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, February 19, 2011

COUNTERING NEW FEUDALISM

We've set the date of Monday, April 4 in Maine to have a news conference and rally inside the state capital (Hall of Flags) in Augusta, Maine. The event will begin at 11:00 am and is intended to call on all elected officials in our state (local, state, and federal) to begin to make the links between endless war spending and our economic crisis here at home.

Since 2001 the taxpayers of Maine have contributed $3.4 billion to the cost of war. One doesn't have to be a genius to know that those funds would have gone a long way in solving our current $800 million deficit here in our state.

In the days prior to the April 4 rally our Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home will be purchasing a large newspaper advertisement in the biggest paper in the state and buying radio time on a couple key stations in order to project this message out to a wider audience.

COMES DOWN TO THE JOB ISSUE

Resting before pot luck/program in Worcester Photo by VV

We walked almost 15 miles today and ended up in Worcester, Massachusetts. Coming into town I noticed closed mills, stores, gas stations and the like. Worcester was a major textile mill town years ago and had a strong reputation as being an anti-union town.

We had a nice pot luck (with a wonderful Moroccan chicken, potatoes, and peas dish) and a good political discussion afterward. I've not been talking alot during these discussions but tonight felt the call to speak up about the idea that conversion of the military industrial complex creates more jobs than military production. One man had been talking about a good friend he has who works for the military production system, likes his job, and feels like he is doing good things. The man said he was reluctant to challenge his friend and seemed to feel that we basically have to accept the way things are at this time. I reminded the group that the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

The Boston Globe reported in December 2010, “The defense industry generated $26 billion in economic activity in Massachusetts last year, supporting more than 100,000 jobs and accounting for 85% of all federal contracts awarded in the state.” A report, funded by Raytheon Co., found that military contracts in the state have nearly tripled over the last 10 years. Only four other states (Virginia, California, Texas, and Maryland) received more in Pentagon contracts than Massachusetts did last year.

Another study, done by the University of Mass-Amherst Economics Department found that spending $1 billion on military production creates 8,555 jobs, but if that same amount of money had been invested in building public transit systems 19,795 jobs would result. Which would you rather have from your tax dollars? We need to be asking this question over and over again as the public is increasing begging for job creation.

It was bitter cold this afternoon (we walked until about 5:00 pm) and it began to snow just a bit near the end. In the morning we head for Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The weather is expected to be sunny and windy and still a bit cold with snow in the evening.

Friday, February 18, 2011

OUTRAGE IN BAHRAIN


"Washington is now faced again with another hard choice…," wrote Graham Fuller, a former senior CIA Mideast analyst who teaches at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, in the International Herald Tribune on the eve of Thursday's attack. He warned that the naval base could be lost if the regime falls.

"Continue to go with local repressive regimes out of a misguided sense of 'American interests'? Hold on to unpopular military bases at all costs – thereby deepening local anger and perhaps giving Iran ultimately a greater voice in events?" he asked. "Or should it quietly drop support for this repressive regime, allow events to take their course and accept that long-overdue change is coming?"

"We should speak out more strongly in support of change and democratic process and stop clinging to traditional dictators even if they're pro-American," Fuller said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

The United States last year provided Bahrain with about $21 million in military assistance, a substantial amount given the country's relatively small size. Of that total, about $1 million was designated for counterterrorism aid, much of it to the police and military forces that are suppressing the protests in the country's capital.

WALKING NEWS BITS



I am inside the Fitchburg, Massachusetts Museum of Art right now stealing a WiFi connection from the airwaves. We stopped here on Friday after a long day of walking and visiting a nearby community college. We've been invited to view the Asian art work here but I grabbed a chair near the entrance and have set to work.

The last three days have largely been visits to schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Wachusett Community College today - Keene College, Franklin Pierce University and then a prep school yesterday. We had lunch at Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire and about 20 students joined our walk. Very soon after we started walking with them a nearby prep school brought 40 students (half of which were Chinese) to join the walk which swelled our line to more than 75 people. The students walked nine miles with us and we ended the day at the prep school (which has a total of 230 pupils) for dinner. Following the meal we sat around with about 15 students to discuss the walk and their many questions about the New England Peace Pagoda.

We've been well fed the last few days, particularly at these campus cafeterias. Figuring I had lost at least five pounds from all this walking and sweating I have been doing I weighed myself this morning and discovered I had gained nearly five pounds. But it all has to be muscle........

As we were walking today I began rating the best meals I've had so far and thought I'd share the results with you.

  • Breakfast - The best one was this morning at the Noon Day Farm where we stayed last night. I slept on the floor. We had a poached egg, oatmeal, fruit, toast, raw milk, and tea. This place is a Catholic Worker farm and grows food that is taken and shared with poor people in the cities.
  • Lunch - Yesterday's at Franklin Pierce University was the best by far. A huge selection at this cafeteria - more than anyone could imagine. I had pizza, Chinese food, salad from the excellent salad bar and orange juice. A nice jello-vanilla pudding topped it off.
  • Supper - Two nights ago in Brattleboro, Vermont an excellent pot luck takes the top prize. A very fine ginger chicken soup, sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, and lasagna. Multi-ethic meal. All worth writing home about.

Except for yesterday's surge of students it has usually been 7-10 of us walking at any one time. Today we picked up a couple new people (Vanessa Lynch and her dad for those in Maine who will remember her from our recent walks). Tomorrow we lose two of our folks who have to return to work. So it is an ebb and flow.

I've been massaging my feet and legs at every stop which has prevented them from getting too stiff. No blisters yet either. Today it was 50-some degrees with snow melting so lots of splashes as cars sped by us. Tomorrow we are forecasted to get 25 mile-per-hour winds and temperatures in the 20's so it should be bitter cold. Today was the first day I walked without long underwear. I'll have them back on in the morning for sure.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

THE UNSPEAKABLE



I highly recommend watching this video of a talk by Jim Douglass who wrote the highly regarded book called JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters.

The peace walk is now in Keene, New Hampshire where we are staying at the Inter-faith Campus Ministry House. We met with a group of students from Keene State University tonight for a pot luck supper on the campus and had a nice discussion afterward.

We walked more than 12 miles today thru the beautiful rolling hills with mountains in the distance. Going up the hill I'd start sweating and coming down the hill I'd get cold again...the perfect way to get sick. So I spent much of the day zipping and unzipping my jacket.

Today's primary observation for me is cars and trucks. There are too many of them out there. People feel the power of their vehicle, its an illusory power though. They can step on the peddle and zoom take off like a rocket. They can cover a huge distance in seconds, what would take me walking many minutes with real effort. Many people get terribly impatient when they have to slow their chariot down because we are walking alongside the highway or crossing the road. We've interrupted their personal power machine and they don't like that. They are in a hurry to get some where and delays are not appreciated.

Walking though brings a totally different perspective on time. Power and acceleration are foreign concepts when you are walking - especially uphill. You are more conscious about the air quality and the noise levels which are severely impact by the car culture. You notice so many more things along the highway - like when I saw a man walk through the woods because he saw us coming or the dogs barking or the horses and cows reacting to us. Walking hurts because we are not used to it but it is the natural way for humans to move. Sadly like so many other things we are even losing our ability to walk.

Brother Kato is working on my right leg and foot again. Last night he spent an hour massaging and applying heat with Chinese medicine to my most painful spots. His treatment kept me walking today.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

OBAMA WANTS TO CUT HOME HEATING ASSISTANCE IN HALF



The big story in the newspapers here in western Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire (and Maine) is Obama's crazy proposal to cut the low-income home heating assistance program for poor people. The cost of heating oil is going up and Obama wants to cut the program by 50%. It's only about a $2.5 billion cut but it helps many people and keeps them from freezing to death. It shows how hard-hearted Obama really is.

He'd rather keep his war spending growing and the empire of bases in tact. People need to defend those who are going to die when the heat gets turned off.

We walked 14 miles in a very cold windy day along the Connecticut River today. We passed by the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant that the state legislature has just voted to close down. The power companies want to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The river is frozen solid until you get near the power plant - then the water is too warm to freeze. Imagine how the aquatic life is impacted by the power plant.

Tomorrow we head to Keene, New Hampshire. The weather is supposed to warm up by 20-some degrees. They've had a huge amount of snow in this region and I read in the local paper that barn roofs have been collapsing and some cows have been killed. Climate change is having an impact.

Monday, February 14, 2011

WALKING ON SACRED LANDS


It’s the second day of the Walk for a New Spring and we are in Northfield, Massachusetts. Today we walked more than 12 miles and yesterday we walked just three miles. Yesterday I felt nothing after walking; today my feet are stiff and a bit sore.

Yesterday in Leveret, we walked from the New England Peace Pagoda (the home of the Buddhist order Nipponzan Myohoji) to the Congregational Church in time for their Sunday morning service. The minister shaped the worship service around the walk and after it was over about 50 local people gathered across the street in the town hall for a potluck lunch to send the walk off with a big cheer.

In the early afternoon we were back at the Peace Pagoda where we watched a fascinating documentary about Native American history in this part of New England. At Turner Falls, which we passed by, white settlers slaughtered Indian refugees in the mid 1600’s as war broke out over control of the land. In 2007 the town of Turner Falls, named after the military officer in charge of the massacre of the Indian refugees, asked Native American elders to come hold a healing ceremony with them. A nice gesture but I couldn’t help but wonder if the town was truly serious about reconciliation they might have considered changing their name.

One of the truly amazing stories in the documentary were the significant discovery of large rock mounds throughout the state that were found to be set up in perfect coordination with the sight-line of the rising sun on the solstice and the setting sun on the equinox. Carbon dating around fire pits at one of the mounds was found to be more than 4,000 years old. Some of the rocks and boulders at several of the sites were not indigenous to that particular part of the state and thus had obviously been moved there. Native people have had difficulty getting the white establishment to see the value of preserving these sacred places.

As we walked along near some of these ancient areas I couldn’t help but think how in our “modern high-tech” world, we are so disconnected from the Earth that we know virtually nothing about the history and profound spiritual nature of our surroundings. Instead we live in ignorant bliss watching our cable TV, gorging on info-tainment and junk food, the whole time believing we are the smartest and “greatest” culture in the world. It’s a mind blower to me.

Tomorrow we head north into Vermont, to Brattleboro, and after that we’ll head east to Kenne, New Hampshire before dropping back down into Massachusetts.

Tim Bullock, who has organized the walk on behalf of the Peace Pagoda, at each stop explains to those who have come to greet and feed us that the purpose of the walk is to attempt to bring a thawing of the frozen hearted people who have learned to live in our militarized culture in a perpetual state of fear and war. This war footing mentality has been blindly internalized by the white culture since the Europeans first came to this land. They quickly became accustomed to living in fear as they stole the land from the Indians. Our walk, coming in the winter and calling for an end to war, invites people to find the peace in their hearts that could come with the dawning of a new spring.