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

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

DEBATING THE PREACHER IN THE JACUZZI

I am in St Augustine, Florida visiting 94 year-old friend Peg McIntire. She lives in a condo village right on the beach. This time of year many of the condos are rented as vacationers from the region come for a week of sun and fun.

Last night we were sitting in the jacuzzi talking with a Baptist preacher from southern Georgia. I asked him what he thinks about the Iraq war. He said that the Muslim people want to destroy America. He said "they" do not value life the way we do here in the U.S. He said the U.S. should wipe the whole region out. I asked him if he meant with nuclear weapons. Her said yes. He told us that the sooner Armageddon comes the better, because that would mean that Jesus would return and we'd have the rapture where the Christians would go to heaven and the rest of us sinners, those not born again in Christ, would die here on Earth in the resulting fire.

I told him I was confused by this kind of talk. I said that I thought Jesus was the prince of peace and had taught that we should love our neighbors and turn the other cheek. In response the preacher said that the Iraqi people are just killing each other in a civil war rampage of evil violence. I reminded him that in our own civil war in the U.S. we'd done a pretty horrible job of resolving our internal conflicts. In fact I said we killed an enormous amount of our fellow citizens. How was this different from Iraq, I asked?

The preacher was actually a very nice man. He was friendly, had a kind and warm smile, and was thoughtful and polite to Peg as she strained to keep up with the conversation without the use of her hearing aide. But when it came to talking politics he quickly reverted to the script that institutions like the church, the military, and southern educational system have effectively trained him in.

I must admit that when I would challenge his thinking, and he reverted to script, I could tell that even he saw that he had no real answers to my questions. He is not a stupid man like many people would say of someone living in a "Red" state. He has just been brainwashed and is not often given the cultural opportunity to be around people who think differently. Thus his thinking largely goes unchallenged in his day-to-day life and he becomes comfortable with his doctrines.

Today I head back to Gainesville to speak at the Civic Media Center. On Friday I speak in Jacksonville at the Unitarian Church. In between I’ll visit my mother again in Titusville and then return for a quick visit with Peg again in St Augustine.

Last Saturday night I received the Dr. Benjamin Spock Peacemaker Award from the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. In 1992, while working for the FCPJ, I had asked Dr. Spock if he would allow us to give an annual award in his name. He came to that 10th anniversary event of the FCPJ, and presented the first such award given in his name. So it was a real nice feeling to be given the same award that I had created many years ago.

This past Sunday I delivered a talk at Peg’s St. Augustine Unitarian Church service. In between the work I’ve had a chance to walk on the beach and swim in the ocean. It has felt nice to be able to relax a bit on this working trip to Florida.