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, September 21, 2013

HEADING HOME


     
  •  I'm on the Amtrak regional train heading back north to Boston.  This train makes more stops but the seats are much roomier and more comfortable than on the more expensive express train.  When I get to Boston I'll then hop on a bus back to Portland where MB will pick me up for the ride home.  I hear that eggplant parmesan is on the menu for supper tonight at the Addams-Melman House.  Perfect!
  • My talk last night at the Catholic Worker Mary House in NYC was quite stimulating.  Lots of interaction with those in the audience.  It was a mix of veteran activists, curious people who'd never been to one of the Friday night events held there, and others.  One 86 year old man told me he worked on the Henry Wallace Progressive Party campaign for president in 1948 and is disgusted these days because most people he knows only think and talk about the New York Yankees.
  • Much to my surprise VFP friends Tarak Kauff and Ellen Davidson came to the event.  Ellen arrived on time (she lives nearby in the city) but her partner Tarak drove down from his house in Woodstock and spent about an hour trying to find a parking place near Mary House.  He made it in time to hear the question and answer period - I repeated a few of my key points for his benefit.  We went out for a beer and a bite after the event at an Indian restaurant a couple of blocks away.  Tarak and Ellen are helping to organize a VFP protest in NYC on October 7 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza that closes at 10:00 pm.  Last year quite a few VFP members and supporters were arrested there for reading the names of Afghanistan war dead beyond the closing time. 
  • Mary House organizers made a small room in the large building available for me to sleep in.  I was up on the third floor and there was at least one more floor above me.  I read that it used to be a music school before becoming a Catholic Worker house.  There is little information about the history of the house on the Internet.  I was told that currently there are about 30 people living there, several of the leaders that I spoke with have been involved with the house since the 1970's.
  • There is alot of history on the walls of the community room where I spoke.  Posters of Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr were among the other anti-war messages in view.  There was much buzz about the new Catholic Pope Francis - similar to what I have been hearing everywhere else I go.  Long disaffected Catholics are feeling hopeful that the church might be changing.  I'd guess the church finally realized that recent priest sex scandals, declining church participation (in Europe and the US at least), the hypocrisy of the church as their Vatican Bank invests in weapons production and birth control, and refusal to allow serious roles for women in church hierarchy made those at the top decide they needed to make some major adjustments before they slid into total obscurity.  They still might.
  • The New York Times today has an interesting story about a Republican congressional primary race in Mobile, Alabama.  One of several Tea Party candidates in the race is quoted as saying “We are witnessing the end of a Western Christian empire.”  It's a point I made in my talk last night that some folks across our land just can't get over this "American exceptionalism" mythology that believes we should be running the world because we are #1, god's chosen people, the smartest, the wisest etc.  Just amazing to see this - not much difference between that thinking and the thinking of radical Muslim fundamentalists.  Both similarly dangerous.  Goes to show that the long brainwashing of the American people along these lines still holds fast in many parts of the country.

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