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: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'm back to work for the Global Network. Will continue to help Lisa Savage for US Senate campaign on my free time. Trying to self-isolate as much as possible. Best wishes and good luck to you all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

TALKING WITH THE CHOIR AT THE FAIR


I spent Friday-Saturday-Sunday at the Common Ground Fair in Unity. About 50,000 people from throughout Maine and nearby states gathered for the annual celebration of the organic farming movement and alternative politics.

Veterans for Peace and Bring Our War $$ Home campaign shared a booth and talked with legions of people during the course of the fair. We handed out literature and sold buttons, bumperstickers and the very popular Americans Who Tell the Truth series of portrait cards by Maine artist Robert Shetterly.

I began asking people who approached our table if they knew how much money the Congress was spending on the Afghanistan war each month. Many would say they knew, or they didn't want to know, but in fact few people knew that the figure is $10 billion every month. But they were all clear that those tax dollars could be better used back here at home.

My follow-up question to people was, "I'm making a list of ideas. Please tell me how you think we can get out from behind this eight-ball." There were some interesting suggestions but quite a number of folks said they didn't think we could do anything to stop the coming collapse and return to feudalism. One man told me that the night before a group of his friends sat around a dinner table and they all came to the conclusion that nothing could be done. Their "knight in shining armor" Barack Obama, who was going to bring hope and change, had betrayed them. Now all was lost.

It's like a self-reinforcing circular firing squad. An epidemic of resignation. But I was not satisfied to leave it there. I prodded and poked and tried to find some sign of life and usually if I could get the people to talk some more they would work their way back to the land of the living. Many would throw me the old line that I was just "preaching to the choir" which is the excuse for those who want to say they agree with me but don't really want to get engaged. I would respond that the choir is not singing the song - in fact, most of the choir aren't showing up for choir practice. The choir is waiting for the choir "director", a leader who would make everything OK again.

I found that if I really listened to those who were sincerely wanting to find a way out of this dark time they were extremely grateful. One woman talked to me for some time and as she turned to walk away, she stopped and thanked me for seeking her opinion. I witnessed this several times and it occurred to me that few people are ever asked by anyone what they think. No one cares what they think!

I left the fair on Sunday afternoon and drove to nearby Belfast where a 4:00 pm rally was being organized by local peace and pro-democracy groups. Dud Hendrick (Veterans for Peace) and I both were among the speakers. About 50 people turned out in the middle of town for the event and many more folks drove by waving and honking approval of the signs being held that included the messages Tax the Rich and Bring Our War $$ Home.

The Common Ground Fair is a wedding of the movements. The alternative culture movements of cooperation, decentralization, and sustainability are linked with the activists for progressive political action. We need all of these strands of the environmental, social and political movements to be moving together, reinforcing each other, supporting one another.

Each of our problems and challenges today lead us back to the corrupt system of corporate control that puts a price tag on everything in our world - a price tag on nature, on freedom of speech, and on the vision of our collective future.

It will take all of us in the choir to do our part in these days ahead. We each have a role in singing the song of resistance to endless war and corporate control. We each have a part in giving voice to the path out of this dark nightmare. We must all keep singing....no matter how hard it might be at this time.

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