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

Monday, March 31, 2008

REPORT FROM BETHLEHEM

I returned last night from a one day trip to Bethlehem, PA. to speak at annual dinner of LEPOCO which was celebrating its 42nd year of peace work in the former steel town.

Upon arriving at the airport I was taken for a quick drive by the old steel works which has long been closed and is rusting and crumbling like other ancient ruins of industry across the nation. I was told that in the place of the steel mills will soon be a grand casino, which is fitting I guess. Instead of real jobs with steady incomes, workers can go play the slot machines and hope that luck will bring them a quick financial reward. But like most capitalist endeavors, the game is rigged on the side of the house and more financial ruin and poverty for the "player" are the sure result.

My talk to LEPOCO was well received by the 150 there, except for a few who were not happy with my answer to a question about Obama. Just as I had expected, the key questions from the audience were about which of the candidates I would support. I was told Mr. Obama would be in town on Monday and they expect over 2,000 people to greet his call for "change" in America.

I did not bring up Obama or Hillary in the main body of my talk. I did several times of course tell stories about the complicity of both war parties in supporting the development of Star Wars, the occupation of Iraq, and the like. But I knew that it was best to leave their names out of my speech and let the question period surface these issues of "who is the best candidate."

Once asked by someone in the audience about Mr. Change, I did ask the crowd if they were sure they wanted me to actually answer the question. "Are you sure you want to hear what I have to say," I asked. YES they howled. "Ok, but you don't want to get me started!"

I read excerpts from Amy Goodman's Democracy Now interview with journalist Allan Nairn in January, 2008 where they discussed Mr. Obama's top military advisers. One of them Nairn said was "General Merrill McPeak, an Air Force man, who not long after the Dili massacre in East Timor in ’91 that you and I survived, he was—I happened to see on Indonesian TV shortly after that—there was General McPeak overseeing the delivery to Indonesia of U.S. fighter planes."

I told the LEPOCO audience that I knew of this Gen. McPeak too, as I held up my copy of the Space Command's Vision for 2020 which I had earlier referred to in great detail. This Gen. McPeak I told them had once been the commander of the U.S. Space Command........

The last question of the night came from one of the leaders of the group. She asked me who I would vote for. I said I would only answer the question if they understood that I was not telling them who to vote for. I said that voting was a sacred and private act but that I would share with them who I was going to support.

I said I was going to vote for the black [pause] woman [pause] and then went on to talk about this person for quite some time without naming her. As I did this I noticed a woman in the back of the hall holding up her green dinner place mat like a sign over her head. Eventually I mentioned Cynthia McKinney's name.

The bulk of my talk though was about conversion of the military industrial complex and the dire need to transform our declining gas guzzling nation to a solar-wind-rail society which would create jobs and would help reduce the causes of climate change. I stated that the cost of the Iraq occupation in 2007, if the money had been invested back here in the U.S. in sustainable technology development, would have created one million good jobs. I suggested that instead of just standing on the street with our signs that say PEACE on them, that we need to adapt our message to articulate this linkage between growing militarism, economic decline, and offer a positive vision for real job creation at a time when people in places like Bethlehem, PA. are worried about how they will feed their families in the near future.

Today we are preparing to head west to Colorado Springs and then Omaha for two weeks worth of protesting and conference organizing. My next blog entry will give much detail about that.

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