None of this turned out like I thought it would; when I was a little girl I dreamed of becoming a big Hollywood movie star. I thought it would be glamorous and sexy. I took the scenic route to Tinsel Town via a four-year stint as an Intelligence Analyst in the Air Force back in the late 80’s. When I got to Hollywood, I folded up my uniform and worked steadily.
None of what I’d learned about Soviet troop movements or the National Security Agency’s listening prowess ever served much purpose in my civilian life; but suddenly after 9/11, everyone wanted to know what I thought of the attacks and the imminent Empire-Strikes-Back move we all knew was coming. I started to question my role as a citizen about the time that Bush and Cheney rallied their war cry. I’d never spoken out against anything, especially the government. I moved around so much growing up that it was always more important to fit in, than to express my disagreement. But this time, I had to do something.
The first rally I attended was on February 15, 2003, in Los Angeles. My heart was pounding but I was surrounded by big people, small people, moms, babies, beefcakes, plumbers, freaks, lingerie clerks, homeless guys, black, white, Hispanic, Asian American, veterans, metrosexuals, and hot Hollywood babes — and the only thing we had in common is that we all agreed that invading another country, hastily and without sufficient intelligence, would be wrong. I stayed for a half an hour. I was so nervous and I didn’t know anybody, but there I was, on Hollywood Boulevard, living the dream, not exactly the dream I started out with, but a dream nonetheless.
And then I guess I became what my hometown folks would call a “full-blown hippie.” I went to all the rallies, spoke out loud and traveled across the country in a van full of crosses for the Arlington West Memorial. So yes, I did sleep in a van and went a couple days between showers, but I still cried during the Star Spangled Banner, loved my mom, apple pie, and Bluegrass, so I wasn’t a hippie? Was I?
Then in 2005, I camped out in a ditch in Crawford, Texas, with Cindy Sheehan (whose son died in Iraq), Col. Ann Wright (who resigned her position in the US State Department on March 19, 2003 in protest of invasion), Ray McGovern (a former CIA Analyst who’d served seven US Presidents). When I met these notable American I saw their deep disappointment in the way the Bush Administration had handled the entire operation, and that girl, the one who never spoke up for fear of not being liked, she died in Crawford, Texas. I saw that regardless of what my right-wing parents and my brother who was still serving in Navy thought, I had to speak up. I offended some people with my ranting and I started to truly understand the fundamental value of our US Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and I began to cherish these documents above any other, even the bible.
In the summer of 2006, while digging dinosaurs in Wyoming, I gave up God and all of my previous identities: the actor who wanted to be famous; the soldier who believed what her president said, no matter what; the Catholic who believed if she prayed hard enough that god would fix it; the student who thought if she got straight “As” then she could figure it all out; and the lover who thought if she just loved him harder then he would love her better. I simply stopped waiting for some outside entity to save me.
I looked down and all I had was my pocketknife, dirty fingernails, the exposed tip of a Triceratops rib, the setting sun, the sum of my actions and the present moment. The cool thing about digging dinosaurs is that everything is reduced to the bone. You brush, blow and pick carefully, until all that is left is the framework of what is true.
Who knows? Maybe my personal excavation over the last eight years has revealed that I was a peace-loving American hippie all along? I know one thing for certain; I thought it would turn out differently. I thought it would be slick, polished and shiny just like the magazines and movies promised; but no, it’s been stinky, messy and uneven.
I thought it was about being known and accepted by others but I finally realize that I’m blessed and sustained by the good company I keep and for the rest of my life I will continue to take action in a creative, nonviolent, humane way, that I will be proud to tell my grandchildren about and never again will I silence myself and that’s enough.
by April Fitzsimmons
Republished with permission from The Mad As Hell Club, where it first appeared on , 2008.
April Fitzsimmons (Woman of Mass Distraction) is a writer/actor/activist living in Los Angeles. After a brief stint in a Montana slammer she joined the Air Force at 17 and became an Intelligence Analyst during the Cold War. A visit to the National Security Agency changed her forever and she high-tailed out of the classified world with a bevy of no-good secrets and an honorable discharge and headed to Hollywood. She crewed several films and wrote a book called Breaking & Entering, about how to land your first job in Film Production. After 9/11 she joined Veterans for Peace and wrote a solo show called THE NEED TO KNOW that has run for six years in LA. You can see articles, essays and show times at her website: www.aprilfitzsimmons.com April Fitzsimmons welcomes your comments. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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