I am home and my legs are sore. I almost fell asleep driving back from Kennebunk. It was sad to say good-bye to my fellow walkers who are continuing on to New York City for the big May 2 international anti-nuclear peace rally. I'll see them there and have been invited to re-join them on April 6 in Andover, Mass. to speak about space issues at their evening program and will be happy to see them all again.
We had a great send-off lunch today in Kennebunk as we completed the Maine portion of the Walk for a Nuclear-Free Future. Our friend Hana Maris, who lives there, hosted us along with a few other peace folks. A local Thai restaurant donated the lunch for us and we had a birthday cake with a peace sign on it to celebrate Maggie Finch's 89th birthday later this month.
As we were walking southward this morning on U.S. Highway 1 I was thinking of the walks I organized in Florida years ago that went from Cape Canaveral up to the Kings Bay nuclear submarine base just over the Florida-Georgia line. We walked that route in both direction on two different occasions and each time we followed U.S. Hwy 1 - so I was thinking of that long stretch of road and what it has meant to me over the years.
Another thing I was thinking about today as we walked that last 9.8 miles to Kennebunk was the different kind of facial and hand signals people buzzing by in cars gave to me as I was holding my sign that read "Human Needs Not Endless War". Thousands of people got to read my sign as I walked thru Maine. Some would give me a thumbs up, others thumbs down. Some the middle "missile launcher" finger, others a dismissive wave of their hand. Some, with their hands on the car steering wheel would just lift their hand a bit in a mini-wave and others would give a full wave of the hand. Most, as you can imagine, would just stare blindly ahead not wanting to give any clue that they had even noticed our bright crew of peace folks walking down the highway.
Obama came to Portland, Maine today and it appears that several thousand folks turned out to cheer him after the corporate health insurance bill became law. Two of the youngest people on our walk stood in line the other day in the rain to get tickets. So a couple of the walkers were going to go hear his speech today after we finished. They wanted to give him information about the purpose of the walk. While standing in line they met our Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and talked to her about our Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. Pingree told them she had heard of it.
I heard just a couple minutes of Obama's speech on the car radio on my way home. He was saying that it is a "middle of the road" bill, not socialism, and spelled out some of the things in the bill. I don't know why he chose to come to Maine - we are not a swing state. It will be interesting to see what else he talked about in his speech.
This morning we walked from Saco over the river to the working class (former mill town) called Biddeford. There it had been arranged by our host Tom Kircher that we would meet with the mayor of Biddeford Joanne Twomey who is a renegade Democrat. She served in the Maine House of Representatives for eight years and refused to be a party follower. Today she greeted us and said she had no interest in seeing Obama. Twomey told us she was furious about the corporate health care bill (she has no health care even though she is mayor) and fears getting cancer, which killed her husband. She said she really appreciated Tom recently bringing the war $$ home message to their local school board meeting and was blown-away by what their city taxpayers had paid toward the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ($67.1 million) since 2001. She said not to expect much from our two Maine members of Congress (Pingree and Mike Michaud) when it comes to leadership on this issue. Sadly I know she is right.
For me the walk was a great opportunity to bring our message about the war $$ home campaign to lots of new people in communities we rarely work with across the state. So in the end the sore legs and mindless tiredness I feel was all worth it. The new friendships and working with old friends, who served as our local hosts during the journey, was a real gift.
I often tell people that we need to get outside our normal organizing boxes and find ways to reach out to new folks. This walk proved to be just such a vehicle.