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, June 06, 2008

FINAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY FAST - FOR NOW

Day 14 of my solidarity hunger strike

Today is my last day, at least for now. I will rejoin the strike on June 22 for the day.

The cartoon above is the work of artist W. B. Park who lives in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Will Park is a friend of many years and his illustrations are throughout my book, Come Together Right Now. For years, while living and working in Orlando, Florida, I would regularly meet Will for lunch at various BBQ restaurants in the area and we’d sit and talk politics and try to make sense of our crazy country. Any leaflet or poster I needed artwork for he eagerly did.

Last night I got this message from Will, “Tomorrow night at midnight I begin a three day fast in solidarity with the courageous people of the Czech Republic. No more BBQ for a while.”

As you can see below, the list of people who have contacted me about joining the June 22 international fast against Star Wars is rapidly growing.

We’ve begun to brainstorm what we will do here in Midcoast Maine on June 22. The idea of an empty plate picnic has come up where we gather in the heart of Brunswick on the town green to share from our hearts with each other. People who are not fasting the whole day could skip the noon meal and join us as well. We could each speak about why we have joined the fast expressing our concern about how a space arms race is “stealing from those who are in need” as former president Eisenhower told the nation in 1961.

I must conclude my two-week hunger strike by thanking Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in the Czech Republic and all those who have supported them during these recent days. The decision to do this strike by Jan and Jan was a beautiful spiritual undertaking. It was also a brilliant political strategy and I very much admire how they expanded the issue to Star Wars in general rather than just keeping it focused on the one radar facility in their country. They effectively opened the door to a larger constituency and have helped raise global consciousness dramatically. I’ve been doing this space weapons work for 25 years and have rarely seen a grassroots campaign bear such fruit. The entire support base behind Jan and Jan must be congratulated for top notch organizing.

To other organizers I hope this Czech campaign is a good lesson. It goes to show that when you take a positive, courageous, non-violent step forward it will be noticed and supported by others. Inspiration always draws energy and light. Build it and they will come.

But this campaign is far from over. There is still much work to be done to promote the June 22 day and to sustain that energy to block the U.S. deployment of “missile defense” interceptors in Poland and the radar in the Czech Republic. Then we, in the U.S., must get our Congress to defund Star Wars research and development. And we must all promote a new international treaty that would ban all weapons in space – from any country.

The aerospace and nuclear industries view space as a new market. They seek to establish mining colonies on the Moon and Mars and develop nuclear rockets to get to these planetary bodies. They intend to use military space systems to control the “pathway” on and off the Earth so that corporate interests will “dominate” space as they now do on our home planet.

Let June 22 be one giant step for humanity here on our beautiful spinning satellite called Madre Tierra.

June 22 Fast Names:

Beth Adams (Greenfield, Massachusetts)
Bob Anderson (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Dennis Apel (Guadalupe, California)
Sally Breen (Windham, Maine)
David W. Chipman (Harpswell, Maine)
Kathe Chipman (Harpswell, Maine)
Sung-Hee Choi (New York, New York)
Michael Connelly (Rochester, New York)
Frank Cordaro (Des Moines, Iowa)
Becky Farley (Damariscotta, Maine)
Sr. Barb Freemyer, RSM (Pueblo, Colorado)
Bruce Gagnon (Bath, Maine)
Sr. Carol Gilbert (Baltimore, Maryland)
Starr Gilmartin (Trenton, Maine)
Matt Gregory (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Regina Hagen (Darmstadt, Germany)
Tom Hastings (Portland, Oregon)
Dud Hendrick (Deer Isle, Maine)
Tensie Hernandez (Guadalupe, California)
Nancy Hill (Stonington, Maine) June 19-24
Ron King (Penobscot, Maine)
Tom Kircher (Biddeford, Maine)
Steve Landon (Waldhof, ON, Canada)
Steve Larrick (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Isolt Lea (Gainesville, Florida)
Bob Lezer (Freeport, Maine)
Mary Leonard, Mercy Associate (Pueblo, Colorado)
Tamara Lorincz (Halifax, NS, Canada)
Laurie McGowan (Mochelle, NS, Canada)
Michael Murphy (Omaha, Nebraska)
Sr. Elaine Lopez Pacheco, RSM (Pueblo, Colorado)
Jeanne Pahls (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Rosalie Tyler Paul (Georgetown, Maine)
Sr. Ardeth Platte (Baltimore, Maryland)
Bonnie Preston (Blue Hill, Maine)
Kim Redigan (Dearborn Heights, Michigan)
John Rensenbrink (Topsham, Maine)
Judy Robbins (Sedgwick, Maine)
Robert Shetterly (Brooksville, Maine)
Gareth Smith (Byron Bay, Australia)
Mary Beth Sullivan (Bath, Maine)
Meredith Tupper (Tampa, Florida)
Carol Urner (Portland, Oregon)
William Watts (San Francisco, California)
Margaret Weitzmann (Potsdam, New York)
Elaine Wells (Omaha, Nebraska)
Molly Willcox (Westport, Maine)
Lynda Williams (Santa Rosa, California)
Mariah Williams (Liberty, Maine)
Loring Wirbel (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Michael Wisniewski (Los Angeles, California)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

LONG HISTORY OF SPACE ARMS RACE

Day 13 of my solidarity hunger strike


We had six people on the street today for my vigil in Brunswick. Only one more day for me before I hand the hunger strike over to Mary Beth Sullivan who will take my place.

I have begun to hear from folks who are going to join the one-day fast against Star Wars on June 22. I've decided to compile a list of people who contact me. Many more of course will be fasting all over the world that day. These are the names I know of so far:

Bob Anderson (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Dennis Apel (Guadalupe, California)
Sally Breen (Windham, Maine)
David W. Chipman (Harpswell, Maine)
Kathe Chipman (Harpswell, Maine)
Michael Connelly (Rochester, New York)
Becky Farley (Damariscotta, Maine)
Bruce Gagnon (Bath, Maine)
Starr Gilmartin (Trenton, Maine)
Matt Gregory (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Regina Hagen (Darmstadt, Germany)
Dud Hendrick (Deer Isle, Maine)
Tensie Hernandez (Guadalupe, California)
Nancy Hill (Stonington, Maine) June 19-24
Tom Kircher (Biddeford, Maine)
Isolt Lea (Gainesville, Florida)
Jeanne Pahls (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Judy Robbins (Sedgwick, Maine)
Robert Shetterly (Brooksville, Maine)
Mary Beth Sullivan (Bath, Maine)
Margaret Weitzmann (Potsdam, New York)
Mariah Williams (Liberty, Maine)

This morning I got an email from the group Stop the War Machine in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They are organizing to participate in the June 22 fast and will hold a day-long vigil at the gate of Kirtland Air Force Base in their city that day. Kirtland AFB is testing laser weapons for Star Wars and has many aerospace corporations located nearby doing the research and development work on these space weapons systems.

New Mexico has a long history with military space weapons work. Right after World War II former Nazi rocket scientists (100 of them along with 100 copies of Hitler's V-2 rocket) were brought to the New Mexico desert to create the U.S. military space program.

Maj. Gen. Walter Dornberger was in charge of Hitler's program and was one of those brought to the U.S. to work on these systems. It was Dornberger that had the "vision" to put orbiting battle stations in space. The former Nazi rocketeer went on to become Vice-President of Bell Aerospace in New York.

The proposed U.S. Star Wars radar deployment in the Czech Republic would be one key piece in this larger program of Pentagon "control and domination" of space. The Czech radar would help communicate with orbiting military satellites and give the U.S. the ability to launch first-strike attack on Russia. Nearby "missile defense interceptors" in Poland would then pick off any remaining retaliatory strike that Russia might fire.

This new arms race in space has long been in the making. The Pentagon clearly understands that whoever controls space will control the Earth below.

It is our job to stop them. Our taxes should be spent for health care, education, and dealing with climate change not creating a deadly and destabilizing arms race in the heavens.

June 22 will signify a day of education about Star Wars and global resistance to it. Please join us.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

INVITING YOU TO FAST ON JUNE 22

Day 12 of my solidarity hunger strike


It's raining steadily outside today so we have cancelled my daily hunger strike vigil in Brunswick. Tomorrow should be better.

I got an email this morning from a friend in Maine who I knew when we both used to live in Florida. She is asking her friends to join her in the June 22 day of fasting in solidarity with people in the Czech Republic. A second friend in Maine wrote me saying he was going to fast that day as well. A woman from Gainesville, Florida wrote today to say she will strike from June 16-23.

I have to admit I love to eat. I love the preparation of food, the smells, and the joy of eating. In fact I like to eat just a bit too much. When it comes to pasta I have few boundaries. Seconds, thirds, you get my drift.

This hunger strike has been very hard for me but at the same time much easier than I would have expected. I don't think I could have ever come this far on my own. But having the inspiration of knowing that the strike is connected to something larger, something important that I really believe in, has made it almost easy for me at times.

There are some really good cooks in our intentional community house. Levi blows my mind with some of the Oriental fragrances he can whip up. Karen knows how to spice up a dish. Even Mary Beth, who denies that she can cook, was reluctant to share with me that she made herself one of my favorite pasta dishes last night.

Not having eaten in 12 days though has given me a chance to reflect on and appreciate how much we over eat. I've thought alot about how our culture has taught us that meal time is just another consumer experience when instead it is a spiritual practice. We've largely lost the sacred connection when we commodify our mealtimes.

If you decide to join this hunger strike against Star Wars on June 22, or even for longer, please just remember one thing. It is a political act. As you strike please find 1-2 things you can do to make public your reasons for acting. Write a letter to your newspaper, to the politicians, share your story with others, stand on a street with a sign, speak up at church or at a meeting and tell people what you are doing, climb to the top of the tallest building around and drop a 20-foot banner (just don't fall).

Your single act might seem small to you. Someone might say you are being silly or infantile - you are wasting your time. But just tell yourself that on June 22 you are connected to a beating heart around the world that confidently understands you are planting a good seed of consciousness. You are acting to prevent the next arms race before it happens.

We have nothing to lose except the sacred sky.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

LITTLE BY LITTLE IT GOES

Day 11 of my solidarity hunger strike


I got an email from my sister in Iowa today. It said, "Am sending faxes to all senator offices that i can re your article. Love Joan." I about cried. This is my dear sister who is not by nature a political animal like me. She cares about what I do but is not one to usually get involved.

Also heard from four others saying today they are joining the hunger strike either very soon or on June 22 - in response to the Czech call for an international day of hunger strikes against Star Wars. One person told me he will take over for Mary Beth after she does her turn hunger striking.

David Occhiuto, who has an environmental radio show on WBAI in New York, got their news department to call me today for an interview. David will also have me on his show soon. This morning I was interviewed on Radio Prague.

Lots of people are forwarding our emails around and many have signed the on-line petition at http://www.nonviolence.cz/ So there is momentum.

You can watch this video from Prague on the change in strategy which is encouraging more people to join the hunger strike for a day or more.

We had 10 people in Brunswick at noon today on the street during a light rain. It was not supposed to rain that early so we didn't come prepared. Just as the rain increased in intensity a young man came running up from nowhere and handed two black umbrellas to us and then ran off. We watched where he went and discovered he had come from the Bull Moose Record store down the street from where we stand each day. People are paying attention.

I woke up this morning with the least amount of energy I've yet felt and a bit grumpy. Housemates though say that in spite of that I am keeping a good humor - which I am glad to hear them say.

The photo above is from South Korea. I put it here today as a reminder that "missile defense" deployments are not just happening now in Central Europe. The U.S. is pushing them planet wide and it is important that we understand the breadth of this issue.

There is much work yet to be done for all of us. Help us stay at it please.

Bon appetit

Monday, June 02, 2008

HUNGER STRIKERS MESSAGE FROM PRAGUE

Day 10 of my solidarity hunger strike

We heard from the Czech Republic today that Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar will end their hunger strike tonight. Others in their country and around the world will then join the strike in their place. In their statement from Prague today they concluded, "We call on all the people who disagree with this plan [U.S. radar deployment] to show their disagreement, not to stay silent, and to start being active. Because 'democracy' is not just a word, putting a vote into a ballot box once every four years, democracy is about the active participation of every individual. "

In Brunswick, Maine today we had 14 folks on the street to once again hold signs and hand out leaflets to the public. I will continue on the hunger strike until June 7 and at that time Mary Beth Sullivan will take my place. Global Network member Sung-Hee Choi, who began the hunger strike on May 24 in New York City, will also continue until June 7. We are now hearing from other leaders in the Global Network who will also be joining the strike in their communities.

Recognizing that the U.S. is determined to twist the arm of the Czech government into submission to accept the deployment of the provocative "missile defense" radar, Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar are urging others around the world to help expand this effort.

They say, "Today at midnight we will suspend our hunger strike, however, a chain hunger strike will start in our country at the same time, when various people covering the whole social spectrum will be symbolically fasting for 24 hours. Tomorrow, a dissident, former Charter 77 and Independent Movement Activist, Peter Uhl will strike for us. In the following days the relay will be taken over by, among others, the sociologist Jan Keller, artist Anna Geislerova, Senator Alena Gajduskova, member of the Czech Academy of Science Petr Pokorny, Member of Parliament Olga Zubova, journalist Jakub Patocka, artist Lenka Vlasakova, radio editor Jeronym Janicek, and many others. "

"On an international level, for example Dennis Kucinich, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, continues fighting, as well as the U.S. Green Party presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney. Here in the EU we have a meeting on this topic with the vice-president of the European Parliament, Luisa Morgantini next Thursday, who has promised to open a discussion on this topic in the European parliament. Today, Giorgio Schultze, the spokesperson for New Humanism in Europe, who is starting an open-ended hunger strike with the aim of getting a clear EU statement on this U.S. plan, takes the relay baton from us into Europe. Apart from this, hunger strikes to support our struggle are on going in Australia, the USA, Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria."

"All of you, who agree with our protest, can help us to spread it further and join the 22nd June one-day worldwide hunger strike against the Star Wars system, part of which is the planned base in the Czech Republic. This protest is the reaction to our hunger strike, and it is its strong follow-up on a world-wide level. It is already clear that people from all continents will participate."

So our Czech friends are challenging all of us to step up. It is obvious that instead of winding down, this effort against the radar is expanding and each of us can now play a role by joining the hunger strike for one day or more and by helping to spread the word to our organizations and personal networks.

Last Sunday here in Bath, Maine the Rev. Bill Bliss spoke about the hunger strike as the theme of his sermon at his United Church of Christ. Others have been urging people to sign the on-line petition at http://www.nonviolence.cz/ Still others are writing letters to the editor of their newspaper and planning to hold public vigils.

In the coming days the U.S. government will once again be debating their annual Pentagon spending appropriations. The military budget will be well over $600 billion in the coming year and the largest single project is for Star Wars "research and development." Now is the time for those who live in the U.S. to be calling on Congress to defund Star Wars.

This campaign is growing daily as people worldwide learn more about U.S. plans to move the arms race into space.

The aerospace industry often brags that Star Wars will be the largest industrial project in the history of the planet. But in order to make it so they must first drag other countries like the Czech Republic, Poland, Japan, South Korea, Britain, Italy, Canada, Australia, and others into the program.

The resistance we are now seeing from the Czech Republic must be matched with similar efforts all over if we hope to have the resources to effectively deal with climate change and maintain social progress in our communities.

We must join the fight now to keep space for peace.