From Lawn-Boys To B-2’S: America’S Penchant For Mowing ‘Em Down

Posted on Wednesday, March 14 at 11:44 by Anonymous
Without further adieu, I give you the interview with Mike Palecek: 1. Readers will note with interest that you went from being a seminarian to being incarcerated in federal prison. How would you explain this ostensibly glaring contradiction? "Well, first off, I would say being a seminarian isn’t actually so great and being a federal prisoner isn’t actually so bad. And going from one to the other is perhaps a natural progression, that is, if you are paying attention. If not, then, the progression is to parish priest and bishop, I suppose. That’s all very cocky and vague, sorry. Well, I went first on a long drive in my dad’s ’59 Chevrolet and my dog, and a cowboy hat I bought in Fort Collins, after graduating from college, suppose it was everybody’s big journey to find themselves on a truth-seeking adventure. I ended up sitting in a monastery in Oregon. I suppose I just drove past and went up and started asking question. They said I couldn’t keep my dog, so I went home, back to Nebraska. I later parked the car on the curb and walked up to the rectory at our church and turned myself in, to the church, said I wanted to go to seminary. I mean, I remember being feverishly trying to find out what to do with my life, maybe it was for years, months, I don’t remember. And maybe I came to the point that this is where it all lead. I do remember the thought crossing my mind that I thought the priesthood was going “all the way”. My mother was very Catholic, going to Mass every day. I think my dad just went along. I’m sure part of it was that I knew I would be making my parents happy. Okay, then I went to seminary up in Saint Paul, again with dad’s car, dog stayed at home, cowboy hat, too. And, well, Fr. Dan Berrigan(a) came to speak at Macalaster, a college in the same neighborhood as St. Thomas. I went over there, met him, he came over to speak at St. Thomas, and the things he said about the church, the United States, the gospel, all lit a fire inside of me. I’m sure I also fell for what I perceived as the glory of being a religious outlaw. I went to Washington, D.C. over Holy Week break, the Berrigans were there, lots of relatively famous people that I didn’t know were famous at the time. I saw Fr. Carl Kabat(b) pour blood on the White House of Jimmy Carter, started reading, asking questions, finally left seminary, went to prison, went crazy, went home. Anyway, I surely would not have had to leave the seminary to do these things. I don’t think I would have anyway, so it was not really a progression, but for me personally I see it as coming from learning, studying, maybe grace, who knows, to go from the seminary to prison." 2. Given your obvious disgust with many aspects of the fascist nation in which we live, how did you reconcile representing the Democratic Party in your bid for US Congress in 2000? "I don’t see the contradiction. Okay, I’m trying to be clever again. I really do. Let me try to explain. I was more of the anti-Democrat candidate. As a child I remember asking my parents in the kitchen one day what we were. I knew we were American, Catholic, but were we Democrat or Republican? This was during Nixon, Kennedy, I think, but that would put me in kindergarten. Well, maybe kids talked about those things then. Anyway, we were Democrats, I learned. As a protester in the 1980s in Omaha I despised the Democratic Party. Actually, I also despised other protesters, the ones who did not “risk all”, go to jail, kept their liberal ideas and their lives intact, while I was losing mine. Anyway, I lost my mind in prison. We left Omaha, came to Iowa. One reason was that Ruth and I wanted to find a good, nice place to raise our two children. Well, we went to Minnesota for that first, then Iowa. And for many years I did mostly nothing as far as protesting. I was a stay at home dad, trying to write novels, and had an early morning paper route. I would read about the local congressman and one day I thought, I can do this. See, this is an overwhelmingly Republican district, so not many Democrats even want to run. I thought that by running, getting on the ballot, I could get the things that I thought were important on the table. And so, I need to start cutting these answers down, that’s what I did. I got on the ballot and tried to talk about prisons, military, immigration, which I saw as the most important things. The Democratic Party did not embrace me, not at all. I think I embarrassed them. At least, I hope I did. They did and still do wish to put their ear out the window to find out what others are thinking and talking about and then make that their issues, rather than searching their hearts and making that their issue. When I first ran, well, my mother had just died, I had some money from that, and I used part of it to buy a full-page, back cover, full-color ad on Easter Sunday in the Sioux City Journal. It said something like, Iowa’s Democrats say, shut down the 185th [Iowa’s National Guard unit in Sioux City], kill the death penalty, welcome Mexicans, shut down prisons. That’s what I thought Democrats should say, so I said it for them.

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