt, and rabbit hunt and fish, and I enjoy that too. I live in the swamp in North Carolina. But, this has drawn me out of the swamp to come here and make a statement.

Judy Smallwood, 79, a former artist-in-residence in the Wake County schools, who went to the rally with 20 people from the Carol Woods retirement center in Chapel Hill who are part of a group called "Elders for Peace."

I have seven grandsons and I don't want them to go into a war just to take care of one man. They're all of the age that they're draftable. I think we'll have the whole rest of the world and the Arab world and Europe against us. And we don't need to encourage that kind of feeling. We need to be friends, not enemies. We need to let the UN go in and do their jobs. I was a freshman in college when Pearl Harbor was attacked. We were attacked. We were bombed on our soil. and we all felt the terror of that, the consequences, of what could happen. They (Iraq) have not attacked us.

Ziya Gizlice of Raleigh, who was at the protest with his wife, Kala Parker, and their two children, Ayla, 6, and Selen, 2 1/2, of Raleigh. Gizlice is a statistician with the state Division of Public Health who was born in Turkey and is a U.S. citizen. Parker is a technician in plant pathology at N.C. State.

I'm against the war. I want America not to build muscle, but build nations that are rich, to help poor nations develop. I don't believe this administration. I think the inspectors found out that what Colin Powell said to the U.N. was not true, and I think this administration has a huge credibility problem. Iraq is 6,000 miles away. Why do we need to go to war?

Saddam's a dictator. That's a different matter. I'm here for the Iraqi people.

As a Turkish born American, I don't feel like neighbors like Turkey are being threatened by Saddam or Iraq, and I don't think other neighbors feel threatened. This war makes the relations between neighbors, the relations between nations, Turks and Arabs--forget about Saddam and the Turkish government, but Turks and Arabs--strained. I think that's the bad thing about this approach. EndBlock

Betty Ann Knudsen and her husband, Pete.
Betty Ann Knudsen and her husband, Pete.
- Alex Maness
Gloria Winston Holloway and her son, Winston.
Gloria Winston Holloway and her son, Winston.
- Alex Maness
Sister Gretchen Reintjes
Sister Gretchen Reintjes
- Alex Maness
Andy Silver
Andy Silver
- York Wilson
Jacquelyn Cephas-Abram
Jacquelyn Cephas-Abram
- Alex Maness
Tina Plummer
Tina Plummer
- Alex Maness
Emily Rhyne and Neil Stewart
Emily Rhyne and Neil Stewart
- York Wilson
Steve Levine
Steve Levine
- Alex Maness
Pete McDowell
Pete McDowell
- York Wilson
Ziya Gizlice and Kala Parker with their children, Selen  
    and Ayla.
Ziya Gizlice and Kala Parker with their children, Selen and Ayla.
- York Wilson

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