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

Saturday, April 03, 2010

ON THE CAPE

MB and I are on Cape Cod in Massachusetts for a few days. Her brother has a condo here on the bay and gave us the key to the place. We both need a rest after months of a feverish pace. On Tuesday we will head to North Andover (north of Boston) where I will speak at a supper program for the walkers who I have just left.

The sun is shining here and we are in the Provincetown library checking our emails. Last night we went out for dinner and then watched the Tavis Smiley show on PBS as he took the big step forward and did a program about Martin Luther King Jr.'s courageous 1967 anti-war speech at Riverside Church in New York City. Smiley explored the severe criticism that King took for stepping outside his "civil rights box" when he leaped into the debate over the Vietnam War. King make the link between funding the imperial Asian war with cutbacks in the poverty programs at that time. He asked if America's soul was dead.

Dr. Vincent Harding, who is co-credited with writing the "Beyond Vietnam" speech, tells Smiley that King's inner circle worried about the ramifications of the speech, both before and after he gave it.

"We were concerned, he was concerned, but he had really come to the point, as the speech is trying to say, where if he was to be a man of conscience, a man of compassion, he had to speak," said Dr. Harding.

He added, "But it was precisely one year to the day after this speech that that bullet which had been chasing him for a long time finally caught up with him. And I am convinced that that bullet had something to do with that speech."

Smiley then boldly showed bits of Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech where he tried to justify his war in Afghanistan by saying that non-violence had its place but that he as president had the responsibility to protect against "terrorism".

Smiley asked Harry Belafonte (who was a close friend and confidant to MLK) about this and Belafonte blistered Obama's thinking as did Cornel West who called Obama an agent of Pharaoh.

This was a very significant show because it opened the door for the black leadership class to begin to publicly critique Obama in ways that prior to now have been verboten.

You could sense that Smiley was himself struggling with how much to begin challenging Obama but it was crystal clear that the example of MLK was the model that he and others were using to guide them on road to truth.

The good folks at Black Agenda Report have not been timid to take on Obama and have been pressuring the likes of Smiley and West to become more vocal. It appears now that they have done so.

They are now free of the chains that can bind conscience.

You can watch the show here

Friday, April 02, 2010

WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF GANGJEONG



Four hundred years ago, our ancestors founded their place here where water is clean and the landscape is beautiful.

The sea is the indigo blue as to make my eyes cool.

The row stone walls are that I depended upon when I learned my first walking

The alleys are where I played with my friends not knowing the sun’s already setting.

On the way to school, I used to see the Beom Island beyond the row walls. And my grandfather's tomb.

Until the day becomes dark, I used to rise on the bank and played with my younger brother, waited for my father’s fishing boat returning back.

During the day of hot sun-rays, my mother used to work in the farms.

I can not forget the shining sun-rays on my mother's back whenever she returned home.
Unnoticed, I grew up and met my lover.

Became to have the children whom I will not feel the pain even though I put in my two yeses.

I raised them with love, here in Gangjeong.

We are the Gangjeong people.

We have never sold Gangjeong. We have never given up Gangjeong.

Until the hot blood in our bodies become cold, we cannot stop fighting.

We are the Gangjeong people.

ACTION NEEDED: If you have not yet called or emailed to support the villagers of Gangjeong who are fighting against the building of the Navy base, please do so right away. Call the South Korean Embassy at 202-939-5692 (Admiral Choi) or 202-939-5600 or email at consular_usa@mofat.go.kr

Thursday, April 01, 2010

WALK OVER FOR ME BUT MEMORIES REMAIN

This is a photo from last Friday when we walked from Lewiston to Brunswick and had lunch at Graziano's Italian restaurant in Lisbon.

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.

I told the mayor that we need people like her, local elected officials, to speak out more and make the connections between war spending and cut backs in jobs and local services.

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.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

IS AMERICA YEARNING FOR FASCISM?


By Chris Hedges

The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.

“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies. They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are.

The longer we appeal to the Democrats, who are servants of corporate interests, the more stupid and ineffectual we become. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and they are right. Only 25 percent of those polled said the government can be trusted to protect the interests of the American people. If we do not embrace this outrage and distrust as our own it will be expressed through a terrifying right-wing backlash.

“It is time for us to stop talking about right and left,” McKinney told me. “The old political paradigm that serves the interests of the people who put us in this predicament will not be the paradigm that gets us out of this. I am a child of the South. Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from the white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. Citizens United did not come from white supremacists, it came from the Supreme Court. Our problem is a problem of governance. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.”

We are bound to a party that has betrayed every principle we claim to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy, to a demand for quality and affordable public education, to a concern for the jobs of the working class. And the hatred expressed within right-wing movements for the college-educated elite, who created or at least did nothing to halt the financial debacle, is not misplaced. Our educated elite, wallowing in self-righteousness, wasted its time in the boutique activism of political correctness as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs. The shouting of racist and bigoted words at black and gay members of Congress, the spitting on a black member of the House, the tossing of bricks through the windows of legislators’ offices, are part of the language of rebellion. It is as much a revolt against the educated elite as it is against the government. The blame lies with us. We created the monster.

When someone like Palin posts a map with cross hairs on the districts of Democrats, when she says “Don’t Retreat, Instead—RELOAD!” there are desperate people cleaning their weapons who listen. When Christian fascists stand in the pulpits of megachurches and denounce Barack Obama as the Antichrist, there are messianic believers who listen. When a Republican lawmaker shouts “baby killer” at Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, there are violent extremists who see the mission of saving the unborn as a sacred duty. They have little left to lose. We made sure of that. And the violence they inflict is an expression of the violence they endure.

These movements are not yet full-blown fascist movements. They do not openly call for the extermination of ethnic or religious groups. They do not openly advocate violence. But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, “In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.” It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration.

Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press. Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood.

OBAMANATION

TIRED FEET BUT STILL WALKING

Walk arrives in Freeport
From Brunswick to Freeport, Maggie Finch (third person) walking more than half way each day

Bath to Brunswick


Today I have a day off from the peace walk. I think we all needed it, my feet had become so sore that when I stopped walking I got stiff within minutes and could barely move. We walked six days in a row from Bethel to Portland and pick it up again in the morning when we move from Portland to Saco. From there we finish in Kennebunk and the walk will continue without us Mainers south to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

There is so much to write about. The walking community, usually about 10-15 at a time, swells and shrinks each day as people come and go. On Saturday we had 35 walk from Bath to Brunswick and we got kicked out of a gas station parking lot by the state police after the owner of the station complained about us taking a rest break there. He didn't like our politics.

On Sunday, Brunswick to Freeport, we had about 20 folks and needed a place to take a break from the cold. One of our folks stopped at a country bed and breakfast Inn and knocked on the door and asked if we could rest there. They said yes and a 10-year old girl lives there who had a peace sign on her t-shirt. She asked her mother if she could walk with us and her mom ended up joining as well so they both walked more than five miles to our final destination that day.

Yesterday we walked 17 miles through a hard rain and wind to Portland. We were down to about 13 folks. By the time we got to Portland I was soaked from my waist to the insides of my shoes. Once we got to the pot luck supper I took off my socks and had to wring the water out of them.

I write this while laying in bed with my laptop on my knees. I feel like staying in bed all day.

I'm not complaining though. It is such a great experience and the people are wonderful. And the human connections we are making along the way are just very magical.

Maggie Finch, 89 years old next week, keeps telling everyone that all along the way the dogs are showing their support for the walk. She says they keep barking and pulling on their chains in order to try to join with us. Maggie is walking more than half of the mileage each day. And we all have fallen totally in love with her. She read two of her poems the other night at our pot luck supper in Brunswick. One of them, written just after the bombing of Hiroshima, has a line about the dragon with its fire lighting the way to hell.

While walking in that rain yesterday I got a call on my cell phone from John Richardson who is a candidate for governor in Maine. He is a Democrat and the former Speaker of the House in the state legislature. He is one of many in a crowded field of candidates competing for the Democratic party nomination.

In Maine we have public financing of elections so candidates are required to secure $5 donations from some number of citizens (I am not sure how many but something like 1,000 or so) in order to "qualify" for the state campaign funds.

So anyway, Richardson calls me and asks for a $5 donation. I told him I am not a Democrat and don't support the party because they won't demand that their president stop these wars. He told me I don't have to be a Dem in order to give him $5, plus he insisted that I remember that in 2003 he was one of those in the Maine legislature that voted in favor of a resolution opposing the war.

I responded by saying that was great in 2003, but that was when the Republican Bush was in power, and we are now in 2010 and the Democrats are not willing to speak out against their own president who is expanding wars.

Richardson was working real hard to convince me to send him $5 (I figured he must be pretty desperate to call me in the first place - I had to fight hard just to get a word in during the phone call....)

I finally told him, look I am out here walking in the rain, my feet hurt and my shoes are wet, and I am trying to stop these wars and want our war $$ home. I'll tell you this, I told him, let me hear you on TV or the radio or read a quote from you in the newspaper calling on Obama to end these wars and bring our war $$ home. Once I hear such a statement from you I will be happy to send you $5. That was the end of the conversation.

I doubt I will ever have to write the check. I'll let you know if I do.

In the meantime, I notice Obama has gone to Afghanistan to pump up the war. My guess is that he is trying to take the "goodwill" he is feeling inside his party after passage of the corporate health care bill and wants to translate that into more support for the soon to be requested $33 billion war spending supplemental. I note that Obama trotted out the Bush talking points of 9-11 to justify the continuation of the Afghanistan war. He also wore the leather bomber jacket Bush always wore in similar situations. Why would anyone believe any of this?

The other thing in the news has been the agreement between Russia and Obama to cut nuclear weapons to about 1,500 each. The Russians wanted to add an agreement on "missile defense" systems but the U.S. refused. It is always good to reduce nukes by any amount but this agreement obviously fails to achieve the demands of the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that calls on all nuclear powers to get rid of all their nukes if they expect other nations like Iran or North Korea not to build any.

So the hypocrisy continues and that is why in the morning I will drag my tired feet back out onto the road to continue in the Walk for a Nuclear-Free Future.

DOWN IT FALLS


Message from peace activists in Vicenza, Italy who have long been protesting the expansion of U.S. military base in their community. The base will be used to give the Pentagon greater ability to intervene in the African continent.

"Good afternoon, from a sunny Vicenza.

Here is the latest news with the work done today to clear the riverbank from the recent fence built by the constructors of the base, without any permission from the Local Authorities.

The workers of the 'Independent Municipality No Dal Molin' have brought a state of free transit on the public land by the river."