FULL REPORT ON RECENT ORGANIZING TRIPS
My trip to Michigan was initiated by an old friend, Carol Still, whom I knew long ago in Florida. She was a member of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and some years ago moved to Michigan to be near family. Carol had recently shown our video, Arsenal of Hypocrisy, on her local cable TV station and received quite a number of phone calls from new people expressing interest in the video. As a result a task force was created to begin working on the space issue and they then sent representatives from their new group to the recent Global Network annual conference in New York City. The group, called the Interfaith Peace & Justice Network of NW Michigan, also decided to host me on a speaking tour.
I had never been to northwest Michigan before and was to see much of the region as talks were scheduled for me in Traverse City, Suttons Bay, Petoskey, Alden, Charlevoix, and Manistee County. This part of Michigan is along beautiful Lake Michigan and is also the cherry capital of the world. The organizing committee took turns driving me from place to place throughout the rural countryside that is heavy populated with tourists during the summer. Tom Shea, in Traverse City, was the hub who kept things coordinated throughout the week. Unseasonably hot weather was on everyone's mind and needless to say I ate a lot of cherries during the trip. During each of my talks I read bits from my new book, Come Together Right Now, that is currently at the printer and should be finished within a week.
A young journalist from a small newspaper in Manistee County came to my first talk that was held in Traverse City. He taped the presentation, and then wrote a strong front-page story for his local paper promoting my talk that would take place in his community at the end of my tour. As I was packing up my things from my literature table after my talk he asked if he could take the handful of Keep Space for Week posters that I had left. He said he'd like to put them up around the county. It is not often that a journalist volunteers to do that. He had a special light in his eye and you could see that this young man was alive and was going to amount to something.
After speaking in Petoskey, I was driven to the small town of Alden to speak at a local library. I was told this is the community where filmmaker Michael Moore lives, and that he is often active with the local progressive community. Folks reported that Moore is now working on his next film, to be called Sick-O. Apparently it will be about the fact that health care is not available to legions of citizens in our country. One of my hosts took two of our Global Network videos and promised to give them to Moore.
That evening I stayed at the home of Barbara and Bruce MacArthur in Charlevoix, overlooking Lake Michigan. The next morning Bruce took me to his Rotary Club meeting, where he had arranged for me to speak. Thirty people were there to hear me, including the chief of police and the county prosecutor. I began by asking how many of them relied on cell phones, computers, cable TV and GPS receivers. I talked about the growing problem with space junk and Bush's plans to deploy weapons in space. Of course this plan would dramatically increase the likelihood that civilian satellites would be destroyed by the debris created when the Pentagon knocked-out other countries' "space assets" in order for the U.S. to "control and dominate" space. I got a good reception.
During my last stop, I stayed at the home of Robert and Diane Burnett in Frankfort. They live on a small piece of land not far from Lake Michigan where they raise animals and have a large garden. I enjoyed my time with Robert, who loves baseball as much as I do. He took me swimming in cold Lake Michigan early on my last morning there. They have a 16-year-old dog named Bobo who they described as the "town bum." Bobo loves to wander through town and various shops have a spot set aside for Bobo to rest. One local man always waits for Bobo to visit and then he takes the dog to the local hamburger joint and buys him a burger. While I was there Diane had to drive into town to pick up Bobo after they discovered he had once again slipped off for another one of his jaunts to town.
Folks in northwest Michigan are now discussing active participation during the GN's October 1-8 Keep Space for Week. It was a great visit and I am grateful to all of my hosts.
I returned to Maine just in time for a July 17 Town Hall Meeting on Iraq that our Congressman Tom Allen (D-ME) had agreed to hold after months of pressure from the peace movement. Phone calls, letters, following him to speaking events, and an occupation of his office in Portland finally convinced him to hold the public event. Well over 500 citizens turned out to give testimony against the war in Iraq and called on the congressman to vote against further funding for the occupation. He recently introduced a bill that says the U.S. should not permanently stay in Iraq but he has not yet been willing to vote for legislation calling for an exit strategy and a timeline for withdrawal to be set. Much to our dismay, but of no surprise to us, the local newspaper failed to cover the event.
On July 18 I drove three hours north to Deer Isle where I joined about 25 people from the group called Island Peace & Justice for their weekly anti-war vigil. Later that evening I spoke at The Good Life Center, the former home of Helen and Scott Nearing, who became famous for their back-to-the-land efforts. The center today hosts speakers throughout the summer and holds programs on homesteading and sustainable living. Among the many books published by the Nearings are titles such as Living the Good Life and The Conscience of a Radical. The Nearings built their home of stone, made much of their own furniture, grew their own food, and served as teachers and inspiration for millions. It was an honor to sleep in their bedroom and feel the power and simplicity of their lives. The caretakers suggested I read an anti-war pamphlet written in 1946 by Scott. I was struck by how little things have changed since that time. The military industrial complex still promotes war between "good and evil" and still suggests that the U.S. is the nation of great virtue. During my talk at the center I emphasized the current campaign underway in Maine to bring the economic conversion theme into the consciousness of the people. If we ever hope to end war we must get a handle on how people make a living. Why can't we make rail cars, solar, and windmills at the military production facilities in Maine and throughout the U.S.?
My next speaking trip takes me to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia from July 28 - August 10.