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

Saturday, March 18, 2017

What Does Solidarity Mean?


I am thinking of the people around the world today who are suffering from wars, hunger and environmental destruction.  No matter whether they are at Standing Rock - Jeju Island - Okinawa - Yemen - Somalia - Palestine - Syria - Donbass - or downtown Portland, Maine.  They all are suffering needlessly and their hurt touches me deep in my soul.

My work every single day is connected to these good people who never did anyone any harm but they suffer because the greedy among us want to control everything and they don't pause for a second when they run over these innocent lives.

I know I can't save them all - or maybe even any of them - but what I can do is stand in solidarity with them as often as possible.  I can give my heart, soul and voice to trying to help end the madness that consumes so many and I long ago pledged to myself that I would do just that - no matter the day-to-day results.

A Quaker friend, Al Geiger in Jacksonville, long ago told me not to be fixed on results but to just do the very best I could each day.  That advice was liberating for me and I hold onto that now in my work.

I love this photo above.  It is very simple and yet so profound.  Earlier today I spoke in nearby Brunswick to about 40 people at a luncheon organized by our local PeaceWorks group.  Before my talk at the luncheon a group of us, who were arrested last June here in Bath at the shipyard for blocking the road in front of a 'christening' ceremony, met to do some brainstorming about upcoming events.  One of the women in our group gave me a ride to Brunswick for the talk and after we got in her car she handed me some dried golden grasses that she brought home from her trip to Standing Rock, North Dakota.  I held it for a moment and put one tiny bit of the grass in my pocket.

Before every talk I give I always pray to the Great Spirit and try to remember that I am speaking for our Mother Earth, the plants, the animals, the water, air, land and the people who are suffering.  I try to keep my ego in check and remind myself that my talk is not about me - but the bigger things in life.  I try to remember what solidarity really means.

The things I have to say are often not easy to hear.  Today I weaved together stories about Ukraine, Jeju and Okinawa.  I talked about those who have been protesting daily for years against US bases and militarism.  I talked about how the doors to reform in Washington and across the nation have mostly been closed to us as the corporate agenda is in full swing.  I talked about the need for active non-violent resistance.

People generally want to be entertained when they hear someone speak.  They want the speaker to make them feel better - to tell them that everything is going to be alright.  People live inside social boxes and most never step outside of them.  I always try to encourage people to push beyond their normal comfort zones and I continually try to do so myself.

I ended my talk today with the following that I just read in a new book written by two local friends who for years led campaigns here in the midcoast of Maine against the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant.  Here is what I said:

In their new book called ‘The Death of Maine Yankee’ long time local activists Maria Holt and the late Betty King tell the story of that long insurmountable campaign to close the toxic nuclear power plant in Wiscassat.

Near the back of the book they tell a story from the mid-1990’s when Maine Yankee put up a huge tent in front of the plant and threw a big party.  There was a microphone for testimonials about all the benefits derived from the nuclear plant.  Ray Shadis and Ann D. Burt took to the microphone and spoke out against the plant and in favor of the future generations.

Ray Shadis’ remarked, “when you are fighting superior numbers, it still pays to spoil the game.  While they are congratulating themselves, you can take the shine off of it, and break the unanimity.  You are not entitled to say ‘what’s the use?’”

Maria and Betty also share a story about a Buddhist monk from Vietnam (likely Thich Nhat Hanh) who was asked, “What do you think of the American Peace movement?”

The monk answered, “We think of drops in a bucket.  We drops don’t care where in the bucket we fall – but in America everybody wants to be the last little drop that makes the bucket overflow.”

There will be another ‘christening’ at BIW on Saturday, April 1 from 9:00 am to noon.  We invite you and others in the community to come to the protest and consider being drops of water in the bucket.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Brother Jonah said...

Sometimes it's just good to show up. Because for some reason the size of the crowd is the only measure of the rightness of the cause.

ACORN gave me a crash course in activist school on how to make an impression.

Meanwhile, the Drama Queen in Chief has determined that the biggest enemy of America is Alec Baldwin making fun of him. Nobody has to wiretap him, he'll just rush in mouth first. How did we get to this place, i ask, and how do we get out? Peace Up.

3/19/17, 12:51 AM  
Blogger Lisa Savage said...

Wisdom from you and the wise ones you have listened to. Thanks for raising up these voices, Bruce.

3/19/17, 5:08 AM  

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