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, June 26, 2010

MADAWASKA




It is more beautiful here in Madawaska, Maine than we had expected. Today we went to a reenactment of our Gagnon French-Canadian ancestors crossing over the river that separates the two countries (before there was a U.S.). This evening we attended the banquet of over 700 people.

The Gagnon clan is very friendly and unpretentious. We sat with a French-Canadian couple that made us feel like we had met long time close relatives.

Many of the folks speak French, the people in Madawaska and surrounding towns are keeping the French tongue very much alive around here.

State Senate President (and Governor candidate) Libby Mitchell was at the event and gave us a note to our 11 year old neighbor friend who is a big fan.

Sadly the folks doing genealogy here did not get my family history I had mailed in to them in advance of the reunion so were were not able to learn which of the four Gagnons who came to Quebec in the mid-1600's we came from. Will have to follow up on this afterwards.

In the morning we will attend a church service in Frenchville and then head home. It's been real fun to be here and we are all glad we made the trip.

Plus my Orioles won two in a row so I might have to come to Madawaska more often.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

OIL RAIN - WHAT'S NEXT?


This is a pure survival moment - we either end oil drilling in the oceans or we are dead ducks. Time for survival instincts to kick in.....

HEADING NORTH INTO HISTORY

My sister Joan, who lives in Iowa, arrives today. On Thursday morning we (MB too) will drive north about six hours to Madawaska, Maine right near the Canadian border. The occasion - the Gagnon family reunion.

Gagnon is a French-Canadian name. My father was born in Ogdensburg, New York right along the St. Lawrence River that separates the U.S. and Canada.

All the Gagnon's in Canada and the U.S. are descendants of three brothers Mathurin, Jean, Pierre, and their cousin Robert. The three young Gagnon brothers emigrated in 1635 from the small village of La Gagnonniere in Northwestern France to Quebec, where they opened a store on St. Pierre St. in the lower city.

We've never been to one of these reunions and won't know anyone there. But it should be an interesting experience for us as we try to learn which of the early Gagnon's we came from.

I hear that the Gagnon name is quite common in northern Maine - potato growing country. It's a large region but not many people live in that part of the state.

I am excited about the trip.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

JUST IN CASE WE FORGOT

I am not yet recovered from my trip. Today I feel like doing nothing except working in the garden and chopping the last bit of wood that is stashed in a corner of our yard. My mind needs a break.

But before I get out of bed and have breakfast I wanted to remind myself and others about that far away war in Afghanistrap. Yeah that place with the trillion dollars worth of minerals - just ready for mining. But first we must "stabilize" the joint, so we'll need to stay there for a couple more years or so.......and yes, of course, we will need some more $$$ for the war to keep it going.

I can say without much exaggeration that the peace movement in America is limping pretty badly on one leg. I hate to admit it but let's face reality. People care but they have just about given up. I'm not about to join them...I'm far too stubborn for that, but it's rather hard to deny the truth.

These things are cyclical, the tide does come in and out, and for sure the tide is way out right now.

The BP disaster has only exacerbated people's feeling of impotence......the despair is toxic and spreading like a fast moving oil slick.

The question is what can an organizer like me offer people at this moment? Hope, solutions, evidence of possibilities, a sense that we are on the verge of springing to life again?

I don't have any magical answers.....I just keep remembering those folks who are fighting on Jeju Island or the innocents who are being killed in Afghanistan or the social needs going unmet in this country due to endless military spending. That is all the incentive I need to keep going.

But just a couple days off. Then I'll get back on the case. See you all then........

Monday, June 21, 2010

OFFERING ILLUSION INSTEAD OF CLEAN-UP

This is an excellent news report. I've seen several different news stories by this particular reporter and have been impressed with each of them. He's one of the better journalists out there these days.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

DAVE WEBB INTERVIEWED ABOUT PAX AMERICANA


The chairperson of the Global Network, Dave Webb, being interviewed about Pax Americana. Daves teaches engineering at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK and is national Vice-Chair of the UK's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

TRIP LOOSE ENDS

The chairman of the Mugeonri village committee discovers the gate is unlocked and inside we went. On the left used to be rice paddies and the U.S. Army now drives tanks through the mountains and fires shells in the direction of North Korea
Right-wingers in South Korea have been busy in recent days after progressives sent a letter to the UN's Security Council questioning the "official story" about the sinking of the Cheonan Navy ship

Meeting here with Dr. Chung (left) whose parents were survivors of the massacre at No Gun Ri during the Korean War

Our delegation getting ready to board the bus in Gangjeong village for trip to airport and return to Seoul. I've got on my Korean World Cup soccer shirt that illustrates many activists hopes that the teams from the North and South would end up in the semi-finals against one another - a reunification activists dream come true. But unlikely to happen this time.


* On our last day in South Korea our thinned out delegation took a trip north to within an hours drive of the DMZ to a village called Mugeonri. Since 1979 the U.S. military has been scooping up large holdings of rice farm land and complete villages in the area in order to create a huge military training area for tanks and armored vehicles. The people in this area have lived here for 400 years and have relatives just over the border in North Korea. The process of having their lands stolen from them is doubly sad because not only do they lose their sacred farms and communities but the military maneuvers that are carried out there are aimed toward North Korea and any attack is sure to kill their relatives.

Each time there is a U.S. military war game in the tree-lined mountains surrounding their declining village populations, 30-60 tanks and armored vehicles trundle through their streets in the early morning or late at night. In 2002 two local school girls were ran over by U.S. Army tanks as they walked to a birthday party. Those responsible for running them down were never punished and the killings became a huge controversy all across South Korea.

Led by the chairman of the local village committee, and a leader from SPARK, we were driven around to see the growing area that makes up the training fields. When we came to a padlocked iron gate blocking our entry onto a road through the mountains, the local chairman discovered that the gate was not actually locked. So he threw open the gate and we piled back into his van and into the mountainous war rehearsal zone we drove. Soon we came to several military camps, set up with tents and South Korean Army soldiers in full battle gear. We got out saying we wanted to see their sacred tree that has bark that turns water blue. The soldiers kept shouting at us to move on and one of them had his machine gun pointed at us the entire time we were outside the van pointing to the tree on a hill just beyond their war camp.

We also stopped by the large tombstone honoring the two teenage girls and heard the story that it had been purchased by the soldiers from the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division whose personnel had run them over. Local Korean activists have requested the Army remove the tombstone so that the community can replace it with one of their own but so far the Army has ignored their request.

* I am writing this from the airport in Washington DC where I have a five-hour wait to catch my plane back to Maine. I did not sleep during the 13 hour flight from Korea back to the U.S. and watched seven movies. My mind is mush now and doing this blog is a chore.

* While on Jeju Island we watched a half-hour video and I was struck by one phrase: "We don't know where our ending point is....but we do know that when there is a start there is an end."

* We had alot of fun on the trip and of particular interest was Michael Lujan Bevacqua's quest to count the number of Dunkin Donut shops along our journey. I think he hit about 20 in all, and while a nice joke, it made the important point about the corporate colonization of South Korea. Michael, from Guam, has a blog where he has posted photos and his reflections throughout our trip. You can find it here

* Dr. Chung (in the photo above who we met the night before we left) is the chairman of the citizens committee to bring justice to those who were massacred at No Gun Ri on July 26-29, 1950. He and his father (both his parents are survivors of the massacre that killed up to 400 innocent civilians) have worked for years to bring the massacre to light and ultimately proved that the carnage had been ordered by high-level U.S. military brass. Recently a mainstream South Korean TV network did a documentary about No Gun Ri and he presented it to me so it could be shown at the national Veterans for Peace 25th anniversary convention that will be held in Portland, Maine on August 25-29.

* The big story in Korea these days though is the sinking of the South Korean Navy boat called the Cheonan. Progressive activists from an organization called the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) sent a letter to the UN's Security Council seriously questioning the South Korean right-wing President Lee's "official" account that puts the blame on North Korea. PSPD also calls for a real international investigation of the incident.

One of the Naval experts who was on the South Korean investigative committee disagreed with the formal findings of the final report and maintains that the ship was grounded (and broke apart) in rough shallow waters during U.S.-South Korean military exercises that put these ships near North Korean waters.

South Korean President Lee is furious with PSPD for "unilaterally" approaching the UN Security Council and has helped stoke up the anger of right-wingers who have been daily attacking the offices of PSPD in Seoul. You can read an interesting article in a South Korean newspaper (in English) here

You can also read a letter from SPARK to the UN Security Council here