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

Friday, May 23, 2008

WAKING FROM SADNESS AND SLUMBER



I met Jan Tamas (in red sweater) last October when I went to Prague to attend a conference he and others in their growing coalition organized to oppose the U.S. Star Wars radar from being deployed in their country. I was immediately impressed with him.

He is very gentle and unassuming but when he speaks I noticed that people looked to him with great pride and respect. He is a leader.

Jan recently came to Colorado Springs and to Omaha for our annual Global Network conference. Following those events we helped arrange for him to do a speaking tour as part of the No U.S. Bases Movement that is just taking hold here in the U.S. He visited several key cities on the east coast including a stop in Brunswick, Maine and finished up in Washington DC.

Jan has a PhD and works as an IT professional in the computer industry. I think he creates software programs. But on his free time he does his peace work, is a member of the Humanist Party, and frequently travels to Africa for development projects.

I love to hear him talk about democracy and how after the fall of the Soviet Union the people in his country, and Poland which is to get the U.S. "missile defense interceptors, thought they were at last free from foreign domination. He concludes that his people cannot allow themselves to be shackled by another military empire - this time the U.S.

In the U.S. we have become a bit too cynical and jaded. It is hard for us to be moved anymore because a fog of sadness seems to have engulfed the people of our country as a result of our immoral and illegal occupation of Iraq. People here in many ways are sleep walking through life. Sometimes I hear people say they are resigned to the death of the planet because of our destructive way of life. Many Americans have given up - they have forgotten why we should want to live.

Jan, and the hard working coalition he is a part of, is a breath of fresh air helping to blow this deep fog from our American minds. The Czech people, by a count of 70%, oppose the U.S. radar base coming to their nation. They are urging our hearts to reawaken and beat to the sound of life again.
Please take a small step and sign the petition to oppose the radar in the Czech Republic.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

STEPPING AWAY FROM THE PLATE IN SOLIDARITY WITH CZECH HUNGER STRIKERS

My friend Sung-Hee Choi from South Korea has written that she will join the hunger strike in support of our friends in the Czech Republic this Saturday. Sung-Hee is an art teacher in New York City and a long time loyal Global Network member. Sung-Hee has asked her art students to help her not eat during their all-day class on Saturday and for the next week.

Also joining the hunger strike on Saturday, in response to my appeal for others to join me in helping to widen knowledge of the Czech Republic effort, is Gareth Smith who lives in Byron Bay, Australia. Gareth writes "I will join you on Saturday for a 7-day hunger strike as President (doesn't that sound grand for a little tin pot group?) of Byron People for Peace and Justice. From my Christian days I remember an inspiring verse: 'For God has used the base things of this world to confound the mighty'; may this be true of the present campaign. You know, Bruce, when I think of all us baby boomers who have reached the 50-70 age range and consider that in most cases we don't have the worry of losing a job/promotion, don't have a mortgage, have children off our hands, etc, there is no sound reason why our group should not be the most vigorously active for peace and disarmament in the world. I want to reach retirement homes and displace the people from the golf courses onto the streets - bannerize them! Good luck as you step away from the plate!"

So on Saturday I will indeed step away from the plate and join the hunger strike of Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in Prague who have been at this hunger strike since May 13. I will stay on the hunger strike for as long as they do and during each weekday I will go out onto the street in nearby downtown Brunswick, Maine from 12:30-1:30 pm to hold a sign and pass out leaflets about the U.S. plan to put Star Wars systems into Poland and the Czech Republic and the growing movement across Europe to join this hunger strike in protest of these U.S. military bases.

I urge others to join this hunger strike in solidarity with our friends in the Czech Republic and throughout Europe. Particularly, I believe it is important for activists in the U.S. to stand against these deployments since it is our country that is creating a dangerous new arms race in Europe.

You can also join this hunger strike by stepping away from the plate. Let's remind our friends in the Czech Republic that they are not alone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

HUNGER STRIKE MUST SPREAD TO U.S.

On May13 Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar started a hunger strike in Praque. "The issue of the U.S. military base is not only an issue of international security for us, but also an issue of democracy. It is about whether we will once again allow a small group of elite politicians to ignore the wishes of the majority of the population on an issue of great importance to their fate. These methods remind us of times before 1989 -- times we don't want to be repeated," they said.

Now the hunger strike is spreading throughout Europe. The photo above is from Berlin were supporters have joined in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Now the task is to spread the hunger strike to the U.S. which is only right since our country is the one who is trying to deploy these so-called "missile defense" systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Europeans clearly remember the 1983 deployments of nuclear cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe by Ronald Reagan. These missiles were aimed at the former Soviet Union and made Europe the battleground stuck in the middle of the superpower conflict.

Europeans don't want their lands to get stuck in the middle again as the U.S. now is forcing an expansion of NATO eastward to surround Russia who has the world's largest supply of natural gas.

This simple hunger strike is creating energy and movement in Europe. The time has come for us in the U.S. to step away from the plate and join the effort.

I will join this hunger strike starting Saturday morning. Please let me know if you will join it as well in solidarity with our friends Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

END OF A LONG WEEKEND

I feel like I just walked this long road. It's been one heck of a busy weekend.

Saturday morning I was up early to tape a new edition of my cable TV show called This Issue. I had four guests, usually I like to have just one, but this time I did a show about the militarization of our schools so I had some local parents on to talk about what is happening in their kids middle schools where the National Guard has muscled their way into the classroom to teach courses. The military knows they have to start the kids young if they hope to "brand" their minds.

I got home and had to immediately prepare for a radio interview from British Columbia in Canada about the connections between U.S. and Canadian militarism and what we can do about it. Just that morning I had received an email from GN board member Tamara Lorincz in Halifax, Canada informing me that Lockheed Martin had just given Dalhousie University a $2 million"gift" that will begin to militarize that institution of higher learning. Tamara had made a protest sign and propped up her courage and stood right behind the podium at the official ceremony where the gift was made and a photo of her standing there made it into the local newspaper. (Amazingly they did not haul her off. I guess that is still the difference between Canada and the U.S. Here she'd have been not so gently removed.) She told me that while she was standing there she kept thinking of all the good GN folks she had recently been with at our annual space organizing conference in Omaha, Nebraska. Tamara also informed me that Canada had made a major increase, $30 billion more, in their national military budget last week. Social programs will suffer in Canada as a result.

Following the radio interview MB and I helped a couple of friends who just moved to nearby Brunswick unload their moving van. Heavy stuff up to the second floor tested by already delicate back.

This morning I was out early again to attend the Maine Green Independent Party state convention where I gave the speech on behalf of Cynthia McKinney who is running for the Green Party presidential nomination. I also made a pitch for funds for her as our state needs to raise $5,000 so that Cynthia can have 20 states each giving her that amount which will qualify her for federal matching funds. We are up to about $1,800 in Maine so far. Come on Mainers, let's kick in some bucks! You other states too!

After that I scrambled home to get ready to attend a Democratic party congressional debate here in Bath where all six prospective candidates were in attendance. Our Addams-Melman House members set up a table at the entrance to gather signatures for a new campaign here in Maine to repeal our state's terrible decision to enact the "Real ID" which is a step toward a national ID card and a furtherance of the surveillance society. In Maine they have a thing called the "People's Veto" and if we get 55,000 signatures before July 17 we force the issue onto the November 2008 general election ballot. Tonight we got about 50 signatures. There is a large organizational effort now underway across Maine to get signature gathering at the voting polls statewide on June 10, the day of our primary elections.

I am now laying on my bed, typing on my laptop, to write this entry. I am much to tired to even get ready for bed. Maybe I'll sleep in my clothes tonight. I want to take Monday off. Wish me luck.