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.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day 11 - Walking as Long as I Can

Climate change and militarization of oceans banners lining the walls at Portland pot luck supper

Fourteen of us walked from Freeport into Portland today - a 15 mile journey.  We had the biggest crowd yet for a pot luck supper at the State Street Church in Portland - much thanks to Grace Braley for organizing that event.

Earlier in the day we walked our first 9.4 miles before our lunch which was provided by the Friends School in their beautiful new no-carbon footprint school.  Three of our walkers went there at 10:00 am and spoke to the combined class of 7th and 8th graders.  Russell talked about the Navy's impact on sea life, Eric (Veterans for Peace member) shared what it means to be a war veteran who now opposes US foreign and military policy, and Katie led the group in singing the alternative words to the Star Spangled Banner written by VFP leaders Tarak Kauff and Ellen Davidson.

As we entered Portland I got a phone call from a man I did not know who wanted to bring us some coffee that he got donated from a local company.  He met us during our break as we walked around Back Cove and the group loved his thoughtful sharing.  One of our folks remarked that it was the best coffee he's had on the entire walk.

A young woman also called early this morning wanting to join us.  She had seen a post on the Internet about the walk and recognized the photo of the Buddhist nun Jun-san who is now with us.  So Lynn showed up at our lunch spot and walked the rest of the way.  These are the kind of spontaneous things that keep happening each day.

Just as I started writing this blog I got a call from Pat Scanlon, our local host in York Beach, who said he had mentioned the walk while at his favorite pizza shop today.  The pizza owner offered to bake 12 pizzas for us and add salad as well.  The magic of the walk continues.

It's exciting to see how the peace walk message creeps into layers and layers of our communities across the state - often in small ways but each touching the lives of ordinary people.  This process of creating experiences for people when they make contact with this traveling road show is how people begin to change. 

Try as they might local Portland activists had little success getting the Portland Press Herald or the local TV to cover us as we walked into town.  Breaking into the bigger mainstream media has become increasingly difficult in recent years.  All along the way we've had good success getting coverage from the smaller local papers but the media giants are still proving to be generally out-of-bounds for groups that dare take on the sacred cow of the military industrial complex.  (One of the smaller Portland weekly papers did send a photographer as we crossed the bridge into the city.)

Al Johnson from the Boston-area VFP Smedley Butler Brigade joined us in Freeport early this morning.  He was on our walk planning committee and had made the trek up to Maine a couple times when we had meetings.  He also raised funds to help with walk costs.  After we reached Portland this afternoon he jumped in his car heading back to Boston to pick up a couple more VFP members.  That is real commitment.

I'm tired and at times I find myself getting just a bit disoriented.  While this kind of walking is truly a young person's game I still love it - particularly walking along the highway with my sign trying to make eye contact with the legions of people driving by.  It's an organizers dream to have such a captive audience - all I have to do is just keep walking - and I will as long as I possibly can.


Blogger Lisa Savage said...

Eloquent testimony to the power of witnessing for peace, sore feet and all. Thanks for organizing the walk and for sharing the reports back from the road. See you on Saturday in Portsmouth!

10/21/15, 4:13 AM  

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