By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
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Like Sarah Gwaltney, Frank was inspired by the protest. But rather than start a high school club, he considered martyrdom. He said he wanted to go to Baghdad, and if the bombs come, his country will have to kill him too. Several Americans are already in Iraq for that same reason. "I'm willing to die for this cause," Frank said.
I had no doubt in my mind that he was telling the truth.
After we said goodbye to Frank and the rest of the Port Charlotte crowd at the Cracker Barrel, I sat with Evonn Gibbs, the woman who first called me days before the trip. Gibbs wasn't ready to die for the cause, but she was ready to break the law. She said she was thinking of covertly slapping peace stickers on unsuspecting SUVs in parking garages. Some might call it vandalism, but Gibbs called it guerrilla political action.
The protest, she said, took away her fear of being an antiwar outsider, a traitor to the Bush administration. Basically, she's finally come to grips with the president's famous ultimatum -- and she's against him.
Finally, as the bus cruised east on Alligator Alley, I spoke with Sheila Bath for the first time since she left for the Vietnam Memorial during the rally. She was still flying with the angels and told me of several websites where I could read more about it. She didn't make this stuff up, and she's not alone in her beliefs. Iglesias joined the conversation, saying she too was a "Spiritist" and believed in reincarnation and "karma banks."
Her past lives give her understanding and empathy for all people, she said. One of her dreams is to go to Palestine and stand in front of Israeli tanks. "What is going on there is killing a part of me," she declares.
Bath was more dogmatic about supernatural forces than Iglesias. I couldn't help wonder what might have happened in her life to cause her to have such radical ideas. She provided a clue. Out of her purse, she pulled a piece of paper with a pencil rubbing from the Vietnam Wall: "John M. Bath."
So that was why she left the rally. Bath said she was 11 when she found out her big brother had been killed in an unjust American war.
"I saw what war did to one family, and I think of the hundreds of thousands of people who die in wars, and it hurts me," she said. "It hurts all of us. It hurts the family of man."