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.

Friday, January 16, 2015

King on Vietnam War



MLK died for our collective sins in Vietnam and here at home where the poor were, and still are, ignored and repressed by the corporate oligarchy that controls our government.  King was killed because he moved beyond civil rights into the peace movement as he could no longer ignore the great evil that Washington was committing in Vietnam and across the US.  King had the courage to tell the truth knowing full well that his life would likely end. 

The nation besmirches King's memory by largely focusing on his early "I have a dream" period and by refusing to recognize and honor his peace activism and his work to upend the corporate war on the poor. 

We honor MLK by keeping his whole life in front of the public and continuing his work for truth, peace, and justice.

Planting Seeds of Peace



Video is from the MLK peace walk here in Washington state and flashes between the walk and Jeju Island where a large delegation from this region recently went to stand in solidarity with the people in South Korea.

Today we did about 14-miles to the Ground Zero peace center (next door to Bangor nuclear submarine base) and had supper.  Soon after arriving at the peace center an 81-year-old man arrived with US Marine patches on his clothes.  He told us he used to work security at the Bangor sub base in the 1970's so we sat around and shared protest stories with him and talked politics.  He said he was driving by the peace center and heard the drums of the Buddhist monks.  Just goes to show that these protests get inside folks and sometimes it takes a while for them to be able to step over the line to our side of the street.

Tomorrow we head back to Ground Zero for a program where I will be one of the speakers and then we'll walk to the front gates of the base for a non-violent action of civil resistance.  On Sunday morning I do a radio interview in Seattle and then head home early Monday morning.

It's been a great walk and I am glad I came along to be a part of it. I figure thousands of people read my sign as we walked along the highways and through busy city streets.  Jerry Mander (former advertising executive now turned writer and activist) often says that the corporations try to plant product images inside our heads and they never go away.  I figure we can do the same thing with our messages for peace and justice.  Walks are good ways to make that happen.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Visit to Chief Seattle's Grave


We walked 12-miles in the rain today from Bainbridge to Chief Seattle's grave on the Suquamish reservation.  Around his grave site these words are inscribed in the stone:

"Even the rocks that seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent seashore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events connected with the fate of my people, and the very dust under your feet responds more lovingly to our footsteps than to yours, because it is the ashes of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch, for the soil is rich with the life of our kindred."

Tomorrow we return to this same spot for a ceremony before walking the final leg of our journey to the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action next to Bangor Naval nuclear submarine base.  On Saturday there will be a protest and civil resistance action at the base.

Today we had 100% more supportive reactions as we walked to the Suquamish reservation than we got yesterday while walking in Seattle.  I am told that there are many ex-hippies on Bainbridge Island and the native people on the reservation are also inclined to be supportive of the peace walk because the Nipponzan Myohoji monks have long developed positive relationships with the people on the reservation.

Preperations for War with Russia



A train loaded with US military vehicles, including Strykers, Humvees, and SUVS was seen rolling through the city of Klaipeda, Thursday, as American troops resume NATO training in the region. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment arrived in Lithuania from their base in Vilseck, Germany, on Janary 8th. The US troops have since resumed allied training under 'Operation Atlantic Resolve', with the Lithuanian military.

You can be certain that after these war games are over near the Russian border that this military hardware will be left there in anticipation of future uses.

Will this mean war for sure?  The US often puts a loaded gun to the head of a particular nation and finds that the threat itself is enough to get its way.  Will such a threat work with Russia?

Why is this happening?  Follow the money.  See this latest big story about Russia turning off its gas pipeline to Europe through Ukraine.  Click here 

Smirking in Seattle?


Our 14-mile peace walk through Seattle ended today at the Sadako Sasaki statue near the Friends Meeting House.  Following the closing ceremony at the statue we moved to the ferry and made our way back to Bainbridge Island for supper at the Winslow Co-Housing.  I am spending the next two nights in an apartment at the Co-Housing complex where 80 people live.  The furnished apartment is temporarily empty while the owner is out of town so I have the whole place to myself.

We walked through Seattle's downtown black community, the Asian community, the business district during the lunch hour amongst the government buildings and restaurants, and the university district.  So we had a good look at the city.  You can imagine that legions of cars and people saw us, heard the drumming, and read our signs.

On the ferry ride to Bainbridge Island after we finished today's walk I rode with two Washingtonians and asked a series of questions so I could try to clear up some of my confusion about the last three days of walking in their state.  I've noticed that we got fewer honks, waves, thumps up and other positive nods than on any peace walk I've ever been on - and I've done about a dozen of them over the years in several different states.

During the past three days (but I want to particularly focus on today through "liberal" Seattle) we admittedly again got nice positive support from the vast majority of black people we saw.  Immigrants (African, Asian, Hispanic) would usually make eye contact and often would nod - they were generally making some kind of human contact.  But amazingly the vast majority (with a few notable exceptions of course) of white people avoided making eye contact and were most often near stone faced, even smuggish, as we passed by.  I've never before seen such emotional disconnection from so many white folks.  (And just to prove that I have not lost my mind a young South Korean woman artist who is walking with us had the very same reaction that I had.)

Of course I questioned my own reactions - although after 14-miles there appeared to be a real pattern to this across age and class divisions amongst white people.  But admittedly I know virtually nothing about white culture in the northwest of this country so I was eager to discuss this with people actually from this state.

Thus during the ferry ride today I told two Washingtonians of my observations and asked them if there was any merit to it.  Could I just be way off base?  Was I being needlessly judgemental?

Their response was quick and resolute.  No, I was not imagining this they told me.  White people in this region "smirk, are smug, don't want to engage, and even many well educated liberals think we live in a post-political period where protesting is old hat."  I was stunned to hear this as Seattle is perceived as a liberal bastion despite being the home ground of military contractor Boeing and Microsoft among many other high-tech corporations.

One of the Washingtonians told me that many folks in these parts are into wearing the right eco-clothes, eating the right organic foods, driving the right eco-friendly car, riding their bikes, and the like but when it comes to dealing with issues to stop endless war, the plight of the poor and minorities, and efforts to overturn the ravages of capitalism they are not so interested.

Now granted there are people like this all over America and around the world.  I understand that but I can say without hesitation that today was the most mind-blowing example of white people either ignoring or arrogantly smirking at us and our message that I have ever witnessed in my 36 years as an activist.

As we walked and I pondered this surprising observation I came up with a biological species identification that best described what I saw during this 14-mile field examination.  I called it Genus Ignorus. 

Tomorrow we go back out into the field for another day of examination of this Washingtonian species.  I'll be sure to pass on what I find.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Neo-Slavery Makes Comeback



For-profit prisons have created a “neo-slavery” in the US, according to award-winning journalist Chris Hedges. Inmates work eight hours per day for major corporations such as Chevron, Motorola, Nordstrom’s and Target, yet only have the possibility of making up $1.25 an hour. In addition, companies that provide services like phone calls overcharge prisoners on even the most basic services, making hundreds of millions in profits annually. RT’s Ben Swann speaks to Hedges, who explains how this shadowy system came into existence.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Entering Tacoma


The Martin Luther King Peace Walk entered Tacoma today from the south.  It was a clear and sunny one so we had a great view of Mt. Rainer in the distance.  Quite a sight.  All together the walk did 14 miles from near the sprawling Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Air Force and Army) to Tacoma.

We are back to the Catholic Worker House in Tacoma for the night (we also stayed here the night before the walk began).  Just before dinner tonight about 40 homeless people and Catholic Worker volunteers gathered for a meeting that we were able to sit in and listen to.  They were discussing how the Catholic Worker community here (which has eight houses in the neighborhood) can serve the homeless population in a better way.  The message that most stood out was the need to show greater compassion for those who find themselves homeless.  One woman reminded everyone that most of us are just one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves.

During the walk today we passed through a heavy traffic industrial area which meant we had alot of people see our walk banners and signs.  We also passed through the black community where we got about the best reception we've had yet. I heard a story today that the black community in Seattle has dwindled to about 800 people in large part due to the cost of living jumping so high since the Microsoft and high-tech boom.  Many people from Seattle's black community moved to Tacoma which is more affordable for poor and working class people. 

My feet are aching badly and I am dog tired but my spirits are high.  I hope to be asleep by 8:00 pm tonight for some needed rest before we head off for another day of taking it to the streets.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Walking Thru Olympia


We began walking today through Olympia, Washington after spending last night in Tacoma at the Catholic Worker community led by the infamous Father Bix, the Jesuit priest who has been a mainstay of political organizing in this region for many years.  (Father Bix is 86 years old and recently took a large group of local activists to Jeju Island, South Korea for a solidarity trip.)

When we walked into the Olympia downtown area around noon we took a break to see this magnificent mural created by the Olympia-Rafah Sister City Mural Project.  They asked various local organizations to make a leaf that was then added to this brilliant public art piece.  This photo does not do the whole thing justice but you get an idea anyway. (Click on the photo for a better view.)

We walked about 13 miles today and ended up at the home of a Vietnamese couple who hosted us for a traditional dinner and are offering their home to our group of 12 walkers.  The husband walked all day with us and was once one of the Vietnamese boat people who fled his home country and was held in a refugee camps for several years before making his way to the US.

As is usual for me on peace walks I made a sign that says "Human Needs Not War$" which I will carry and keep turning facing the traffic so as many people driving by as possible can read it.  Call it my spiritual practice on a peace walk.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Song