Tours of 2001
Country Music Highway and The Trail of Tears
Country Music Highway
Country Music Highway Tour
We met with Art Gish in Athens, Ohio, where we joined him, and a group of others, for a "Peace Protest" downtown. While we found what happened on 9/11 to be a tremendous atrocity, I had written a column for the Lima News saying the response shouldn't be to start bombing in Afghanistan -- and putting a lot of innocent people in harm's way. What made more sense, to us, was to send Special Forces in to try and get Bin Laden and bring him to trial in an international court.
During the protest in Athens, I told reporter Jim Phillips from the Athens News that what we so cavalierly refer to as war's inevitable collateral damage are: moms, dads, little kids...
In Athens, I also talked with Amelia Hapsari, who was filming a documentary on Art Gish's life. She told me modern Western media was prompting a deteriorating of sexual mores and a marked increase in violent acts and materialistic pursuits, not only in her country, Japan, but all around the globe.
In Athens, I also gave a talk to the Appalachia Peace and Social Justice Committee meeting. I said our administration would push for a U.S. Department of Peace that was funded as much, if not more, than the U.S. Military. (This Department would be all about pro-active peace building on many fronts.)
At Pikeville College in Kentucky, I met with professor Kay Hardesty. He teaches about "restorative justice." Why some prison sentences are too long, he said, and why some of the prisons are short on rehabilitation, is because society simply doesn't prioritize rehabilitation as much as it could.
In Kingston, Tennessee, I met with Paul Hughes -- who refers to himself as somewhat of a "country music historian." He said country music came, primarily, out of Appalachia and the ballads reflected peoples' current circumstances at the time, like coal mining.
In Bristol, Virginia (the purported "Birthplace of Country Music"), we went to the Country Music Museum. We learned there that in August of 1927, Victor Records sent a talent scout to Bristol to record some local artists. From these sessions came two of country music's early break-out stars: The Carter Family, and Jimmy Rogers. (Rogers is referred to as "the Elvis of his time.")
Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears Tour
In 1838, the U.S. began the removal of some 17,000 Cherokees from their land in North Georgia to a destination in Oklahoma. Some 4,000 Cherokees died, including many children, on this forced march. It has come to be known as: The Trail of Tears. We retraced some of those agonizing steps.
In North Augusta, South Carolina, half-blood Native American Tina Grover said: "The White man took the Native American spirit."
We stopped at Chattanooga, Tennessee, on a bank of the Tennessee River. There is a statue there of Cherokee Chief John Ross who was with his people on this fateful march. One of the U.S. Volunteer Militia Men would write later of the march: "I fought through the Civil War and saw men shot to pieces and slaughtered by the thousands' but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I've ever known."
In Scottsboro, Alabama, we met with Ken Kifer. Kifer said that while the Native Americans demonstrated tremendous respect for the environment, we haven't. He pointed to global warming as an example. Doing his best to curb this, Kifer has logged a phenomenal 100,000 miles on his bicycle and has started a web page (www.kenkifer.com) to inspire others to ride more.
In Florence, Alabama, I told a newspaper reporter that not much (in-depth information) is mentioned in the history books about the atrocities with the Native Americans. "That's because the victor always writes the history books," he said.
In Florence, I also talked with Leah Beth Bryson who was home from college for a break. She said as an elective for high school, she wrote a paper on the Trail of Tears and was absolutely stunned by how cruel it all was. (Ms. Bryson was also a columnist for the Lambuth University school paper and interviewed me for a column about the campaign.)
I met with Don Davis in Savannah, Tennessee. He's has been tremendously helped by the state's "TennCare" health care program. He needed a $20,000 pacemaker, was working at a low income job and had no health care insurance. TennCare picked up the tab.
Further along the Trail of Tours, we came across a group of bicyclists on a mission. Firefighters from New York were on a "Thank You America Tour" because of the outpouring of help after 9/11.
I was interviewed by a reporter in Selmer, Tennessee (where the firefighter bicyclists had gone through). I said those New York firefighters (who were hurriedly scribbling social security numbers on their arms so their bodies could be more easily identified) epitomized the zenith of courage on 9/11.
I stumped in Pat's Diner in Selmer (home of the "Slug Burger"). I didn't order one.
In Forrest City, Arkansas, I was interviewed by a reporter for the local paper. In talking about past atrocities to Native Americans, he said he'd read that the U.S. actually gave some Iroquois smallpox laden blankets.
We visited the Cherokee National Museum in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. In the museum library there are more than 4,000 books on the Cherokee.
We stopped at the Osage Indian Reservation in northern Oklahoma where we met with Monte Roubideaux. He said he believed reparation to the Native American should come in the form of more grants for college, or vocational schools; better and more affordable health care on the Reservations; and an end to discrimination in the workplace.
I told the Reservation newspaper in Powhaska that I pledged our administration would try to honor Monte Roubideaux's requests. It's the right thing to do, I said. That simple.