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, December 28, 2013


4th of July in Bath, Maine

I often suffer from the world.  Maybe because we moved around in my Air Force family so much I have always found myself deeply identifying with suffering people everywhere.  Because I lived in Germany and England when I was young I never considered myself an "American" when we moved back stateside.  Really my only loyalty to America was the Baltimore Orioles baseball them - my version of a hometown - and hamburgers.

I didn't think much about US military bases when I was young.  When we were overseas we spent good periods of time living "on the economy" - which in those days meant living in the local community - because the waiting list for on-base housing was too long.  So the experience of living with the German and English people was that the barbed wire fences were torn down for me and I could really learn from the people.  I was still getting all the pro-American brainwashing in my military run school but off base I confronted the real world.  We had our car tires slashed once and I saw "Yankee Go Home" spray-painted on walls in downtown Wiesbaden, Germany.  Nothing unique I know, but for me they were flashes of light.

Our school took our 9th grade class out to see the ruins of a former Roman military barracks overlooking the Rhine River.  I found myself wondering what the Romans were doing so far from home?  It made no sense, it was unsustainable in nature.  But I didn't immediately make the connection between the Roman Empire and the one my family was representing with our stationing in Germany.  I was always a bit slow.

Part of my suffering was about my own dysfunctional family.  Alcohol, violence and deep personal insecurity was the reality of my family.  My mother, pregnant early and shipped south because of the shame, met my father who was 10 years older than her.  He was shy and bookish and had a small chicken and turkey farm in Maryland.  My father was 'boring' and religious and my mother was a bit wild and angry at the world. They didn't last long.  My Italian immigrant grandparents, settled in Connecticut, and my grandfather hid his Jewish roots and married a devout Italian woman who was Northern Baptist.  My mother fell in love with a young Jewish guy and her father prohibited the relationship.  It appears to me my mother rebelled and wanted to acknowledge their Jewish heritage.  But my grandfather was a social climber and wanted no obstacle to his ascending the great ladder of success.  My mother had a hard road after all that and the six kids she dragged along (sometimes while singing beautiful Italian songs) all have our scars from the experience.

It was my stepfather, who my mother married when I was about three years old, who was in the Air Force.  He grew up in Maine and was a true Mainer in that he could do everything - fix cars, carpentry, plumbing, electronics, photography and more.  He was a good horse trader and often bought, fixed, and sold cheap cars on the side to make a few extra bucks to help feed all six kids - three of which came from mom's first marriage.  There was lots of pressure on Wesley, and like many in the military he drank.  It was not until I joined the Air Force myself did I see how the military intentionally peddles alcohol to personnel.  By creating legions of alcoholics the military retention problem was abated.  These days the poverty draft helps keep the barracks full. Imagine the profits the alcohol industry makes on military bases.

One of our military postings was in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We moved there in the middle of a snowstorm.  Everywhere I went during my time in the Black Hills or the nearby Badlands I felt the spiritual nature of these places and it cut right to my core.  The wild sweet smelling grasses, the bitter howling cold wind, the big skies, the dry heat and rattle snakes, the shiny rocks and petrified wood, the sounds of the beating drums and high keening of the Lakota people - all brought me home.  I found out about our connection to Mother Earth and our relatives in the other life forms around us.  I prayed at night (of course after I first said the Lord's Prayer) to the Great Spirit begging to be part of the spiritual energy connection that ran through all life.  Please help me be part of "all my relatives"... I will give my life to it if you could help me.

Little did I know that there was not a sign-up sheet for this one.... if you wanted it all you had to do was take it.  Believe in it.... feel it......I've spent my adult life trying to make that all real for me. I've tried to keep my promise to the Great Spirit.

I thank my Mother Earth and my earthly mother Ruth, for my life.  I thank the water and air for keeping me alive.  I thank the wood that keeps us dry and warm inside our house.  I thank my sisters and my friends.  I thank Julian for being my son and I thank MB for helping me learn how to love.


Blogger by said...

Beautiful meditation on roots and values. Thanks for having the courage to share this.

12/28/13, 7:10 PM  

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