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On Meeting Dahr Jamail
Written by Travis Bishop
Early September 2009, while sitting in the Bell County Jail, Belton, TX
When I started this journey that I’m on now, and i was asked if I wanted to “go public,” I said sure, not knowing how public it would get. Not that I’m not grateful. I’m wonderfully grateful. The support I’ve gotten has been enormous and I am truly grateful for it.
But then names start to get thrown at me. Different people from various blogs and newspapers were interested in interviewing me, and I tried my best to talk to them as much as i could. At that point, I was not familiar with Dahr Jamil, or his body of work. I had never read his articles or books. Some hollered blasphemy! (Jokingly, of course), and they made sure that I read his articles and least started his book.
I did both. What I discovered was a man who was passionate about his craft and who approached that craft with boldness and tenacity. Actually, I thought there was even a hit of swagger in his book! If you’re not familiar with Dahr Jamail, visit his website (Dahr’s website URL goes here), and see what I mean. Here is a man who risked his career, and even his well-being, in the pursuit of that elusive creature called “Truth in Journalism.” So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered this man had an interested in my story!
The interview was birthed through email correspondence, graduated to a few text messages, and when the time finally came for the phone call, I was nervous. Ten seconds after I answered the phone, however, I realized there was no need to be nervous.
The voice on the other end of the line was not what I expect of of a journalist. Previous interviews had been dry and sometimes accrid. Purely fact-finding, strictly question-and-answer based. They had the same stale quality of an archaelogical dig. When I heard the voice the other end say “Hey Travis, what’s up man?,” I knew this interview would be a litle different.
It was a pleasant interview. Not too long or too short. Definitely not dry, not like some other interviews I had. And when it was over, I realized that it been a pleasant conversation as well. All in all I came from that interview feeling like my message would be lost at all. It felt good. I thought that would be the end of it.
Far from it. The day before the trial I met the man himself.
His demeanor was pleasant. His words always seemed to be carefully chosen. His voice had an air of confidence behind it. Here was a man who strived to tell the truth even ift it meant occasionally sticking it to the The Man, which he was totally capable of doing. Just like I thought . . . pure swagger.
It was our last gathering at Under the Hood Cafe. All the usual suspects were there, along with two guests of honor: Dahr Jamail and his longtime friend and photographer, Eric Thompson. Needless to stay the coffeehouse was a frenzy. Here were two men who battled everyday for the truth, and how to bring that truth to the public, and they were gracing us with their presence!
To me it brought back memories of kindergarten and first grade, when you met cops and firefighters for the first time. When you are that young,it feels almost as if you’re meeting mythical figures, Goliaths, who battled for Truth, Justice and the American Way. All you have are questions upon questions, and open ears listen to stories from far away places and you know in your heart that you have no stories to tell that can even remotely compare to theirs.
But I quickly realized that these Goliaths failed to realize their mythic stature. Or if they did, they did a very good job of finding it.
You could tell right away that they were about as normal and down to earth as you could get. We all ordered pizza, we shot the shit, Eric and Dahr ribbed each other about inside jokes we all wished were privy to.
And when the topic finally came to my upcoming trial the next day, they seemed genuinely concerned and interested. When I heard them the statement I planned to make, they listened intently and afterwards told me that they loved it. What really threw me for a loop was when the two Goliaths told me they applauded and appreciated me. I was never expecting that.
The talking and B.S.’ing carried on into the night and the next day. Trial day. Nothing prepared me for looking behind me in that courtroom and seeing Dahr, Eric, and many friends, new and old, sitting in silent support. The image is forever burned in my mind.
After I was found guilty, there was a final gathering outside the court building, before my sentencing. It was a magnificent thing. A gathering of my friends, showering me with support. I will never forget that moment. Ever.
Eric said that was the start of something huge. Dahr said that his is just us teeing up the ball for something much bigger. And they’re both right. This is just the begining. And now I’m truly a part of it. I know that my friends will be right there with me, every step of the way, and now I know that the two Goliaths will be too, ready to again fright for Truth, Justice, and The American Way.
Dahr Jamail. Eric Thompson.I am truly truly humbled and honored. Proud to call you my heroes and my friends.
Up, up and away . . .