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

Saturday, April 02, 2005

CONVERSION PARADE A BIG SUCCESS

We had more than 250 in our parade in Portland last night. We marched down one lane of traffic through the center on town on Congress Street at dusk. We had stilt walkers, a string of Bush administration operatives in prison suits linked together in chains, huge puppets, a woman with her face inside a cardboard TV labeled CNN, Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, a band of drummers and horn players, women in black leading the parade, fire twirlers, high school and college student delegations, and a large Unitarian contingent at the end singing "Down by the riverside" - we ain't gonna study war no more! Our fools no more parade was a huge success and loads of fun. We passed our hundreds of leaflets to people on the street as we passed by explaining why economic conversion of the military industrial complex is so important. There were many people on the streets because spring is just coming to Maine and it was a fairly mild evening so people wanted to be out considering the fact they have had to be inside so much this winter with all the snow that we have had. So we had a big audience!

Singer/songwriter Tom Neilson from western Mass. unveiled his new song, "Fools No More," at the parade and then sang a few more songs at the potluck supper we held after the parade at a local church. It was great to see good numbers of people had come from places north and south of Portland to be with us. Tom will sing on Sunday here in Brunswick at a benefit concert to raise funds to pay production costs of my cable TV show called "This Issue." Sam Colson and David Brooks, the two guys that produce my cable show in Bath, were at the parade. Sam was pushing a bomb down the street and David was filming the whole event and plans to edit it and then put it on the cable station.

On Monday I head to Colorado Springs, Co. for a couple days. Protests will be held there at the annual convention of the proponents of war in space. Citizens for Peace in Space, led by Bill Sulzman, will be hosting me and I will speak in the Springs and then travel to Denver and Boulder for talks as well. It's always fun to protest with the folks in Colorado Springs as they are very creative and have been at it for a long time. The group there is one of the founders of the Global Network, and along with the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, have been continuously protesting Star Wars longer than any other local group in the U.S.

Friday, April 01, 2005

BUSY WEEK

It's been a busy week full of meetings and preparation for the Fools No More economic conversion parade today in Portland. In yesterday's Portland Phoenix newspaper a fantastic front-page story came out about our effort. It appears that we will be having folks come from all over the state for the parade, including a fantastic street theatre group from north of here around Blue Hill. Here is the link to the story: http://www.portlandphoenix.com/features/top/ts_multi/documents/04575469.asp

We've also been receiving word that groups in other states are now beginning to follow our lead on the congressional office occupations. We heard from peace activist legend Frances Crowe in western Mass that a group of 10 women occupied their congressman's office in recent days. As they read the names of dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and innocent Iraqi civilians, they rang a bell after each name. At some point during their peace witness the congressman came into the office and sat down with them to talk. He recently voted for the $81.4 billion and got an earful from the women.

All over Maine visits to the offices of our senators and congressmen have been happening in recent days. A group of students from Bowdoin college have gone into Rep. Tom Allen's office and we've heard that groups from Augusta, Belfast, Bangor and other places into the state have done office visits this week. Our goal is to keep a steady flow of people going into the congressional offices making statements of opposition to the war in Iraq and asking the politicians to hold a statewide town hall meeting so the public can have an opportunity to publicly comment on the war.

Plans for our April 29-30 international space conference are moving forward. Registrations are still coming in and more importantly we are hearing from more people who intend to come but have yet to register. It is always a hair pulling experience to try and organize the food for a conference when people wait til the last minute to register but that is the nature of the business. We've just added our second keynote speaker for the April 30 conference, Jenny Jones, former deputy mayor of London, England. Jenny is also the former national chair of the UK Green party. So it is going to be an exciting event.

Monday, March 28, 2005

TALK ABOUT MAGIC!

I was listening to The Kinks album this afternoon called "Muswell Hillbillies." Muswell was the London, England neighborhood where my favorite band The Kinks grew up. I had added two songs by The Kinks to the very end of my book. They are quite spiritual songs for a rock-and-roll band. I went to a Kinks fan web site to copy and paste the lyrics. While I was on the site I checked out the up-coming touring schedule of Ray Davies, the genius songwriter of the group. As it turned out he will be touring the UK the first week in October, the very same time I will be doing a speaking tour in England.

I quickly sent an e-mail to Dave Webb (Global Network web master and board convenor) in Leeds asking him if there was any way my speaking tour schedule would allow me to see Ray Davies perform. Dave immediately wrote back and said yeah he thought it could work and that he'd like to go as well. He said, "Just got a copy of the Muswell Hillbillies album." Amazing! Could we say that we are on the same wave length? This one was meant to be for sure.

In honor of that I'll post the two Kinks songs that I am adding to my book. The words are beautiful but the music that goes with them is extraordinary. Brings tears to my eyes every time.


NOW AND THEN


In the beginning of it all there was the land
And the sea and the sky
Then into the middle of it all there came man
To live on the land.
And then a great nation
Put into operation an evolutionary plan
Now mighty corporations and politicians rule the land
Wish I could remember when
We were more innocent
Than all of those violent bitter men.
The world was much younger then
But we were much wiser then.
Before we were full of discontent.
It's too bad the simple ways came sadly to an end
I guess that's the difference between now and then.
In the beginning of it all there was the land.
We were much younger then
But we were much wiser then
We never questioned why or when
One day we'll be born again
Our lovers and friends will remain
To live in a world without suffering and pain
And I can see a day when enemies are friends.
And there'll be no distance between now and then.
In the beginning of it all there was the Land.

By Ray Davies
The Kinks




GOD’S CHILDREN

Man made the buildings that reach for the sky
And man made the motorcar and learned how to fly
But he didn't make the flowers and he didn't make the trees
And he didn't make you and he didn't make me
And he got no right to turn us into machines
He's got no right at all
'Cause we are all God's children
And he got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the good lord made us all
Don't want this world to change me
I wanna go back the way the good lord made me
Same lungs that he gave me to breath with
Same eyes he gave me to see with
Oh, the rich man, the poor man, the saint and the sinner
The wise man, the simpleton, the loser and the winner
We are all the same to Him
Stripped of our clothes and all the things we own
The day that we are born
We are all God's children
And they got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the good lord made...
Oh, the good lord made us all
And we are all his children
And they got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the good lord made us all
Yeah, we gotta go back the way the good lord made us all

By Ray Davies
The Kinks

Sunday, March 27, 2005

GLAD TO BE ALIVE

I have spent this Easter Sunday working on my book. I've now changed the title to "I'm Not Cheering: Organizing Stories from a Fading Empire." The title might change again. I'm open to comment.

I've pretty much finished with the overall content of the book and now comes the difficult process of 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th edits. Mary Beth is doing the second edit, our dear friend Julie Netzer in Florida will do the 3rd edit, and then I guess I'll go back through for the 4th.

I start the book with early stories from my life that impacted me and led me into the direction of politics and organizing. My years working for the farmworkers union and then in social justice issues are covered. Then I went through 20 years of peace newsletters and picked out some of the more interesting things I had worked on over the years. I took some things from my diary as well and even a few of the posts I've put on this blog.

My old friend Will Park, an artist in Florida, who I have worked with for about 2o years will let me use many of his illustrations done for my work over the years. I think they will add a great dimension to many of the stories.

I'm even adding a play I wrote a couple of months ago called "A Month of Sundays" into the book. It is about a weapons production worker struggling with the possible loss of his job.

Lots of memories are flowing through me after spending so much time working on this project. I feel that I've been lucky to do something for a living that I loved doing. I have loved working with people. I have tried to always keep in mind the future generations as I do my work. It will be fun to share the stories and memories with people like you. I hope the book will be out within the next 2-3 months.

Best wishes to you all on Easter - the time of resurrection. New life. New beginnings. Renewed hope. Possibilities unlimited. Forgiveness. Love and peace. Time to say we are glad to be alive.