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THE LAST HOURS BEFORE MIKE RUPPERT’S DEPARTURE FROM THE UNITED STATES
By, Carolyn Baker, Ph.D.
© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications, www.fromthewilderness.com. All Rights Reserved. This story may NOT be posted on any Internet web site without express written permission. Contact [email protected]. May be circulated, distributed or transmitted for non-profit purposes only.
Heaven is wondrous to those who fight for justice but severe to the oppressors.
August 29th 2006, 2:28PM [PST] - Thursday, July 13, 2006 was an exquisitely gorgeous summer morning in Northern California as I drove along Interstate 5 about two hours from the Oregon state line. I had never traveled that far north in California and was in awe of the majestic redwoods, Mt. Shasta, and a cobalt-blue sky. I had been driving from my home in the Southwest to Ashland, Oregon because Mike, who had relocated From The Wilderness there five months earlier from Sherman Oaks, California, had asked me to come to Ashland as soon as possible to discuss the possibility of working for FTW. Mike’s request had come about two weeks after the FTW offices in Ashland had been burglarized and after many phone conversations in which I listened while Mike unloaded emotionally about the physical and mental toll that the violent vandalism of the offices was taking on him. I had other plans for my summer. I told Mike that I would be happy to travel to Ashland after I had taken a previously-scheduled vacation in Colorado that was part of my yearly summer routine, but on Saturday, July 8, I was smitten by a powerful hunch that screamed in my brain, “Forget Colorado. Get yourself to Ashland as soon as you can!” Minutes later, I was on the phone telling him that I would be leaving the following Tuesday for Ashland. His response: “I feel so much better knowing that I’ll see you this week.”
Driving up I-5 that morning I had with me a diverse cache of music. I popped Enya’s “Watermark” album into the CD player and wound my way through the immense, magnificent canyons and allowed the rhythm, melody, and beat of “Orinoco Flow” to pulse through me to the verge of tears, grateful and humbled that I was able to make this journey, answer the call of my friend, and drink in this delicious beauty, serenaded by the musical genius of Enya. Little did I realize how significant hearing a song about the Orinoco River at this particular moment in time would ultimately become.
When I arrived at the FTW offices, I immediately noticed that it was located directly adjacent to the U.S. Forest Service, and my thoughts jumped to the revelations made by Mike in his DVD “The Truth And Lies Of 9-11” about the Forest Service’s past involvements in drug trafficking. The thought left my mind as quickly as it came, and before I knew it, I was in front of the main door of FTW. As I tentatively tiptoed in, I saw Mike behind his desk, intently engaged in phone conversation, and after he saw me, he motioned me to enter his office. In a few seconds, he was off the phone, and I jumped up to engage in one of our infamous bear hugs, normally attended by guttural, animal noises of bears fondly embracing and usually evoking in the observer’s mind: “What species are these insane beings?”. Instead, Mike’s hug was constricted and brief as he whispered, “Don’t say anything in this office; it’s probably wired. Let’s take a walk outside.”
We stood in front of the office, almost in the street, as Mike lit up a cigarette and exhaled an announcement for which I could not have been less prepared. “The message in the vandalism of our offices is very clear to me. It was: ‘Mike this a warning, and the next time, we’re gonna kill ya.’ In a very short time, I will be leaving the country to travel to Venezuela where I intend to live for possibly the rest of my life. I want you and Michael Kane to run the editorial part of the company. This afternoon, I am signing over Power of Attorney to a trusted lawyer here in the Ashland area, and Ken Levine, my agent and publicist, along with our current bookkeeper will manage the business aspect of FTW. Michael Kane is flying in tonight, and the three of us will be discussing how to proceed. I’m leaving most of my possessions behind because I can only take with me what I can carry. I will not be a martyr. I have given them thirty years of my life—I have gotten little back except death threats, sabotage, betrayal, and working eighty hours a week for the last eight years. My Canadian publisher of Crossing The Rubicon owes me between $38,000 and $58,000 that I may never see because they so far have refused to pay me. I’m tired of fighting, and I won’t fight anymore.”
An avalanche of questions and “yes-but’s” tumbled through my mind: How are you leaving? By plane? Do you have connections there? How can we be a company without you? I can’t just pick up my life and move right this second to Ashland; this is too fast! Don’t I need time to think about this? What makes you think I can do this job? How much danger will any of us be in?
In a few more seconds, as Mike was sitting at his desk, I was standing over his right shoulder behind him, furiously taking notes about how to find certain key files on his computer, frantically writing down phone numbers of important contacts, and then being asked to sit in his chair and edit the next story that was about to go up on the website. “Starting today,” he reassured me, “you’re on payroll.”
I don’t remember actually agreeing to take the job, probably because there was never any question in my mind to the contrary. Here was a dear friend, one of the most ethical people I have ever known, a man that I consider a towering genius on a number of levels, a man whose character defects, as well as character assets, I had come to know well in the course of our friendship. My admiration for Mike and my protectiveness of FTW rose to the occasion, and formal agreement wasn’t necessary. My focus now had to be: How will our team protect and preserve this company? How will we maintain the legacy of FTW? How will we vigilantly safeguard the standards of writing and political perspective that constitute the fiber of FTW’s stellar reputation?
Two hours later, I would witness the official signing of Power of Attorney of FTW from Mike Ruppert to another human being, a thought which a few hours earlier would have been anathema to me, and now questioning that person’s and my own ability to shoulder the tasks at hand, the words Mike repeated to me countless times in those hours reverberated in my body: “I wouldn’t have given you the job if I didn’t think you could do it and do it well.”
Today, I am writing this story because knowing the viciousness and brutality of the smear campaign that will inevitably be unleashed against Mike, I want to let the world know that as a former psychotherapist of seventeen years, I can attest to the fact that when Mike made his decision to flee to Venezuela, gave Power of Attorney to a lawyer of remarkable repute in Southern Oregon, and formulated his plan to leave the United States, he was neither depressed nor suicidal. Although he constructed his plan in a mere twelve days, it was a very long time in coming, distilling in his body and soul for nearly three decades. It is as if it had been moving under the carpet all these years and now could suddenly erupt because the time was right and people like myself were there to pick up the torch—feeling inadequate, I might add, but definitely there.
As one whose spiritual path includes the premise that we are all journeying through life only partially-sighted, that a greater Mystery guides our lives and destinies, and that part of our purpose in being here is to follow the Mystery and allow it to be our ultimate teacher, I resonated deeply with Mike’s spirituality, honed and refined from over two decades of 12 Step work. From that perspective, Mike was profoundly impacted by a visit the last weekend in June with Megan Quinn of Community Solutions1, Co-Producer of the inspiring documentary, “The Power Of Community”, the story of how the nation of Cuba survived Peak Oil. Megan had come to Ashland for a showing of the documentary, which occurred just five days after the burglary, and in the course of conversations over the weekend, as Mike shared the anguish of yet another attack on his work, Megan supported him in “living in the solution rather than living in the problem”, validating an option he had already been pondering: the possibility of moving to another country and continuing, even accelerating speaking truth to power, free of the constraints of the United States government and its relentless sabotage. Mike cited his conversations with Megan as pivotal in finalizing his decision to leave the country, and upon her departure, he began creating a plan.
On the evening of July 13, I rode with Mike to pick up Michael Kane at the Medford airport. Never having visited the Rogue Valley, I was enamored with its beauty and cool nights. In the post-twilight glow of a steel-blue sky, millions of stars were appearing, and Mike and I rolled along the highway with the windows down, bathing in the soothing evening breeze, the sweet fragrance of freshly-cut grass permeating the air. We reminisced about such nights in our youth and the safety we felt going to sleep in our beds as children when we heard a similar kind of train whistle as the one we were now hearing as we drove out of Ashland.
Michael Kane, a lifelong resident of Long Island, New York, has been an FTW writer for several years, contributed a chapter to Mike’s book CROSSING THE RUBICON, and had spoken at an event in New York City in April of this year where I had met him for the first time. Tired after a long flight, Michael had as little idea as I had had earlier that day of what Mike would be announcing to him. In another hour, as the three of us settled in on the upper deck of the home Mike was renting, covered by darkness and the comforting canopy of maple and oak tree branches above us, drinking in the soothing songs of crickets and the cool night breeze, Mike began quietly, but firmly disclosing to Michael what he had revealed to me some twelve hours earlier. But the flavor had changed. The ante had been upped as Mike took both of our hands in his, all of us crying together, as he told us that he might not make it, that his life was at stake, that we needed to be open to the possibility of his death, and that there were some personal items that he wanted us and others on the FTW team to have. My head began burning with tears and terror, yet I steeled myself against allowing the dam of sorrow to burst without restraint and managed not to do so for two more days. The plan was becoming more real every moment, and it was now clear that I must cherish these moments for the rest of my life—cull them, refine them, burn them into memory, savor them, and never, ever forget them. It was a long night with little sleep for any of us.
As we all stumbled into the living room the next morning and dropped onto the sofa in front of the TV, all hell was breaking loose in the Middle East. Conversation bubbled, and Michael and I both frantically took notes because we knew we would be writing stories on the breaking news soon, on our own, without Mike. Mike wanted us to go to the office for a short while that morning and do some final tasks regarding his departure. Michael packed two boxes of documents that Mike planned to take with him, while Mike cleaned out his desk for the last time. Before we left the office, Mike pointed to a baseball cap on the top shelf of the bookcase nearest his desk and said, “When that’s gone, I’m gone.” I nodded, again holding back tears, as the three of us left the office.
All of our moods varied from hour to hour—from silliness and the joy of being together, to the pit-in-the-stomach awareness that this may be the last time the three of us would be together for a very long time—maybe ever. Lunch time approached, and we were all hungry. Our mood at the moment was light, so we indulged in a tasty lunch at the best pizza parlor in town. As we finished our feast and prepared to pay the check, I noticed a bizarre sight in the parking lot—a female deer just wandering around. I asked Mike if the deer was a reject from a mid-nineties “Northern Exposure” set or if she was a casualty of land development. Mike’s response, “Welcome to Ashland where everything is just a little bit wild and untamed. Besides that, I consider this a positive omen for my decision.” As it turns out, he said, Ashland residents are quite accustomed to wild game occasionally running through the streets. I began fighting tears as I realized again how elated Mike had been to move to Ashland, relocate to a sustainable part of the country, and model a simpler lifestyle for his admirers. How he had wanted to just settle down in a quiet, gentle town like Ashland, run his company, and just have a life! But that was not to be his destiny as these waning hours of our time with him made so painfully clear.
Mike and Michael in Ashland
It had been a sizzling day in Ashland, and the cool breeze stirred like clockwork when the sun began to set. We sat on the deck schmoozing, and Mike said, “I don’t feel like going out tonight; is it OK if we snack on leftovers here?” I heartily agreed, and then he sat up straight, looked me in the eye and said, “I will be leaving tomorrow.” My heart plummeted to the pit of my stomach, and I asked what time. “Late,” he said. That evening we watched a movie and munched on cold pizza and drank beer. I didn’t know if I would be able to sleep that night, but much to my surprise, I dozed off and slept soundly until 6 AM Sunday morning.
Rising early, I drank my coffee in the silent, spacious living room, doors and windows open, the still-cool night air pouring in. This would be my last day with Mike for I dared not think about how long. About an hour later, Mike was up and about, and once again, we watched CNN’s coverage of what was now an escalating war, and Mike continued to give me information that he wanted me to write down about the office, about the world, and about the job I was taking on.
About mid-morning Mike said, “Well, I can’t take many clothes with me, but what I’m taking—I want them to be clean, so I’m going to do my laundry.” I fondly began reflecting on the “clean freak” that my friend had always been—making his bed immediately upon rising, keeping his kitchen immaculate, at least one shower a day, and always smelling like he had just applied fresh cologne. The lump in my throat was growing bigger, tighter, and exceedingly difficult to contain.
After he finished his laundry, he walked quietly into the living room where I was sitting and said, “I’m going to start packing now, and I would like everything to be quiet because it is going to be similar to a meditation—and very painful. I have to decide what to take and what to leave behind, and it’s going to be very difficult.”
“I’ll be here, and I’ll be quietly sending you energy. Just let me know if you need anything,” I said.
I moved out to the deck again because now it was completely shaded, and the surrounding trees felt extremely comforting. Tears began slowly trickling down my cheeks because I knew what was happening two rooms away: My friend was trying to decide which parts of his fifty-five years on this earth he was going to take with him and which he would leave behind. The trees seemed to be talking to me, re-assuring me and giving me the strength to walk with Mike until I wouldn’t be allowed to walk further with him.
About 2:30 in the afternoon, he came out of his room and said, “I’m going to open a bottle of wine and put on some music. I have to take a break from the heaviness of packing. ”
“Cool,” I replied, knowing only too-well that almost any music now would burst the dam of tears inside me, but this wasn’t my party; it was his last hurrah, and I’d be with him in it no matter what.
“Do you want to hear the album I wrote Rubicon by?”, he asked me.
“Of course! Did you talk about that in the book?” I asked.
“Well, I acknowledged Don Henley in the book, and it’s his album ‘Inside Job’ that I played incessantly as I was writing. He and Jackson Browne kept me company all the way.”
Suddenly, “Nobody Else In The World” came blasting off the CD player, and I read the lyrics for the first time.
“The first song on the album is about the United States,” he said. “A country that lives as if there were no one else in the world, yet completely dependent on the rest of the world.”
As Don sang on, we lifted our glasses of locally-harvested “Druid’s Fluid” red wine, and he began speaking his sorrow as I had never heard it before, interspersed with jokes, L.A.P.D. stories, and fascinating accounts of his travels around the world since 9-11. And then the song “Inside Job” silenced us both, and my eyes became riveted to the lyrics on the CD liner—Don Henley’s words not only implying what Mike Ruppert had proven in Rubicon, that 9-11 was an inside job, but also exhorting,
And it’s an inside job
To learn about forgiving
It’s an inside job
To hang on to the joy of living
And then the grand finale of the album—the song Mike said was his personal message to the world from the depths of his heart, “My Thanksgiving.”
“In case I don’t make it,” he said, “if there’s any kind of memorial service, I want this played.”
For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road that brought me here
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my thanksgiving.
For everyone who helped me start
And for everything that broke my heart
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my thanksgiving.
Mike may remember it differently, but I remember the two of us sitting at the table across from each other as Don passionately crooned these words, our singing the song together with gusto, smiling through our tears at each other, cherishing a moment in time that we had never shared before and would never share again. The album was over, and I had broken. My tears were unstoppable. Then Mike said, “I’d like you to go get your camera.” I was too distraught to ask why and after wiping my face and regaining composure, I brought my camera into the dining room where we were sitting.
“Now,” he said, “I’d like you to take a picture of me.” He turned away from me in profile pose and looked out onto the deck. I snapped the picture and proofed it on the screen of my digital camera then stood dumfounded as he said with a somber, stone-like face, “From this moment on, we will not hug, we will not touch, and we will begin to prepare. This is the way of the warrior going into battle—the way of a samurai. I must prepare myself.”
Preparing For Battle
For another hour or so, we listened to Jackson Browne, with more jokes, more L.A.P.D. stories, and more losing ourselves momentarily in the past, as if we were had been lifelong friends or siblings. Then the music ended, and I asked, “What time are you leaving?” Because of his concerns that his house, as well as the office, was bugged, he held up three fingers, and then said, “I need to get some sleep.”
“Do you want me to get up with you?” I asked.
“No, I need to do this alone,” he replied.
Within five minutes, Mike was in his room, the door shut, and I was on the deck again with a box of tissue, sobbing—this time, holding nothing back. I stayed on the deck for several hours, occasionally trying to watch TV, only to be bored and sickened by everything I saw. I allowed myself to commune with the trees, stare at the billions of stars overhead, and gradually cry myself into exhaustion. Before going to bed, however, I left a note on the dining room table, making sure to leave it in a place he could not miss, under his glasses. It read simply: “Godspeed, my brother.”
I was actually afraid that I might hear Mike get up and leave because it was the last thing I wanted to experience, but I didn’t hear him go and awakened quite naturally at 6AM. I slowly, tentatively walked to the dining room table where we had spent those last hours, only to find everything as it had been, stale wine in the glasses, CD’s still scattered on the table. I then walked into Mike’s empty room where the fragrance of his cologne, a perfectly-made bed, and torturous neatness engulfed me in the emptiness of finality.
That morning I arrived at the FTW offices early. I entered Mike’s office slowly, and with reverence and made certain to check, before anything else—the bookcase, and as I knew it would be, the baseball cap was gone. I could only imagine him standing in this office in the middle of the night a few hours earlier, picking up the cap, and saying goodbye to eight years of FTW and many more years of appalling struggle in service of truth-telling.
I had made a commitment to Mike and to myself that I would not leave Ashland and head back home until we knew that he had reached his destination. Knowing that I had to leave no later than Wednesday of that week, I threw myself into the work at hand and worried little about my exact time of departure. On Wednesday morning at 5 AM Ashland time, I was awakened by a call on my cell phone from Mike. Stumbling from my bed and finding pen and paper, I took down the name of a contact in Caracas, Venezuela who Mike knew but could not call or email before leaving because he believed that his every move was being monitored. He asked me to find the email address of that person on his computer and contact them as soon as I arrived at the office that morning, and he gave me the name of the hotel and phone number where he was staying.
I knew that his journey would not be a painless one and that he truly was going into battle, but I also had faith that my samurai-friend would survive and ultimately thrive. The fear in his voice that morning as he verbalized, “Oh God, maybe I’ve made the wrong move!” triggered fear in me, yet I sensed that he was going to be all right.
When I arrived at the office, I found three different email addresses for his contact and sent an email to each address. Somewhere mid-morning, Mike called me again and asked if I had emailed the person, and I told him that I had, but that as yet, I had received no reply. I emailed again, marking the emails “priority” and putting “urgent” in capital letters on the subject line.
At ten minutes before noon, Mike called again to ask if I had heard anything back from my emails. I told him that I had not but that I was going to call a number that was on his contact’s website. I called the number and was greeted by a friendly gentleman who told me that he was going to put me on hold while he dialed the number of the contact in Venezuela. In a few moments, the man came back on the line and told me that the Venezuelan contact was on his way to find Mike in person, and when I looked at my watch again, it was noon. I logged off the computer and left the FTW offices heading back to the Southwest, all the while staying in contact with Ken Levine, who will be writing his own story for FTW of his last hours with Mike, as he accompanied Mike to the airport to fly to Caracas.
In the ensuing weeks I have spoken with Mike almost daily on the phone as he has met in Caracas with a few ex-patriates from the United States, as he has begun Spanish classes, and as he is adjusting to the culture in which he now lives. I have listened to him unload his angst of culture shock, disorientation, and loneliness, but through it all, I also heard him becoming stronger. One thing I know for certain is that he is living in Venezuela—I dial that country every day to speak with him, and my phone bills indeed verify that the destination of my calls is Venezuela, not Ashland or Podunk, USA.
As I ponder his thirty years of harassment and attack by the U.S. government and the so-called progressives, ill-informed, who willingly join the chorus of defamation, I am most astonished by one thing: None of the attacks on Michael C. Ruppert have ever been delivered at the only level that really matters—the impeccably-researched, painstakingly-documented evidence that he has committed his life to delivering in the most ethical, thorough, fastidious, and intellectually sound manner. Little intelligence, critical thinking, or valor is required for National Enquirer-style cheap shots, lurid depictions, and ad hominem attacks. How do those begin to compare with the resolve of one human being to risk his life, his career, his financial security, and his reputation in order to uncover evidence which he has not only researched but onerously lived and experienced? Where are the scions of pristine journalism that will take on the tome called “Crossing The Rubicon: The Decline Of The American Empire At The End Of The Age Of Oil” which has now found its rightful place in the library of the School of Business at Harvard University? They are nowhere—or at least, they remain mute, apparently hiding behind the curtain of character assassination in vapid intellectual wastelands of melodramatic sensationalism. Refusal to engage with factual evidence and resort instead to tabloid tactics raises the most pivotal question of all: Who are the real people of courage? Who are the real cowards?
It is no longer night for the samurai, but sunrise—a new day for the one who has cried loudly in the wilderness for nearly three decades, only to have his words fall largely on deaf ears. He now lives and breathes and moves freely in a country where truth-telling is honored, where justice and cooperation are increasingly demonstrated, not merely mouthed as meaningless corporate media platitudes.
At this writing, Mike Ruppert is not only alive and well in Venezuela, but beginning to create a new life, settle in, and has recently published on the FTW website, his historical 5000-word statement regarding his departure. Meanwhile, From The Wilderness has re-affirmed its commitment to publish not only what is certain to be an outpouring of writings from Mike, but quality stories and analysis that cannot be found elsewhere. It is a new day for FTW, as well as for Mike. You, our readers, do not have the deaf ears on which Mike’s words have so often fallen. You have listened, supported us, and at times, challenged us when we needed to be challenged. We are here for you, and we thank you for being there for us.
Listening to Enya on that beautiful July morning, I had no idea of the new meaning that I would soon find in her all-too-familiar words. Today, I hear them in my mind for the first time, and forever more, when I hear them, I will think of Mike and the journey he began on July 17, 2006, a journey I was privileged to be a part of.
“Let me sail, let me sail, let the Orinoco flow.”