SPECIAL SERIES : 2004 National Election
Lila Lipscomb Beyond "Fahrenheit 9/11"
October 25, 2004 1:11 AM
Since she became the emotional symbol of Michael Moore’s "Fahrenheit 9/11," Lila Lipscomb has used her voice to speak out against what she calls “an unjust war,” aiming to save the lives of the American troops in Iraq.
Lipscomb, who fully supports the government’s decision to invade Iraq in the beginning of the film, touches the hearts of many by the end, when she reads the letter her son sent her just before his death. The 26-year-old sergeant from Flint, Michigan, died in the crash of his Army Black Hawk helicopter in Central Iraq last year.
“Until you are personally affected you just don’t see things. You don’t know. I thought I knew it, but I didn’t,” Lipscomb said during a question and answer event in San Francisco’s Cowell Theater October 9.
The event was promoted by the People’s Opinion Project (The POP), a nonprofit education, awareness and advocacy agency that promotes international dialogue on cross-border conflict resolution and reconciliation.
Andrew Rice, a journalist and activist who lost his brother in the September 11 attacks, accompanied Lipscomb in the event, and also answered questions during a panel discussion to an audience of about 100 people.
“These two people are among the most affected by recent world-events,” said Ed Bice, the executive director of POP. “Their stories and others like them from people all over the world need to be heard."
Lipscomb has been invited to speak by organizations around the country, participated in rallies and joined organizations such as Military Families Speak Out.
“This is not a journey that I chose, but we have to try to do what we can to bring the truth to this unjust and to bring someone else’s child home,” she said. “And if I could bring just one child home to hold his mother and to let his mother hold him, than it’s all been worth it.”
The 50-year-old woman, who works as a special assistant to the president of a workforce development agency and has to take time off work to allow her activism, said privacy has become a precious thing in her life.
“When I go out to the store, people are looking at me,” Lipscomb said. “Sometimes they stop and say ‘is it really you?'”
Although her life and her political views have changed, Lipscomb still puts out her flag outside her home in Flint, as she does in "Fahrenheit 9/11." She still is proud of her country, she said, but she has lost the faith and the loyalty she used to have for the people who are leading it.
“I still ask myself ‘was all the greed and the need to control worth my son’s blood?’ I don’t think so,” she said.
“And I still say who are we that we would be so arrogant that we would dare go into someone’s home and demand to tell them how they are supposed to live, so that we can control them? How arrogant are we?” Lipscomb said.
Lipscomb is grateful to Moore, who she keeps contact with by e-mail. “The film is a way to open people’s eyes,” she said.
She has seen the film several times, but she avoids seeing the footage in which a bomb explodes near two U.S. soldiers. “To me, that’s my child getting blown up.”
Her husband, Howard, who supports and accompanies the wife in her activist life, avoided mentioning President George W. Bush’s name, as did Lipscomb. They referred to him as the “current administration,” “the appointed president,” and “the other guy,” who they hope does not get re-elected.
That also was the hope of her son, as he noted in his last letter to his parents, which Lipscomp reads in the film. “What in the world’s wrong with Bush, trying to be like his dad?” her son, Michael, wrote.
“My son was a soldier; he had a job to do,” said Lipscomb's husband, Howard. “And he did it to the best of his ability, but the only thing he asked for is to never put them in harms way unless it’s necessary. And I think that’s all the troops are asking for.”
Lipscomb comes from what she calls a “military family.” Her father and her eldest daughter — who now has a one-year-old son — as well as her uncles, nephews and cousins, have served the military.
“In my family it was an honor to serve this country,” she said.
Nowadays, she said she would not try stop someone she knows from joining the army if “that is really what they wanted to do.” But if her youngest son, who is now 23 years old told her that he wanted to join the military, she would not even consider it as an option.
“I have given enough of my children. And if there were to be a draft right now, that would not be an option for my children, none of my children, or my grandchildren,” Lipscomb said.
Lipscomb plans to continue to fight for justice until all of the troops are back home safe, and she believes that one day she will stand face to face with President Bush, so that he can look into her eyes.
“I’ll know what I’m going to say to him when he is in front of me,” she said.
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