By Betsy Rothstein - 05/02/07 05:48 PM EDT
I don’t see myself that way. I think other people do. I just do what I have to do every day. My goal is not to be a role model for other protesters; it’s just to end the war in Iraq.
How many times have you been arrested?
How much hate mail do you get?
Not nearly as much as I used to. Probably one or two a week. I used to get several a day.
Did you ever have your life threatened?
Yes, my life has been threatened.
Do you have bodyguards?
I don’t have bodyguards, no. Sometimes when I go to a certain place they provide security.
Have you met President Bush?
I met him about 10 weeks after Casey was killed, in Washington state at Fort Lewis.
And what did you think of him?
He was a pretty shallow person. He offended our family several times in the meeting.
By saying what?
He went over to my daughter, Carly, and told her, ‘I wish I could bring your loved one back to fill the hole in your heart.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, so do we.’ She said he gave her the dirtiest look she had ever received from another human being. He called me “Mom” the entire time. He would never say Casey’s name. He called Casey “the loved one.”
So it was a tense meeting.
It was tense because we wanted to challenge him on the war, but we decided as a family we weren’t going to do that. He would always change the subject if we tried to talk about Casey.
Tell me a little about your childhood. Where did you grow up?
In a suburb of Los Angeles called Bellflower.
Were your parents politically involved?
Not in the least bit.
What did they do?
My dad was an electrician and my mom didn’t work outside the home.
What did you do before the war, before you became a protester?
I stayed home with my children until Casey was 10. My youngest daughter was 3 and then I went back to school. I was going for a degree in history at UCLA, but my husband transferred his job to northern California. I never completed my degree. We got involved in our parish and I became the youth minister. Before Casey was killed, I had gotten a job with the county in Napa with Health and Human Services.
Are you friendly with any members of Congress?
I’m very friendly with many members of Congress: John Conyers, Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Dennis Kucinich and Jim McDermott.
Who are your favorite politicians?
I like them all equally.
Let me try and narrow it down. I’ll tell you who my least favorite Dem is, and it’s Hillary Clinton.
She has been an unflinching supporter of George Bush’s war. She thinks she has to act like a Republican to win this election.
Has anyone famous reached out to you?
Yeah, definitely. All the time.
There’s a movie in progress about Camp Casey [the encampment of anti-war protesters outside Bush’s Crawford ranch] and Susan Sarandon is going to play me. When I talked to Sean Penn he said he wanted to be in it. He said he and Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were up all night one night talking about it. Graham Nash, Willie Nelson and his wife are some of my best friends.”
Wait, I have a question about Nelson. He was recently arrested for marijuana possession. What do you think of that?
He has been arrested more than once for that. Even though I don’t partake in that I think it should be legal. I can’t be judgmental about it.
Has he offered you any?
No, he never offers anybody any. He does it for his own personal use. He knows even though I don’t do it I don’t judge him for it.
Who would you like to be president?
I would like somebody like Dennis Kucinich to be president, someone who has never given George Bush the authority to attack any nation.
But his chances are not good.
And that doesn’t dissuade you?
You said who would I like. That was my answer. Dennis’s wife is a bright, intelligent, caring human being, too.
What prompted you to create a makeshift camp in a ditch three miles from Bush’s ranch?
On August 2, seven Marines from one unit were killed. The next day, 14 Marines were killed from that same unit. On August 3, ’05, I was so frustrated by the lack of progress in this country.
So you woke up and said to yourself, “I’ve got to do this”?
I was typing an e-mail venting my frustrations and I was going to leave the very next day to go to Dallas. The thought just popped into my head: Why not drive down to Crawford? I didn’t even know where it was. I just knew it was in Texas.
Is the loss of your son still hard for you?
Every day is just as hard as the first day I found out he died.
I read that you had fantasies of suicide and revenge against Bush. Can you explain?
I didn’t have fantasies of suicide, but every night I took sleeping pills and every night I had to use all the strength I had to not take the whole bottle. I think suicide is the ultimate selfish act. The thing about George Bush is right after Casey was killed, I was watching a TV show, “Outer Limits.” This lady went back in time and her assignment was to kill Hitler. I thought, What if I could go back in time and hurt George Bush? I could never kill anything. I killed a kitten one time — I accidentally ran over it and it destroyed me for a month.
What do you think of protester clothing? It can be wacky, no?
I’m not going to judge anyone. I always have a skirt and a protester shirt or jeans and a protester shirt.
Some people call you crazy — does that bother you?
Well, no. I think maybe if a qualified psychiatrist examined me and came up with a diagnosis it might bother me, but no, it doesn’t bother me.
Where do you live?
I have a home base in California and I have my property in Crawford, Texas, about five acres for the Camp Casey Institute. It’s eight miles away from Bush’s ranch. I don’t really want to stay in the city I live in because I live with my daughters and I don’t want their safety compromised. [Bush’s] place was actually a pig farm.
Do you think that’s kind of ironic?
I think that’s very ironic.
What do the neighbors think?
Well, some of my neighbors are supportive, some are apathetic and some are against us. Texas people are very polite and most of the people in Crawford are polite even though they don’t agree with us. We have had a bucket of fish heads dumped on the driveway, but I just thought that was the Crawford welcome.
How do you earn a living?
Well, my personal expenses I get through my book fees and speaking fees, but I don’t charge to speak every time.
Is it enough to live on?
Yeah, it is. I live very simply. I don’t require a lot.