Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

GROWING RACISM IN ISRAEL



About 60,000 African migrants have arrived in Israel since 2006, fleeing unrest in their home countries. But upon arrival in the ostensibly democratic country, the migrants have faced intense persecution and have been branded as "infiltrators" by right-wing politicians and activists.

WALKING FOR EACH OTHER & RESTORING OUR FAITH IN HUMANITY

Drumming and chanting outside Bath Iron Works (BIW) while waiting for workers to get off work
The peace walk ended today as we visited Bath Iron Works 

We did a walking tour along Bath Iron Works before gathering to vigil

There is alot to write about from our last two days of the peace walk.  I've yet to get any photos from our wonderful ceremony inside the state capitol in Augusta.  I'll post them when I can.  We had an astonishing entry into Augusta yesterday - cars were honking at us like crazy - it felt like the circus was coming to town.  People asked me why we had such a great response as we walked to the capital.  I'm not sure, maybe the public thought we'd come to liberate them from our right-wing Gov. LePage.  Maybe they'd heard about the walk and wanted to let us know they agree with us.  Anything is possible these days.

Artist Natasha Mayers met us at the capital building front door with loads of her big colorful pieces of drone surveillance art props that she used last summer in her local July 4 parade.  Big eyes spying on people inside a shower curtain, laptop keyboard hooked up to the NSA - stuff like that.  The pictures will tell the story.

A hundred folks came to stand in a circle with us inside the Hall of Flags at the capital.  The Buddhist monks (we were joined by two more monks for the 14 miles walk from Belgrade on Friday) led us in chanting as we began our final program.  Speakers were Kathy Kelly, Tarak Kauff, Shenna Bellows (former ACLU director in Maine and now candidate for the Senate against Susan Collins), and Lisa Savage.  Songs from walkers were included in the program as well.

After the event was over we walked to the nearby offices of the Mediation and Resource Center where we had a supper and a time for shared reflections on the walk experience before settling down on the carpeted floor for the night.  Then this morning we were up early and made the drive to Bath to prepare for our final vigil at BIW.  There was supposed to be the "christening" of the new "stealth" destroyer today but it was cancelled due to the government shutdown.

We walked from the Addams-Melman House in Bath down the hill to BIW at 10:00 am this morning.  We walked past the entire shipyard so everyone could have a good look at it and then came half-way back and set up a two-hour vigil outside the BIW administration building.  The monks led us in chanting and drumming until 11:00 and then we began a program of speakers and singing right up until the noon shipyard whistle blew and the weekend shift workers began streaming out in their trucks and cars.  They are used to seeing many vigils there but today was different.  We had alot more people today than usual, we set up on both sides of the road, plus we had these monks dressed in their bright robes. 

Once the BIW workers passed by we walked back to the house and had a wonderful lunch that Karen Wainberg had prepared for everyone.  The house was full of people and we all had mixed feelings (I wasn't the only one a bit sad) as others expressed that they too did not want the walk to end.

I helped clean up the kitchen after everyone had left but then finally had to come up into my office and sit down.  I soon fell asleep in a chair while trying to write this post.  I am dog tired but my heart feels full of love and I feel a great sense of satisfaction.  This is now my eighth such walk (seventh that I have organized) and I'd never been able to walk every step of the way because I usually have many responsibilities that kept me from always walking.  But on this journey I was determined to walk each and every one of the steps.  Miraculously my feet, which usually are in severe pain when I walk long distances, did not give me nearly as much trouble.

I loved this experience for many reasons.  The hard work that so many of the walkers shared to help with all the many tasks of shuttling vehicles, lugging things around, preparing food for breakfast and lunches, speaking and singing during our evening programs, and more made this event a joy to be a part of.  We had no real problems and everyone got along so well.  It was a living and breathing community of love and deep concern and I am certain that the public that saw us along the highways of Maine could feel it as well.

We directly reached many tens of thousands of people.  We handed out hundreds and hundreds of flyers along the way.  One man in a rural area near Belgrade took a flyer I offered him.  He was putting out the trash and shook my hand and thanked us and said, "You are doing a good job.  Keep going."  Maybe he had seen the article in his local paper about the walk or saw us on TV.  It often felt like people did know who we were as we came into their community.

We were walking about drones but the message was bigger than just that and I felt the public understood that too.  We were saying that there is a better way for our nation and the people who honked, or waved, or flashed peace signs seemed hungry to connect with us.  We gave them hope.

One of our walkers, a young man named Jason, told me his faith in humanity was restored by the walk.  So was mine.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

WHAT A HUG CAN DO



One of the young Japanese men on our peace walk, named KO, showed me this video tonight.  I loved it and asked him to send me the link so I could put it here.

ALL DOWN HILL NOW


We did 17 miles today from Waterville to Belgrade.  We are staying at the country home of a group of great activists who work on water and other environmental issues here in Maine.  Not long after we arrived Tarak Kauff and Mike Tork, key leaders in national Veterans for Peace, pulled up.

While we were taking a break along the road today a young woman jumped out of a car and bowed to our group.  We recognized her from yesterday as we entered Waterville.  She was at a gas station and as we passed by she stood with an unforgettable look on her face - near tears.  She was wearing a fancy blue dress with blue heeled shoes.  I handed her a flyer and she thanked me.  As it turns out she is part Japanese and went on the Internet and found our walk route schedule and joined us for a couple miles.  She was chattering the whole time in Japanese to the various members of Nipponzan Myohoji.  Just an example of more walk magic.

The house we are staying at tonight is ripping with energy right now - crowded but full of excitement as our numbers swell.  I've been hearing all day from folks who plan to join us at the state capital Hall of Flags tomorrow at 3:00 pm for our closing ceremony/rally/news conference.  I am expecting that it should be a fun day.

Years ago in Florida when I organized the 700-mile Walk for the Earth from the Everglades to the state capital in Tallahassee we asked people to come and walk the last mile with us.  On that final day 500 people showed up for the closing walk.  We won't have that many folks tomorrow but we'll have a nice crowd to share the experience and hear our great speakers and the music.

I am starting to feel just a bit sad as I contemplate the end of the walk.  It's such a wonderful feeling of community that having it end is not what I really want.  I feel so lucky to be with this incredible and dedicated group of people.

MORE ON RELAXED WEAPONS SALES STORY



In a boon for military contractors, the Obama administration is relaxing controls on military exports, allowing some U.S.-made military parts to flow to nearly any country in the world with little oversight. ProPublica reports that beginning this week, thousands of parts for military aircraft can be sent freely around the world, even to some countries currently under U.N. arms embargoes. Previously, military firms had to register with the State Department and obtain a license for each export deal. That allowed U.S. officials to screen for issues including possible human rights violations. But now, tens of thousands of items are shifting to the Commerce Department, where they fall under looser controls. The changes were heavily lobbied for by military firms including Lockheed Martin, Textron and Honeywell.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

WALKING TO END MILITARY MADNESS



  • We walked 12.6 miles from Farmington to Waterville today (had to shuttle a bit because of the long distance.)  After our lunch stop at the half-way point our support mini-bus would not start and we had to have it towed to a repair shop.  Don’t yet know what the problem was.  Going to likely cost us an arm and a leg for the towing and repair.
  • A man named Mike from Cape Elizabeth, Maine showed up this morning to join us for the rest of the walk.  He read one of the articles in the paper over the weekend and decided he wanted to jump in with us.  Good to know that the media we’ve had is having an impact.  Kathy Kelly arrived in time for supper tonight at the church in Waterville. Mayor Karen Heck of Waterville also came to the church to welcome us and told us she issued a proclamation at their city council meeting last night in support of the walk. 
  • Our hosts tonight are Mark Roman and Lisa Savage who win the prize for most hosting during the walk.  This will be the third night they signed up to take on the host duties.  They’ve really given all they have got and more to the effort. (They were both also responsible for arranging the mayor's proclamation.)
  • While we walk the military industrial complex and their dark agents continue apace.  I read today that the Obama administration is loosening controls over military exports, in a shift that former government officials and human rights advocates say could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world’s worst conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions. Under the new system, whole categories of equipment encompassing tens of thousands of items will move to the Commerce Department, where they will be under more “flexible” controls. U.S. companies will also face fewer checks than in the past when selling some military aircraft to dozens of countries.
  • I just told Veterans for Peace member Jules Orkin about the bit above and his response was, “Wasn’t that Obama’s campaign slogan – yes we can?”  It’s confirmation of the horrid decision to hollow out our country and turn us into the “security export” bit role players.  We’ll make weapons for conflicts in regions where diminishing natural resources are located and then use those conflicts as an excuse to send in the troops to bring “stability” and, for good measure, a little bit of “democracy”.
  • Many of us have been noticing that the public appears to be more receptive to our message than on previous walks.  We’ve concluded that people are waking up from their deep sleep and starting to realize that we've been shafted and the clamp is ready to come down.  The ultimate question is whether the public will turn toward a fascism, that offers easy answers and scapegoats those who challenge them, or will they recognize the corporate take over of our nation for what it is and move toward non-violent resistance.  By walking we like to think that we offer the people an alternative vision and sign of hope.  Time will surely tell which way the hammer will swing.

SINGINGEST WALK EVER

Of all the walks I've ever been on this is the most singingest walk I've experienced yet.  We've had incredible singing during breaks and evening programs.  Here is just a sampling by two of our Japanese friends. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

THE MAGIC OF THE WALK



We were walking along today from Mercer to Farmington when a big green bus zoomed by us.  I noticed it said Bread & Puppet on the back.  Then minutes later the bus had turned around and pulled into a parking lot in front of us.  A bunch of young people jumped out and they immediately began unloading band equipment from the rear end.  Soon we had the Bread & Puppet marching band leading our walk.  They played When the Saints Go Marching In and Down by the Riverside as we continued walking.  Then they apologized saying they had to get on to do a show someplace and headed back to their bus.

It is things like this that keep happening during these walks....magical moments.  Guaranteed to be one or more each day for sure.

We walked 14.4 miles today and had a wonderful pot luck supper at a church in Farmington.  The event was hosted by Veterans for Peace co-founder Doug Rawlings and our walkers were divided into various homes for the night.  I am in a log cabin in the woods (with Internet connection) somewhere eight miles from Farmington.

Tomorrow we head to Waterville.  We've been picking up more people as we go along, today three more full time walkers joined us.  More are expected to come onboard in the next days.

We are asking people to join us in Augusta at the capital Hall of Flags on Friday, Oct 18 at 3:00 pm for our closing ceremony/rally/news conference. Kathy Kelly, Tarak Kauff, and Shenna Bellows will be among the speakers.

You can find the entire walk schedule here

PHONES TO DRONES



Global Network board member Loring Wirbel (Citizens for Peace in Space) speaks during Keep Space for Peace Week forum in Colorado Springs.

Citizens for Peace in Space and the ACLU sponsored a forum at Penrose Library called "From Drones to Phones high tech warriors break the law" on Tuesday October 8, 2013.

This is part 1 in which Loring Wirbel explains the budgets and technology involved.

"The U.S. intelligence gathering apparatus now includes civilians throughout the world as potential enemies. Everyone is considered a possible obstacle to having the most efficient "kill chain" possible."
"Full Spectrum war knows no bounds." - Bill Suzlman

"The forum stressed that many lesser-known intelligence and military agencies as big or bigger than NSA - National Reconnaissance Office, Joint Special Operations Command, Cyber Command - remain secret with missions that are just as scary. They need to brought into the light." - Loring Wirbel

During the week of October 5 - 12, dozens of groups around the world who make up the Global Network of groups dealing with space issues organized various activities.
See: http://www.space4peace.org/ to view the list.

On Friday October 11, they held a vigil outside Schriever AFB, the home of the Space Warfare Center and think tank for current and future high tech war planning and execution.

On Saturday October 12 they held a vigil at Minuteman III nuclear missile silo N-8 in Weld County Colorado. N-8 is one of 49 such sites in Colorado on 24/7 alert. They joined groups from Denver.

You can watch part 2 here

Monday, October 14, 2013

GOOD MEDIA COVERAGE


We walked along the Kennebec River yesterday as we approached Skowhegan.  The colorful fall leaves on trees overhanging the narrow road made for a picturesque moment.  We took a break at a beautiful park on the river and as we were preparing to leave a reporter from the Waterville newspaper stopped to interview us.  The same story ran in four papers (Portland, Augusta, Waterville, Brunswick) across the state this morning.  You can find it here

The Bangor Daily News also has an article today.  See it here

We've been doing better than one could expect with the media so far on the walk.  Our goal to bring this important issue to the public is being achieved in a good way.

It just goes to show though that if you get out and do the hard work - walking and reaching out to people across the state - that you can in fact make some level of impact.

Last night, just before our pot luck supper began in Skowhegan, I played the video (just below on the blog) from TV coverage we got in Old Town.  The Japanese were thrilled to see themselves appearing on American TV so quickly during the walk.

Build it and they will come.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

NO TO DRONES IN MAINE




We arrived at the Skowhegan Community Center around 4:00 pm today after a 13 mile walk.  We left Bangor with 30 folks and walked 6.3 miles out of the city.  Ten folks from Bangor then bid us goodbye and we shuttled 40 miles ahead on Hwy 2 heading west and had lunch along the road.  Then we walked another six-plus miles into Skowhegan.

Yesterday when we were walking thru Orono a Native American man named Gkisedtanamoogk heard us drumming as he was washing dishes.  He teaches peace studies and Native American history at the University of Maine-Orono.  He came running after us and decided to walk the rest of the way with us into Bangor.  Then this morning, as we gathered at the Peace & Justice Center in Bangor, Gkisedtanamoogk showed up and walked the entire day with us.  When I asked him how he was going to get back home he said "I'm gonna walk".  Then he laughed and said his daughter will come get him after our pot luck supper and program.  During a break today he told me, "When we align ourselves with the energy of life we might just have a future....some people just don't know how to live."

Morgana Warner Evans (West Bath, Maine) also showed up this morning.  She's been active with our local activist community for several years but went off to college last year.  This coming week is her fall break from school and she decided to walk with us the rest of the way.  She brought her guitar and beautiful voice which we immediately put to work by having her sing during a break this morning.  She will sing in our program tonight.

We will also be sung to tonight by the Buddhist Monk Kineda-shonin and a young Japanese woman who is walking with us.  They have both previously sung to us but they are so good we can't get enough of hearing them.

The Monk Gilberto Perez, who just last week was on Jeju Island, joined us last night and during our program tonight will share about his experience being in Gangjeong village in recent days.  You might remember a photo of him I posted on the blog where he was sitting at the Navy base front gate holding a sign that read "Yankees Go Home."

Lisa Savage and Mark Roman are hosting the walk the next three nights - two nights here in the Skowhegan area and then in Waterville as well.  In fact they've got the Mayor of Waterville to invite Mark to come to their city council meeting next Tuesday night and the city will issue a proclamation welcoming the walk. 

Lisa and Mark have even lined up a massage therapist for this evening and she is got a long line of our folks waiting in great anticipation for their chance to lay on her table and get their aching body attended to.  Life on the road so to speak.

SUNDAY SONG