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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ODDS & ENDS



  • It took me 12 hours to get home yesterday from Toronto.  Time has new meaning as travel becomes even more problematic.... airline corporations are cutting corners and wild weather is disrupting schedules. 

  • My hosts in Toronto were long-time activists Judy and Jim Deutsch.  Jim was a radical student at Columbia University during the 60's student occupation of the administration building.  He was there when Columbia Professor Seymour Melman (father of economic conversion) crawled through the window in an attempt to join with the students.  Apparently Melman’s self-intro was poorly received and some shouted him down.  Melman crawled back out the window. Judy is one of the leaders of Science for Peace at the University of Toronto where she teaches in addition to a full schedule of local organizing.  On Sunday night they organized a dinner party where about 15 people (including some students) sat around and talked about growing fascism and what we should do in response.  It was a stimulating discussion.  No easy answers were found... just recognition that we must do the hard work of local-regional-national-international grassroots organizing.  We all agreed that there is way too much solo-silo organizing - alot of this has to do with organizational egos, power, money, media contacts, etc.  Also was agreed that governments, political parties, and foundations fund some "progressive" groups to keep them toeing the line.  These kinds of things happen in Maine and across the nation.  In Canada some groups get government money and spout the party line on militarism. 

  • People in Toronto are worried about the possible reelection of their crazy, spoiled Mayor Rob Ford. The crack smokin, arm swinging, bad mouth rich boy wears a Maple Leafs hockey jersey to keep the working class fans in check.  In the end Ford does the work of the oligarchy by introducing austerity and making the political scene toxic that discourages public participation.  It is the same story with our right wing gutter-mouth Gov. Paul LePage here in Maine.  He won in a three-way race with 38% of the vote but is up for reelection in November.  At this moment he is behind his Democrat challenger in the polls.
  • Getting into Canada was easy this time.  Sometimes I breeze through and other times I've been pulled aside to discuss my history of non-violent civil disobedience that is logged into the computer.  But interestingly the last three times I've come back from international trips I've been pulled into another room for questioning by the US Customs & Immigration.  Yesterday on my return there was a replay of this game.  I get quizzed particularly about my recent arrest at the Hancock Airfield in Syracuse, New York that has been turned into a drone base.  (I am still waiting for my trial date.) They also bring up my "Order of Protection" (sort of ban-and-bar letter from the base) except it also says that I must:
"Refrain from assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim.... members of family, household...”

  • Who is the order protecting?   Col. Greg A. Semmel, the commander of the base... so US Customs & Immigration asks me if I am traveling with Mr. Semmel?  I told them I'd not know the man if I stumbled into him.  I've come to the conclusion that the purpose of these little interrogations is just to remind me that MR. BIG knows who I am and has his electronic eye on me.  

  • One older man in Toronto, a long-time activist that I've met in the past, told our Sunday night dinner party that he was depressed by the current state of politics.  He sees the writing on the wall.  I told him I get depressed as well.  Everyone does.  I think it is hardest though for white middle class folks who have tasted elements of the success mythology.  For them acknowledging the 'dream' is a manipulation comes hard.  Social control is strong in the human community.  Indigenous people, people of color and the multi-generational poor have long been singing the blues.  Time for white folks to learn the blues.

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