Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peace Man

Tom Blancato, 2003

There are many cabs at the Pittsburgh airport. But fate selected me to ride with Tom Blancato, chatty raconteur and self-described "probationer of conscience."

Not long before I met him, Tom had been arrested while protesting outside Fort Benning, home of what used to be called the U.S. Army School of the Americas. Between 1946 and 2001, when its name was changed to the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen trained there. No doubt some of them went on to do good work. But they were overshadowed by the ones who became notorious for their human rights violations. Manuel Noriega trained there. Some of Augusto Pinochet’s men, too. And the founders of Los Zetas, a mercenary army that protects one of Mexico’s large drug trafficking organizations? Yep, we trained them, too. Not for nothing did critics call this the “school for dictators.”

Tom’s business card describes him as "driver, activist, philosopher" and invites the rider to "talk about peace while getting there." When Tom arrived early the following morning to take me back to the airport, he came armed with hot tea and muffins.

If you’re going to Pittsburgh, need a cab, and are inclined to "talk about peace while getting there," Tom would be your guy. You might still be able to reach him at 412-606-4734.

1 comment:

  1. THAT is hilarious. I would have gotten a charge outta' that guy. Too funny. I love that he gave you hot tea and muffins. The world needs a few more Toms. Great photo, as always. As for the "WHISC," what a euphemism.