James and John Pitocco
If you’ve ever “honked for peace” in downtown Sacramento, chances are you’ve encountered James and John Pitocco. These bearded twin brothers can be found on the corner of 15th and L streets every Sunday, blasting music from a boombox and holding signs that show their displeasure with the war on terror. When I met with the Pitoccos just a few blocks from their Sunday stamping grounds, I got an earful on not just the war, but also American politics in general, and learned that these brothers are far from a couple of clueless hippies.
What inspired you to commit so much time into protesting the wars?
John: The startup to the Iraq war was based on a bunch of lies by the Bush administration, and you could see it clearly. We just couldn’t let it go by without doing something about it.
James: We would come down here before the war started and protest with hundreds of other Californians. And we’ve been doing it for eight years, just trying to get people to think a little bit.
What is the general reaction of passersby?
John: Every time we protest, 95 percent of reactions are positive, but there is certain fringe that doesn’t agree with us and are very vocal.
James: There are some people who just want to come up and start arguments, because they want to get us off that corner. … When we were up in Mendocino County protesting, we had stuff thrown at us, and people will assault us, but you just grin and bear it and just deal with it.
As the wars grow even more unpopular each year, do you get more and more positive reactions?
James: Yes, and I think even before the decline in popularity, there’s always been that constant of a lot of people [who] feel we are going the wrong way as far as the wars are concerned. [Barack] Obama ran on the premise of actually bringing the troops home, and as soon as he got in. … [But] the Pentagon and the Republican and Democratic hawks in Congress started pushing him and saying, “Don’t be a wimp; let’s go.” And now we’ve escalated.
Speaking of President Barack Obama, what do you think of his overall performance so far?
John: Totally disappointing. He ran as a progressive, and he’s turning out to be a middle-of-the-road Republican. He had all kinds of people across the spectrum who really wanted change, and then he just sat on his hands and was afraid to push a whole series of progressive changes.
What in particular is disappointing to you?
James: Take health care. He actually ran in the primary talking about single-payer health care. Then, when he got elected, he totally ignored single-payer health care. … Our senators and congressmen and about 8 million federal employees have had single-payer for 40 years. It’s a very good system, but the Democrats and Republicans don’t want Americans to have it.
What’s your opinion on the California governor’s race?
James: We hope Jerry Brown wins. We hope Californians aren’t stupid enough to believe someone can buy the governorship. [Meg Whitman] really doesn’t have legs to stand on. She’s run a company and, really, who wants to see the state run like a business when you see what Wall Street did to this country?
What initially got you interested in politics?
James: Growing up during the Watergate years. … The summer of ’75, we got credit for sitting and watching the Watergate hearing on TV in summer school in North Canton, Ohio.
You’re a long way from Ohio. What brought you to Sacramento?
John: We had an older brother who was at [Sacramento] State and, at that time, tuition was just about zero. You had to pay for your books, but for state colleges, it was free for a resident. … They’re making universities only for the wealthy now, when the mandate was to make it for everybody to have a chance.
Do you intend to keep protesting until the wars end?
John: Even after the wars end, we’ll still be out there probably protesting the phony war on terrorism, because there’s a lot of BS being put out by this government, even under Obama. He said we was going to change a lot of things Bush had done to tear apart the Constitution, and one of the worst is the Patriot Act. Yet when he got in, he rubber-stamped reupping the Patriot Act and all of its restrictions on our civil liberties and civil rights.
Do you think enough people pay attention to these issues?
James: We don’t. That’s why we’re out there. All we’re trying to tell people is, look how beautiful Sacramento is. Look how nice it is here. You can go riding your bikes, doing whatever you want to do. Think about placing yourself this Sunday in a war zone. Think of the soldiers driving in those Humvees and hitting IEDs. Think about soldiers that aren’t even being shot at, but still under pressure. Not a lot of people in this country are sacrificing anything for our wars.