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, November 06, 2010

PEACE WALKERS MAKE IT TO BANGOR

Buddhist monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji order lead a group of veterans from the Paul Bunyan park on Main Street in Bangor to the Peace and Justice Center on Park street on Friday. The Veterans for Peace group's walk was intended to draw attention to soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The statewide peace walk began in Farmington on Wednesday and ends in Portland Nov. 11
11/5/10
By Macey Hall
Special to the Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Veterans for Peace Walk came through Bangor on Friday as part of a 10-day trek across the state to raise awareness about the costs of war.

A Buddhist monk, the Rev. Gyoway Kato of the Nipponzan Myohoji order, is leading the walk along with Maine Veterans for Peace. The walk began Tuesday in Farmington and will end Nov. 11 in Portland, where participants hope to take part in the Veterans Day parade. So far they have walked 40 miles.

The group’s stop in Paul Bunyan Park was its third of the 10-stop peace walk. As the walkers gathered in the park gazebo, many held signs with messages such as “Make jobs, not war” and “Bring our war dollars home.” From the park, they walked to the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine on Park Street and gave a presentation at St. John’s Episcopal Church on French Street.

“War is linked to our failing economy,” said Dud Hendrick, president of Maine Veterans for Peace Chapter 001. “Money is needed so desperately, and it’s being spent on faraway places and not at home.”

According to the Maine Veterans for Peace website, the walk was organized to promote social progress, raise awareness about the impact the war in Afghanistan is having on the environment, and its cost to returning veterans, whose rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder are high. The group maintains that the war is costly, at more than $8 billion a month, and needs to end.

Participants walk an average of 16 miles a day, but because of the great distances between towns and cities they are visiting, they take shuttles to make up the difference. About 20 people made the trip Friday from Waterville to Bangor, but ended up walking only eight miles because of the rain.

There is a core group of 20 who plan to walk every day, but the public is invited to join the walk at any time, Hendrick said.

“So far, people have been very supportive. There’s been lots of honking of horns in support, and thumbs up,” he said.

Each evening the participants stay with a host in the towns they walk through and hold a public discussion.

“They’re very helpful to connect with people and put the conversation out,” Tim Bullock of New England Peace Pagoda, a spiritual group, said of the nightly presentations. “We discuss spending tax dollars, what the war is doing to us and taking from us. As we spend more and more on war, we’re unable to keep police departments fully staffed, teachers employed and schools open.”

Bullock said he got involved in this week’s event in Maine through Peace Pagoda, which held a walk last year to the United Nations in New York City. Members of Maine Veterans for Peace took part in that walk, so to repay the favor, Peace Pagoda members participated in the walk through Maine, Bullock said.

“I’m very honored to walk with Veterans for Peace,” the Rev. Gyoway Kato said.

The group will continue its walk in Belfast today. From there, participants will head to Rockland on Sunday, Bath on Monday, Freeport on Tuesday and Portland on Wednesday to take part in the parade on Thursday. By Thursday, the group expects to have walked a total of 126.8 miles.

Last year in the Portland Veterans Day parade, the Maine Veterans for Peace held a sign that stated, “Stop war in Afghanistan.” That resulted in their not being invited to participate this year, according to Alex Valente, a University of Maine at Farmington student and walk participant.

“We’re not doing this as a way of protest or disrespect,” she said. “We’re just doing it because they’re veterans and they should be able to march in the parade, too.”

PEACE WALK NEWS CLIP

Friday, November 05, 2010

UNITY IN UNITY

Rev. Kato leading the walk with nun Jun-san right behind him

We are taking a lunch break in a town called Unity, Maine. Soon we will leave for Bangor and when we arrive in that city local activists and media will meet us at a park and walk with us the last mile into the heart of the city and on to the offices of the Eastern Maine Peace & Justice Center where massage therapists will be waiting to work on our sore feet, legs and backs.

It's raining again today but the sun seems to be trying to peep through the clouds. Four new people joined us this morning for the day, it is always exciting to have new folks pop into the peace walk as they bring a new energy.

A young man named David is with us for the whole way. He is a recent college graduate who is currently attending the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland and has taken on the walk as his big writing project. He's been interviewing various walkers and is often bent over his notebook scribbling and scratching away. David has also been walking alot and had several blisters last night that more experienced walkers helped him deal with.

The Buddhists from Nipponzan Myohoji are veteran walkers and bring a strong sense of commitment, humor, and joy to the walking community. They also help us know how to deal with our aches and pains. Last night the Japanese nun Jun-san doctored a blister I had on one toe by burning some natural product over the sore spot and then rubbing the charcoal from the fire into the blister. So far today I am walking with no pain.

Carolyn Coe drove a long way from the Blue Hill area early this morning to reach the walk. She is recording interviews for WERU radio, a well-loved progressive station in this part of the state. Our message will go out to an even wider audience.

The thing I love most about walks is how close the people become with one another in a short period of time. A common purpose, and shared sore muscles, is a real bond in building community. Right now walker extraordinaire Betty is singing to us as she sweeps up after lunch. Other women are joining the song. It warms the heart.

Vanessa, a young black woman from Western Massachusetts (I call her V-V), is going around the room arranging nap space for people who want to lay down for awhile. We are being hosted for this lunch time in a community art gallery and theatre which is a lovely and stimulating space.

We got an email this morning from a woman who saw us walking on the first day.

She wrote:

I wanted to tell you how inspiriting it was to encounter the peace walk on my drive in to Farmington on Wednesday, a dismal day of election returns. I was driving in late with the dog, when I saw you all on Rt. 27 -- I'm not sure if it was appropriate to blow my horn, but I wanted to join in somehow. It really was the unexpected bright spot on the gray highway of the day for me. Thank you so much for all of your efforts!
Misty

Thursday, November 04, 2010

CLOSER LOOK AT THE ELECTIONS

WET IN WATERVILLE




We had 40 people walk 14.4 miles yesterday and the weather was perfect. Cold and sunny, energizing walking weather. Today was another story.

Twenty of us left Showhegan this morning with threatening skies and after lunch the rain started coming down. We walked through a steady rain for the last three hours of the 18.4 mile walk that took us to Waterville.

Waterville is the town where Maine's new tea-party Republican governor hails from. Paul LePage has been the mayor of Waterville for some time and won the five-way race with 38% of the vote, just 1% more than the guy who came in second place. The Democratic Party candidate came in third place with a very poor showing and the Republicans won both the House and Senate in the Maine state legislature - the first time the Republicans have won the governor and legislature since the 1960's.

As we walked today, with me carrying my sign which was becoming limp from the rain, I was thinking of the right-wingers who would now and then blast by us in their super-duper pickup trucks. They liked to gun their engines, with loud mufflers, just as they were alongside us and the noise was their way of blasting us in a militaristic show of their contempt for our walk. I thought about how the election triumph of the Republicans will give these junior brownshirts even more of a feeling of power and license to kick some "liberal" ass.

The walk though also drew a steady, if not overwhelming, number of peace signs, honks, and waves. These folks were generally glad to see us and were often quite animated. They are likely relieved to see some determined peace walkers out on the road of an increasingly right-wing America.

I was reminded that this walk comes at just the right time for the public and for me personally. While I have to admit I miss not be home reading every last word about the electoral debacle across the nation, I am also fortunate to be out walking along the rural highways of our state making eye contact with literally thousands of people inside their cars.

If we are to survive this period then we must be out on the street and it must be done repeatedly in the near future. We must also be offering people a positive transformative vision for the future - bring our war $$ home, convert the military industrial complex, create jobs building public transit systems, weatherizing our homes, building a solar society and more.

Neither the Republicans nor the forlorn Democrats will be raising this agenda. They will be dueling over more tax cuts for the rich, maintaining the corporate insurance plan pushed through by Obama, and bickering over the level of escalation of the war in Afghanistan-Pakistan. It's fallen on us to offer the real solutions to America's economic troubles and collapsing military empire.

Doing so ain't gonna be easy. Right now my feet hurt, I am very tired, and in the morning we expect to be greeted by more rain. But I don't think there is any better way to reach the people than walking through their community - and so we will do it, blisters, sore muscles and all.

Note: All the photos above are from our first day of walking from Farmington to Skowhegan.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

GREAT START IN FARMINGTON


More than 100 people turned up for the Maine peace walk pot luck supper tonight in Farmington, Maine - half of whom were college students. The students set up the tables and worked in the kitchen serving the food and cleaning up afterwards.

We arrived in Farmington early and went to a coffee shop so I could check my emails. While there we found the University of Maine-Farmington student newspaper with a full page front cover photo of Buddhist monk Brother Kato who will be leading the walk. Inside the paper were two stories about the walk, one about an 18 year old student named Alex who intends to walk the whole way to Portland. She has lined up other students to donate per mile with the proceeds going to their new student peace group called Paint - Peace activists in training.

We begin walking to Skowhegan (14.4 mile day) at 8:30 in the morning. Weather forecast is sunny but cold.

THE ENTHUSIASM GAP

Monday, November 01, 2010

VIEW OF EARTH FROM SPY PLANE


See the Lockheed Martin U-2 spy plane promo video.

The U-2 was built to go higher than any other aircraft. In fact today, more than 50 years since it went into production, the U-2 flies higher than any aircraft in the world with the exception of the space shuttle.

It is flying more missions and longer missions than ever before, nearly 70 missions a month over Iraq and Afghanistan.

I must acknowledge though that the pictures are beautiful of the sky and Earth below and remind me that we live on this tiny satellite zooming through space that has no real boundaries, borders, or walls to keep people away from one another.

It's just a damn shame that we have to get these pictures from a source like Lockheed Martin who makes a mint developing ways to kill one another.

Peace now!

MAINE PEACE WALK BEGINS IN FARMINGTON TUESDAY

Peace walkers last spring in Lewiston, Maine at the peace bridge named after Dr. Bernard Lown who grew up in that city


By Ann Bryant, Staff Writer
Lewiston Sun Journal
Nov 01, 2010

FARMINGTON — Maine Veterans for Peace will begin a 10-day peace walk in Farmington with a celebratory potluck meal and program at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Old South First Congregational Church. The public is welcome.

The Maine Walk for Peace, Human Needs and Veterans Care, starts Wednesday morning when a core group will head for Skowhegan then on to Waterville, Bangor, Belfast, Rockland, Bath, Freeport and Portland to join the Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11.

Because of the distances between, there will be a shuttle for part of each day, but an average of 18 miles or less will be walked each day, said Bruce Gagnon of Bath, a member of Maine Veterans for Peace.

People are welcome to join the walk for an hour, a day or the whole trip, he said. A core group of about 20 people intend to make the whole trek. Local groups in each town will host an evening potluck meal and program and provide housing and breakfast for those on the trek.

Tuesday's first meal in Farmington is a celebratory kickoff with a student peace group from the University of Maine at Farmington helping, he said. UMF President Theodora Kalikow will provide a welcome and Douglas Rawlings from UMF and a founding member of Maine Veterans for Peace, will say a few words. The Nipponzan Myohoji order of Buddhist monks and nuns with the Rev. Gyoway Kato will lead the 128-mile walk, Rawlings said.

The Buddhist monk order has participated in several walks and conferences around Maine, Gagnon said.

When the group reaches Skowhegan on Wednesday night, doctors, social workers and teachers will provide a presentation on what they are seeing in life, a decline of social progress, he said.

Each night's presentation will be different and is intended to start a conversation with community members on their reason for the walk.

Concerns about war, the cost of the war in Afghanistan and the cost to returning veterans whose rates of suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders are high, were noted as motivators for the walk.

“Few people know that the cost of the war is more than $8 billion a month ... with the country spending that much money, there's no money available for much else,” Gagnon said. "We want to shine a light on these deep concerns and create a discussion as we go through."

Several towns on the route are college towns as the group wants to get students and young people involved. They want to start them talking about the future and the demise of social progress in America.

A new peace group started on the UMF campus this semester, Peace Activists in Training, or PAINT, is helping with the meal Tuesday, Rawlings said. He is an adviser for the group.

That the start of the peace walk falls on election night is partially intentional. No matter which party controls Congress, the war goes on, Gagnon said. With massive bases being built there, there's no intent to come home. The group hopes to garner more legislative attention and action.

Veterans for Peace is a national organization that started in Maine 25 years ago, Gagnon said. There are now 100 chapters comprised of veterans from all wars. This past summer the state group hosted the 25th national convention.

Veterans for Peace is committed to working on the cost of war and bringing attention to post traumatic stress disorder by offering conferences and education for not only soldiers but also their families, he said.

Notes and videotapes taken along the peace walk will be posted on its website.

The public is welcome to walk or attend the evening potlucks and programs. Information on the schedule is posted at www.vfpmaine.org/vfp.htm

SOUTH KOREAN GROUPS RALLY TO OPPOSE PARTICIPATION IN U.S. "MISSILE DEFENSE" PROGRAM

Thirty-seven organizations in South Korea (ROK) have issued a statement opposing their nation's participation in the U.S. "missile offense" program. Below is just the conclusion of the statement, see the full wording here

Immediately stop the examination on joining the MD that does more harm than good!

As above, South Korea’s participation in the US MD system does more harm than good, as it would bring nuclear war and nuclear arms sale, therefore would seriously threaten peace in the Korean peninsula & northeast Asia, aggravate her military subordination into the United States, and throw tremendous financial burden to her people. The United States is doing that to strengthen her military domination in the northeast Asia, positioning South Korea as her advanced base, while the Lee Myung-Bak government is enforcing that to secure its vested rights amidst the political situations in the inside and outside of the Korean peninsula, which are becoming disadvantageous to it hanging on the ROK-US alliance, and furthermore to drive the absorbing unification by force against North Korea.

We resolutely oppose South Korea’s joining the US MD system, which is really dangerous and unnecessary. We strongly demand the Lee Myung-Bak government to immediately stop the examination on the involvement in the US MD, and Kim Tae-Young, the Minister of National Defense, to promptly resign from his post. We will briskly struggle to prevent [South Korea’s] MD involvement, with our people who aspire complete non-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula, realization of the Peace agreement, and dissolution of the ROK-US alliance, the root of all kinds of subordination and peace-threat.

Oct. 25, 2010

Solidarity for Peace And Reunification of Korea; Korean Confederation of Trade Unions; Democratic Labor Party; New Progressive Party; Socialist Party of Korea; Labor Front; People’s Solidarity for Social Progress; Revolution 4.19 Committee; Korea Alliance of Progressive Movements (Christian Social Mission Solidarity Council; Labor Human Rights Center; Farmers’ Pharmacy; Supporting Committee for Prisoners of Conscience; Korea Council for Democratic Martyr; Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities; Association of the Family Movements for Democracy Practice; Buddhism Peace Solidarity; Council for the Drive on Our Nation’s Unification through Federation System; Korean Peasants League; Pan Korean Bereaved Families’ Association for Nation and Democracy; Pan Korean Bereaved Families’ Association for Democracy Movement (Inc.); Pan Korean Poor People’s Association for Liberation; Korean Women Peasant Association; The Central Association for National Unification of Korea; Pan Korean Association for Reconciliation (Minhwaryon); Korean Democratic Workers’ Council; Solidarity for Democracy, Public-Welfare, Peace, Unification and Sovereignty; Pan Korean Women’s Solidarity; Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification of Korea, South Korea branch; Veterans for Peace, Corea; Unification Square; Korea Youth Solidarity; 21st Century Pan Korean University Students’ Association; June 15 Youth and Student’s Solidarity) Anti-War Peace Solidarity; All Together, Asian Wide Campaign (AWC), Korea Committee

NATO SUMMIT PROTESTS PLANNED


November 19-21 there will be protests against the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

Of particular importance at this summit will be the issue of "missile offense" spreading throughout Europe - especially expanding eastward to surround Russia. This move by the U.S., and its NATO lackies, is intended to box Russia in so the oil majors can control distribution of oil and natural gas in the years ahead. Russia sits on the world's biggest supply of natural gas and significant supplies of oil. In addition, the oil corporations don't want to see the Caspian Sea pipelines being routed through Russia.

Missile offense systems are key elements in U.S. first-strike attack planning. As they spread they are becoming triggers for war with Russia and China.

The man on the left in the video is Dave Webb who was recently elected national chair of the UK's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He is also the chair of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

TRICKS AND FEW TREATS


  • It's Halloween and in anther two hours the kids in the neighborhood will be knocking on our door wanting candy. Last night housemate Amanda threw a party for her two children and their friends. So the place was decorated and quite lively. Most of the rest of us in the house went out to the movie and dinner during the party. We saw Social Network about the founder of Facebook and the lawsuits that resulted after he stole the idea for the online site from others and then tried to cheat his "friend" and cofounder out of the riches that followed after it took off and became a global phenomenon. A story about greed and betrayal.

  • I saw yesterday that 47% of Democrats want someone to run against Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries before the 2012 election. It looks like his own party is now turning on him. Some of these folks are likely former supporters of Hillary Clinton but I would venture a guess that many are also people who feel Obama has betrayed his promises to fight for real hope and change.....

  • The rally to "Restore Sanity" yesterday in Washington DC by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert drew a huge crowd. I've watched several videos and looked at hundreds of photos (on the Washington Post web site) but was not particularly impressed with what most of the sign holders had to say.

Stewart had some nice closing comments about how we should all get along, and respect diversity, but the fact that so many people can get together (CBS News reported 215,000) without mentioning two wars that are draining the national treasury speaks to the reality of how the American people have been depoliticized (politically neutered). A straw poll of rally goers by pollster Celinda Lake revealed: "86 percent of those surveyed plan on voting Democratic next week, another 8 percent said they are undecided with 1 percent planning to vote Republican." So clearly a crowd of Democrats and 13% of them told the pollsters that ending war was their top priority. The #1 concern of the assembled was jobs with 41%. How about connecting the dots between war spending and economic collapse?

At the end Stewart had crooner Tony Bennett sing "America the Beautiful" which was a nice touch, but I was disappointed that the crowd then took to chanting the right-wings favorite mantra: "USA, USA, USA......."

FORGOTTEN HAITI


Treatment centres are being prepared in Haiti to deal with the further possible spread of cholera. The outbreak is believed to have started ten days ago and has claimed over 330 lives. Aid agencies are also mobilising in case Tropical storm Tomas makes landfall. Al Jazeera's Craig Mauro reports on the attempts to contain the disease.