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

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Arriving at UU church in Caribou on the first day of the walk

I am writing this on our mini-bus as we head south from Presque Isle to Bangor.  We have nine of our group in this vehicle while another ten folks are in a couple other vehicles behind us.  Our crew in the bus has five Americans and four Japanese activists and for the first hour we were singing songs in both languages.  It’s been a lot of fun.

Last night we stayed in the home of two local activists who make up half of the peace group that weekly vigils on a local bridge – they’ve been doing it for the last 10 years even in the dead of winter.  We walked 13 miles yesterday from Caribou into Presque Isle – through the rolling potato fields of the “county” which is how folks popularly describe Aroostook County that happens to be the largest county in Maine.  The population of the county is only 72,000 people, which is likely one reason that some political leaders in Maine want to put a “weaponized drone test center” up this way.

When we arrived on Oct 10 in Limestone to begin the walk we were met by the local TV station that interviewed three of us.  We later heard that the coverage that night on the TV was “better than average” which was good to hear.  The local paper had a nice article on Oct 9 announcing the walk to the community.

As we began walking that first day we were pleasantly surprised at how warm and friendly the people driving by were to us.  One woman stopped her car in the middle of the road and took our picture and I handed her one of our flyers about the walk.  This is considered the most conservative part of Maine but the openness of the people has been more than refreshing.  (Yesterday one of our walkers crossed the highway to hand a flyer to someone working at a farm equipment dealership.  By the time she finished talking to the people there the walk had moved along quite a distance.  The next thing we knew a car pulled up and the walker got out – they’d given her a ride to catch back up with us.)

Our first night we were warmly hosted by the Unitarian Congregation in Caribou, which we were informed, has six active members.  We slept on the church floor after a wonderful supper that the church members prepared – four different soups and bread with an assortment of homemade pies.  Following the meal we asked Maine Veterans for Peace member Dud Hendrick (a US Naval Academy graduate and Vietnam war veteran) to speak about why he was walking.

Following Dud’s moving reflection we invited one of our Japanese friends to speak about their current struggle to project Article 9 in the constitution that outlaws their participation in war.  The US is now twisting the arm of the Japanese government to dump Article 9 in order to assist the Pentagon in the military encirclement and control of China.

Just before our program began that first night a young woman from the local community was preparing to leave.  I urged her to stick around and listen to Dud’s talk.  The next morning, as we were preparing to begin walking from the church, the same young woman drove up and jumped out of her car and approached me.  She handed me a pin and told me that her mother had given the pin to her but she wanted me to have it as a thank you for encouraging her to stick around. Later one of the church women told me that the young woman had been tremendously impacted by Dud’s talk the night before.

This morning at breakfast, before leaving Presque Isle, Karen Wainberg, who also lives at the Addams-Melman House in Bath, told me that the walk creates such a sense of “love and caring” that you can’t help but take that spirit with you when you go back into the wild and wooly world.

That is an important observation because that is indeed the experience we are having walking, eating, singing, laughing, and crying together.  We’ve been learning about each other and seeing that in our peace work – whether in the US or Japan – we are all working toward the same end.  It’s fun to watch the nine Japanese with us discover this new world here in Maine.  At the same time they bring us such spiritual centering and a wonderful playfulness to our otherwise often arrogant and uptight American way of being.

Today we’ll walk about 13 miles from Old Town into Bangor.  In the evening a potluck supper will be held at a local church and then we’ll be divided up and sent to various local homes.  I am promised a house with wireless connection so I can download the hundreds of emails waiting for me and upload this onto my blog.

My foot hurts and I have a blister on one toe but my heart is full.  We are reaching a lot of people on this walk.  Today (Saturday) I expect we’ll have even more folks join us as we enter Bangor. (Two TV stations covered us as we walked into the city.) 
It’s all a blessing. 


Blogger Leah Bolger said...

What has the reaction been to the Drones Quilt? Please encourage people to make blocks themselves or go to the website:
What a wonderful thing you have organized, Bruce!

10/13/13, 1:36 AM  

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