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, January 03, 2015

Back Home from South Country


Just got back home from trip to Georgia and Florida for the new year's peace protest and retreat.  After the events I made a stop in Graham, Florida to visit the tree farm where my office was during my time on staff with the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice.  Old friends John & Martina Linnehan are living there now and keeping the organization going with their current focus on sustainable living.

I also went to nearby Gainesville where I lived for 10 years before moving to Maine and had dinner with long-time peacenik friends Julie Netzer, Miriam Elliott, and Eve & Richard MacMaster.  Mary Beth and I used to attend Eve's church where she pastors (Church of the Brethren).  I'm not a big church goer but Eve delivered the best sermons I ever heard from any religious leader on a week-to-week basis - she really did not mince words in her opposition to US endless war making and social justice issues.

Eve is also well known in Gainesville for having done sort of a public cleansing outside the so-called "church" of fundamentalist Terry Jones who wanted to burn stacks of the Holy Quran a few years back.  His church was located outside of Gainesville and Eve and others help drive the racist charlatan out of their community.

So Julie, Miriam, Eve and Richard took me to my favorite Sonny's BBQ in Gainesville (miss that fried okra and beans).  We had a grand time and it was wonderful to see these dear friends.

Then like magic one of my longest time Florida friends, John Hedrick, just happened to call our house in Maine while I was in Florida so he drove down from his home in Tallahassee to the land in Graham and took me back to Jacksonville yesterday.  John and I met in 1980 and organized many campaigns on public transit, low-income issues, anti-war, and opposing coal burning plants over the many years while we both lived in Orlando.  So we had a great unexpected reunion over lunch and the drive to Jacksonville.

I flew in and out of Jacksonville and stayed at the home of Quaker friend Al Geiger and his daughter Wendy.  They live on a farm near the airport that was purchased by his grandfather just after the Civil War (1870's) for less than $5 an acre.  Three generations of Geiger's have held the farm together which is not an easy task.  In the old weathered barns on the farm are old Model T cars and trucks and wagon wheels made by hand.  The family still gathers to cut sugar cane and make cane syrup which I got to taste on some pancakes while in the state.

I don't miss the heat and humidity (nor the reactionary politics) in Florida.  But I do miss my many wonderful friends there as well as the old oak, pecan and cypress trees with Spanish moss hanging from their limbs.

Back home in Maine it is snowing now - a nice welcome to the north land.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Space Alert Now Available

The latest edition of our Global Network Space Alert newsletter is now available online here
 
It takes a bit of time to load since it is such a big file.

It's now being printed and will be in the mail to members soon.

We are happy to supply folks with multiple copies for distribution in your community at no cost other than reimbursing us for postage to mail it to you.

If interested let us know how many copies you could use and we will send them to you ASAP. Just send your street mailing address and numbers wanted to globalnet@mindspring.com 

Thanks for your help in spreading the word.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Peace in the New Year!



Checking in from the Crooked River State Park next to the King's Bay nuclear submarine base on the Georgia-Florida border.  We vigiled at the front gate of the navy base yesterday as workers were going home.  I handed out quite a few leaflets to drivers as I stood in the concrete strip in the middle of the road in the lane exiting the base.  Folks had to wait at a traffic light so it was hard to avoid me.  About a dozen of us were spread out on various corners with signs, banners, and leaflets.  I only received 3-4 negative responses as I kept wishing the drivers a Happy New Year.  It was more positive than I would have anticipated.

Our crowded retreat (25 of us) inside a cabin at the state park began this morning with me speaking about the work of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.  We had a lively question and answer session following my talk.

After lunch some of us walked on the nature trails through the woods to the marsh so we could get a view of the back side of the navy base where the nuclear killing machines are docked.  Then we went back to the cabin and had an interesting discussion about the current state of the Catholic church - one active and three former Catholic priests led the discussion.

Tonight after dinner we go back to the gate of the navy base for a candlelight vigil to bring on the new year.  Can't think of a better place to be than here and so glad to be back with so many long-time peace friends and co-workers.  Thirty-four years this annual event has happened here at the base - a lesson in stick-to-it-ivness and a statement that we will not ignore the waste, insanity, and immorality of the nuclear arms machine.

Best in the new year to all of you - or as they say here down south - 'happy new year y'all'.  Love and peace to you and your families and best wishes in your work for justice and real peace.

Stay active and remember that you are not alone - you don't have to do it all - just do your bit and see how an engaged global citizenry adds up to something powerful!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Walking for Our Future



The Navajo Nation sits on one of the richest energy corridors in the United States, and for close to a century, we have been on the frontline on resource colonization to provide cheap energy and water to the cities in the Southwest. Since the 1920's, our land and people have been sacrificed for energy extraction for oil, gas, uranium, and coal, which is poisoning our land, water, air, and people. Despite being at the forefront of energy extraction, our people do not see its benefits; approximately 1/4 of our people today live without electricity and running water on the Navajo Nation, while our economy functions at an unemployment rate of about 60%, and our young people are leaving due to lack of opportunity. Now our people and land are facing the onset fracking and a proposed pipeline, which will transport crude oil through 130 miles in Dinétah, the emergence place of our people, in the name of "economic development".

As young Diné people, we realize that we can't continue on like this. We need clean air, water, and a viable lifeway for our people and for all human beings. In facing this crisis of our future, the idea of walking to raise awareness was born.

We are walking to honor the legacy of our ancestors during Hwééldi, who, a 150 years ago, were forced to walk hundreds of miles in the winter during away from our homelands in the winter to be imprisoned for four years in the name of American colonization. During this time of great suffering, our ancestors thought of our homeland, mountains, and prayed that future generations would carry on our way of life. It is in their memory and out of this profound love for the land that we are walking. It is time to heal from the legacy and trauma of colonization that we having been living under for too long.

It is our intention to walk throughout the Navajo Nation to document both the beauty of land and people and how this is being desecrated by resource extraction. We will do this through a social media campaign and a documentary films. Along our route, we will visit communities to listen to the issues our people are facing and share information about the state of water, air, land, and health, as our communities often have very little access to media or information about these issues. Our hope is that we can help to inspire our people to become engage in the care our land, air, and water, and culture so that we will have a future as Diné.

On January 6, 2015, we will start from the fireplace and doorway of Diné Bikéyah, at Dził Nahodiłii (Huerfano, NM) and Ch'ool'i'i , the emergence place of our people, which is threatened by fracking. There are over 400 proposed drill sites and within the past couple months over 100 have been started in the region. From there we will walk to communities through the Eastern Agency, and then to Tsoodzil (Mt. Taylor, Grants, NM) which also threaten by uranium mining. This first leg of our journey will be nearly 300 miles, and will take us approximately 3 weeks.

In the seasons to come, we will extend our walk to the other mountains and regions of Diné Bikéyah. To Doo'o'k'osliid (San Francisco Peak, Flagstaff, AZ) in the Spring, the Dibé Ntsáá (Hesperus, CO) in the Summer, and in the fall we will go all the way to Sisnajiní (Blanca Peak, Alamosa, CO). All combined, we will be walking over 1000 miles in 2015.

We are asking for support to cover the expenses of this journey through 2015 including gear, food, media/outreach and educational materials.

Gear - It is our intention to use as little fossil fuels as possible during our journey, so we want to carry as much as possible, therefore we are asking for funding for packs and lightweight gear including sleeping bags, tents, etc... We will also be facing extreme weather during this walk, so funding will also be used for jackets, thermals, and other cold/extreme weather clothing. We also will be needing socks, good shoes, and first aid supplies to keep us going.

Food - food to feed our walkers daily and our support crew.

Media/Outreach - a major component of this walk is to raise awareness about the issues we are facing and document the impacts of resource colonization, so we need funding for media equipment and too get the word out via internet, newspaper, radio, and television.

Educational Materials - this is to cover the expense of printing materials and documents to distribute to communities as we pass through. We want to share as much information as possible.

Axhé'hee! Thank you for your support!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Exploding Navy Budget Threatens Food Stamps


I leave early Monday for St. Mary's, Georgia where I will join the annual King's Bay nuclear submarine base protest vigil on New Year's Eve.  This alternative New Year event has been going on for something like 35 years.  While I lived in Florida I must have attended more than 20 of these.  Folks hold a retreat, share food, and review their activism at the Crooked River State Park which is located next door to the nuclear sub base.  I've missed these events since we moved to Maine in 2003 and was excited to be invited to come and speak during the retreat this year.

(President Jimmy Carter built the nuclear submarine base in his home state of Georgia. During his campaign for the presidency he often declared, "The arms race is a disgrace to the human race.")

Once I get home on January 3 I will just have a chance to catch my breath before repacking and heading to Seattle for the Nipponzan Myohoji annual peace walk to the nuclear submarine base at Bangor in Washington state.  So I will go from the east coast nuke sub base - back home in Maine to Bath where the Navy builds destroyers - then to the west coast nuke sub base.  So my ears are tuned these days to Navy shipbuilding issues.

Along those lines came an article today called Navy Tries to Cover Up New Carrier’s Exploding Cost.

The story begins with:

Recently, the Project On Government Oversight reported on the unaffordability of the Navy’s long-term shipbuilding budget and on the fact that its acquisition plans will actually cost much more than the service expects. According to the Congressional Budget Office, which uses a more realistic way of evaluating long-term acquisition plans, the Navy will need $76 billion more than it has budgeted for over the next three decades. This is on top of a preexisting $60 billion budget shortfall resulting from the forthcoming Ohio-class replacement submarine program.

The cost overruns in Navy shipbuilding are massive.  The profits for the weapons corporations are huge.  But even with the Pentagon's damn near total control of the federal budget there is still even more $$$ needed for the expensive Navy warships, new fighter jets, satellites, and launch vehicles the military industrial complex wants to build. Bottom line is that there is not enough $$$ to go around.  They are cutting troop levels and benefits for military personnel.  But that is chump change compared to the cost of these big-ticket items.

Construction of a dozen Ohio-class submarines – a major component of the Navy’s nuclear strategy – is projected to cost between $79 billion and $92 billion alone.  One new aircraft carrier will cost $13 billion.  The standard destroyers built here in Bath were costing $1.5 billion per copy but the new Zumwalt 'stealth' destroyers are going to cost more than $4 billion each.

How will Congress pay for all these high-tech weapons programs?  One solution is to cut food stamps.  I read the other day that all incoming Republican senators have pledged to eliminate the food stamp program.  One out of every six Americans now receive food stamps. The average monthly food stamp benefit is $135. White people across the US are the largest recipients of food stamps.

What else will the 'warriors' try to cut so they can keep building the empire's war machines?  It's no wonder that the country is falling apart as so much money is wasted on these very expensive weapons systems that do nothing to preserve life nor help us prepare for climate change or growing global poverty.

The freight train called 'endless war' is heading for a collision with the train called 'social progress'. 

I will be honored to stand with local peaceniks on both coasts in protest of these obscene Navy programs.

History Lesson: 'The Negro Problem' in St. Louis



From KETC, Living St. Louis Producer Jim Kirchherr looks back at the ethnic, political and social conflicts taking place in East St. Louis in the early 1900s. These tensions erupted into violence on July 1, 1917, after police officers were shot.

Sunday Song