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, March 05, 2011

CORNELL WEST ON "THE FUNK"



"How you gonna negotiate through the funk?"

BLAME IT ON THE TEACHERS

Friday, March 04, 2011

WORKING AT THE STATE LEVEL

From rally in Maryland
From protest event in Madison, Wisconsin

It's good to see folks making the key connections in the photos above. Hopefully this will keep spreading. Here in Maine we are doing our bit as last Saturday, yesterday, today, and Monday rallies are being held in our capital city, Augusta, to protest the draconian cuts in our state budget by our new Tea Party Republican governor. He has publicly been giving high praise to the Republican governor of Wisconsin for attacking the unions.

We've had people holding Bring Our War $$ Home signs and banners in Augusta each day and yesterday began handing out flyers for a rally we are organizing inside the state capital on April 4.

I too will join the events today in Augusta as I first attend a morning conference on the state budget cuts and then will head over to the capital building where union teachers, who are under attack, will be rallying. I'll hold a sign that reads "Education not Warfare" and hand out flyers as well.

Our campaign in Maine is also now raising funds to purchase full-page signatures ads calling on the public and all elected officials in our state to make the connections between war spending and economic crisis at home. We have also just paid for radio spots on three stations along Maine's populated coastal region with the same message. So we are trying hard to focus people on the pot of taxpayer gold that is being pissed down the rat hole.

It's the states that are now the central organizing focus for the nation and the peace movement needs to be out there contributing this broader vision of cutting military spending and creating more jobs by converting the military industrial complex rather than destroying social progress.




See this video of yesterday's union rally in the cold in Augusta. At 3:07 check out how the camera zooms in on our Bring Our War $$ Home banner. Right there up front and center! That is the kind of bold action we need.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

SMOKE & MIRRORS

TURNING UGLY IN AMERICA



This video of right-wingers screaming at American Muslims who are attending a fundraiser in California is hard to watch. What is even sadder is to see the elected officials pandering to this mean spiritedness.

But this is what the corporate oligarchy has to do to keep building support for its endless wars. Whip up the fear and the hate.

HEDGES ON MARCH 19 PROTEST IN WASHINGTON

Several of us from the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home will be heading to Washington DC for the March 19 civil resistance action at the White House. This event is once again being organized by Veterans for Peace and other veterans groups.

Mark Roman and I will take the train south together and Lisa Savage will fly down to meet us there. It is crucial that peace activists keep protesting against the Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan wars and occupations. We have a moral responsibility to stand against the insane killing of the innocents and we must also continue to point out the enormous cost of these operations.

It would be great to see many other readers of this blog at that action.

In his recent column called No Other Way Out journalist Chris Hedges writes:

On March 19, the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I will join a coalition of U.S. military veterans from Iraq Veterans Against the War, March Forward!, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace who will gather in Lafayette Park across from the White House. The veteran-led action will result in numerous arrests, as did a Dec. 16 protest organized by Veterans for Peace. It will seek, because it is all we have left, to use our bodies to challenge the crimes of the state.

It does not matter if this protest or any other does not work. It does not matter if we are 500, as we were in December, or 50. It does not matter if the event is covered in the press or ignored. It matters only that those of us who believe in the rule of law, who find the organized sadism of war and militarism repugnant and who seek to protect the sanctity of life rise up. If we do not defend these virtues they will be extinguished. No one in power will defend them for us. Protests are rending the fabric of the U.S.-backed dictatorships in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and Libya. They are flickering to life in the U.S. in states like Wisconsin. And they are beginning to convulse Iraq. Iraqis, for whom eight years of war and occupation have brought nothing but misery and death, are surrounding government buildings to denounce their puppet government. They are rising up to demand jobs, basic services including electricity, a reining in of our mercenary killers, some of whom have been used to quell restless crowds, and a right to determine their own future. These protesters are our true allies, not the hired thugs we pay to repress them.

We are wasting $700 million a day to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while our teachers, firefighters and police lose their jobs, while we slash basic assistance programs for the poor, children and the elderly, while we turn our backs on the some 3 million people being pushed from their homes by foreclosures and bank repossessions and while we do nothing to help the one in six American workers who cannot find work. These wars have taken hundreds of thousands of lives. They have pushed millions into refugee or displacement camps. They have left young men and women severely crippled and maimed. They have turned our nation into an isolated pariah, fueling the very terrorism we seek to defeat. And they cannot be won. The sooner we leave Iraq and Afghanistan the sooner we will save others and finally save ourselves.

KILLING KIDS IN AFGHANISTAN

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

ACCOUNT OF LAST DAY OF PEACE WALK

Nineteen year old Vanessa Lynch along with Brother Kato during the walk

Since I was not able to be on the last day of the peace walk that ended in Boston on February 28 here is an account of that day by fellow walker and good friend Vanessa who kept me laughing during much of the walk.

They are afraid of the drum
By Vanessa Lynch

The 10th annual Walk For a New Spring is over. I got home last night so completely exhausted I wasn’t even really sure what to do. After changing out of my wet clothes I came in to my room and spent a few hours listening to music, trying to muster up enough strength to have a shower.

I probably should have slept immediately last night, and long into today because now I feel completely weakened. I thought I would sleep in today until long after noon but I woke up 9am. My body is so used to the walk schedule of getting up at 6 and being on the road by 8:30 or 9. I think it’s funny.

Yesterday was one of the most miserable, challenging, fantastic days I have ever experienced on a peace walk. We left the First Parish church of Dorchester to march into the pouring rain.

We were running late, which added a sense of urgency to the walk. We had a lot to fit into a very short period of time.

Our first stop was the Lewis D. Brown Institute. Tina Cherry and Milton the director joined us for about 2 blocks. We stopped at the spot where her son was killed. It was extremely emotional. Tina talked about reclaiming the area as a place of peace, rather than a place of sorrow. So many people lose a loved one and shut down completely, but rather than killing her, her pain fueled her and now she’s basically a superhero.

She and Milton left and we continued on toward the Boston Worker’s Alliance. The sidewalks were completely covered in ice, and the rain was pouring down. I couldn’t see through my glasses at all, and my balance was slightly off because of the banner I was carrying. But we kept walking. They kept drumming and chanting.

A police officer pulled over to the side of the road and got out of his car, he came up to me and asked what this was about, where we were going, and who we were. I didn’t really know the street names, which probably seemed strange since I was at the front of the crowd. But this man had us stopped in the rain, and it was not a comfortable feeling. My feet were soaked. My pants were drenched, and the rain had soaked through the sleeves of my jacket and my hoodie. I was worried about my cell phone. Tim finally found a brochure for the officer and he let us go.

We made it to the Boston Worker’s Alliance and had about 15 minutes to hear about the work they do in the community. I wished Bruce was there to hear about their outreach. They have been working to find out how many homes need to be weatherized, and have started training people so that once these jobs become relevant there will immediately be people ready to work. They are also the ones who got the CORI reform passed in MA.

We left their offices for the torrential downpour. We walked to Chuck Turner’s old office. He is 70 years old, and he is going to federal prison for 3 years. And then he has 3 years of parole to look forward to when he gets out. He’s going to prison because the FBI thought it would be cool to frame him and slander his reputation. It’s kind of insane. What kind of country are we living in where the people assigned and trained to protect us are working to set up a 70 year old community activist and put him in jail for years? Honestly, I would probably leave the country. But he’s an incredible man, and he’s facing his unfair sentence with his head held high. We sang “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” for/with him, and gave him 2 symbolic plants.

I couldn’t feel my hands. My gloves were only making my life worse because they were drenched. I took them off and started squeezing my neon red hands. Every time I touched one hand to another, the imprint stayed there for a good 5 seconds. I could barely move my hands.

We were running a little bit later than we thought, so we had to drive over to Park street and the state house.

Most people rode in the van, but a few of us took the subway. Loreto and I talked about our need to catch up, while Tim and Skip talked about who knows what.

We got out and met up with the others in front of the state house. We walked over to the statue of Mary Dyer where Kato Shonin & co. prayed, and then we walked into the state house.

It was basically one of the most hilarious things I have ever experienced. We had an appointment for 12:30 to talk to Gov. Patrick’s representative, so we were prepared. But we marched into the state house about 20 people strong, completely soaked, with bags and signs. We had to go through the metal detectors and put all of our things through the bag checker thing. I think the security people were just confused.

I set off the detector because I was wearing my Ed Hardy belt, hah.

We went upstairs to the Governor’s office where everyone proceeded to lay out all of their wet things on the ground and take up all the chairs in the waiting room, no doubt soaking them all. I feel like we were basically the most unorthodox group to ever grace the Gov.’s office.

I loved it. It showed how serious we were. I was extremely aware that I hadn’t showered in two days and that my hair was frizzy, my clothes soaked and my shoes squeaking. But it was incredible because our outer appearances really only matter as much as we allow them to.

Tim and I read the letter aloud and we had an incredible meeting with the rep. who promised to stay in touch. And not in a flaky “I have to get these people out of here” way. In a serious way.

We had lunch, and I swear on my life I have never been more grateful for soup. I was still soaked and shivering. My goosebumps were ridiculous. But if someone had come up to me and showed me a briefcase containing 1Million dollars cash for my soup I would have refused. And that’s the truth. And that’s important, because when you are on the walk, you recognize the things that really matter. I thought our day was over, but we had one last stop. That we had to walk to.

Boston city hall. Which is not far at all, it’s actually really close, but every step was like a journey and a half. Everyone chanted outside of the building and bowed - as they always do before we enter any place at all - and we went to go inside. Some security guard came over and opened the door all angry.

“What are you doing?”

I told him we had an appointment. He didn’t believe me. I’m pretty sure he thought we were some kind of crazy terrorists. Howell.

He said we had to wait outside while he verified our appointment. He went inside to call a bunch of people and freak out a little bit to everyone he could. He was pointing to us and talking to some guy next to him, I smiled and waved. It was basically torture to make us wait outside, and didn’t make sense. If we had a bomb or something, being one foot outside of the glass door wouldn’t protect him. He definitely could have let us wait inside in a corner.

So Sister Clare was expressing her disbelief at how crazy the situation was. I just laughed and was like, “Don’t worry SRC. They’re just afraid of the drum.” She nodded, “Yes!” She was starting to talk, but a security guard came over to let us in. He was being super friendly, probably because he had realized that our meeting was with three of the city’s more influential council members, but we didn’t care. We smiled and joked back with him. We got through the metal detectors and went upstairs to meet with Charles Yancey, Maureen Feeney and Felix Arroyo. It turned out that we were 30 minutes early, and they were using the conference room to give this guy Juan from the office a surprise birthday party. After he ate a piece of cake he came out and invited us all in to eat the rest and drink the rest of the soda. It wasn’t his real birthday, as February has leap year and all that.

So basically our meeting was dope. We read the letter again. We ate cake. Merrily. And drank tea. And finally were on our way to Dorchester to get the other car, and go home.

The walk is over and I’m back ‘home’. I’m super dehydrated and stuff, but daijoubu desu. The 5th will be splendid.

(Happy Baba Marta)

ANOTHER PEACE PILGRIMAGE


Another peace walk is underway. This one is on Jeju Island in South Korea as the Life and Peace Fellowship (led by a Buddhist monk Dobub) began walking today in a pilgrimage for 100 days. Amongst their peaceful demands is an end to the construction of the Navy base on Jeju.

The U.S. and South Korean governments are presently running more war games aimed at North Korea which always helps to create a dark climate as the people in the north must remain in a constant state of vigilance and hyper-sensitivity.

Last Sunday a full-page advertisement ran in the New York Times called "Visit Korea" and the ad particularly promoted Jeju Island as "one of the finalists for the on-going New7Wonders of nature poll. Jejudo has become a 'must' place to visit".

Jeju Island is indeed a natural wonder as you will see in the video just below. But sadly the U.S. and South Korean governments have chosen one of the most environmentally sensitive spots on the island to build this Navy base. This base will serve as a provocative outpost against China and will be a spark to ignite even more military tensions in an already dangerous region. The environmental consequences of the base will be catastrophic.

Our heartfelt best wishes go out to the peace walkers and the Gangjeong villagers as they do all they can to resist this crazy Navy base construction.

UPDATE: Sung-Hee Choi reports the following wonderful news: "One grateful thing to the organization to the Life and Peace Fellowship is that they decided to stay 1oo days in the Gangjeong village instead 100 days’ peace pilgrim throughout Korea. Meeting with the villagers on March 1, they realized how urgent the villagers needed people to help them and how important of the struggle in Gangjeong village therefore they changed their plan to stay in the village. The plan for peace walk in the Jeju Island in the first week will not be changed. But each evening, they will come back to the village, breathing with the villagers and sharing the villagers’ suffering with them."





Videos on the prayer March 2, 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT



The magician at work...he cuts social progress deeper than George W. Bush did and he increases military spending more than Bush ever did. But still the liberal supporters of Obama remain loyal and largely silent. They will vote for him again because they don't want a Republican to be elected who would destroy human needs programs and expand militarism.

No more guns and butter....it's going to be all guns. Forget "Let them eat cake". Obama is saying "Let them eat war"..... and the magicians supporters open their mouths and chew on the shards of steel feeling like they have to take the bitter medicine to keep their man in power.

Everything has turned upside-down. It is 1984 indeed.

TALK ABOUT THE EMPIRE

REMEMBERING OLD MOVIES

WHY DON'T SOME FOLKS MAKE THE CONNECTIONS?

Click on graphic to see larger view

I've been working hard since I got home to build our rally in Maine's state capital on April 4 that will call upon all elected officials (and the public) in the state to make the deadly connections between endless war spending and the fiscal crisis.

This piece of information blows my mind: The total debt of all 50 state governments is now $130 billion. The U.S. will spend $170 billion on our wars in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan this year.

How could anything be more clear than this? You want to solve the fiscal crisis? It's right here before us.

Some activists in Maine and other states are going to go to their Republican controlled state governments and ask for tax increases. Good luck. I'm all for raising taxes on the rich. But a Republican controlled state legislature is not likely to do it. Why not begin to turn the heat up about military spending as well?

One can only begin to speculate about why some good hearted activists in various states are not picking up on this issue. Is it because they don't think we can stop the wars? Is it because we have a Democrat as president and many activists who identify with that party don't want to confront him on the war? Is it because the Dems control the U.S. Senate and activists who are members of that party don't want to challenge their own party? Is it because they are afraid of being called unpatriotic or un-American if they come out publicly against our wars?

It's a confusing thing. Please, someone help me understand the timidity of some activists around this war $$ issue. Please correct me if I am off base.

Monday, February 28, 2011

WHEN THE REVOLUTION COMES YOU GOTTA BE READY



Thanks to fellow peace walker Christian Collins for this one. It's a Charlie Chaplin classic.

SPACE FENCE


This is a Lockheed Martin Corporation promotional video for their "Space Fence" project that is being sold as a system to protect against space junk accidents.

But what they don't talk about is how this system can be used to identify and target other countries' space satellites in times of conflict.

BACK HOME


We walked through Boston yesterday and then attended the Sunday service at the historic Old South Church. It was snowing as we made our way through the streets of Boston, a fitting end as Mother Earth clearly was saying that despite our walk for a new spring, winter was not yet over.

MB and I had lunch and then made our way by bus back to Portland and then home from there by car. I jumped into a hot tub and soaked for awhile. Amazingly my feet and legs are fine. After previous walks I would be limping around for days with swollen legs and painful feet but the Chinese heat treatments that Brother Kato did on me during the walk just took care of that. I am a true believer in the heat now.

I've got a pile of mail and emails to sort through. Many people have responded to our call for donations to purchase an advertisement in the Portland newspaper which will encourage all elected officials in Maine to speak out against the wars in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan and support the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. In addition I have alot of work ahead of me on the Global Network's 19th annual space organizing conference on June 17-19 in North Andover, Massachusetts. During the walk I was able to pass out brochures about the conference and found some very interested people.

I'm glad I went on the walk. I will write some concluding thoughts about it in the next day or so. I think we reached many people along the way. You've got to get out and work hard if you really want to change things in this country. Sending emails alone won't cut it.

PS: It was good to be back in my own bed last night. Floor sleeping wasn't so bad but nothing like home sweet home.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

SOLIDARITY IN WISCONSIN