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, April 27, 2018

Okinawa: April 28 Day of Humiliation


  
Today will be the biggest day of protest at Camp Schwab (that sits on pristine Oura Bay) during this week called ‘500’.  The goal was to have 500 people come each day to join construction gate blockades outside US Marine Base Camp Schwab where twin-runways are being built on top of the bay under US military orders.  Millions of truckloads of huge rocks and gravel are brought each day and are being dumped in the bay.  It’s an insane project and the people are angry and heartbroken as they know the beautiful nature of their sacred bay will be forever changed.

April 28, 1951 is known in Okinawa as the ‘Day of Humiliation’.  It is the day that following the US military victory over Japan, and subsequent occupation of Okinawa and Japan, the Japanese were given their independence.  But for the Okinawans April 28 was the day that their island was officially placed under US military occupation.  And it’s essentially been that way ever since.


Okinawa was once called the Ryukyu Kingdom, a peaceful and independent nation.  But following their occupation by imperial Japan their kingdom was destroyed and they became subjects of the fascist forces.  Japan was defeated in the Battle of Okinawa where about 120,000 civilians (one-quarter of the population at the time) were killed in 1945 but at least the survivors thought with the US victory they would again be given the chance to recover their beloved Ryukyu Kingdom and own language.  With US occupation it was not to be.  

The US did allow Okinawa to be reverted back to Japan in 1972 but US military forces have remained firmly embedded and in control on the island since 1945 – now 73 years of continual military occupation.  For all intents and purposes Okinawans are still not free – one military occupier replaced another – their true independence still awaits.

This will be our last day outside the gates of the hyper-expanding Camp Schwab as Washington and Tokyo ramp up their military escalation aimed at China and Russia.  These two former enemies – the US and fascist Japan – now stand united as they destabilize the region on behalf of imperial corporate interests.  Dud Hendrick, Tarak Kauff, and I will return on a 4:00 pm bus to a hotel in Naha City for the night and on Sunday will board our respective planes for our next leg of this journey.  Dud and Tarak will return home and I will head to Taiwan for a couple days visit with my son Julian who has been teaching there for the past few years.  


We are extremely grateful to all of our hosts and many new friends for their beautiful spirit and generous hearts during this remarkable week of determined protests.  It’s been inspiring for us to stand and sit with such dedicated peace people who believe that we must challenge the dangerous path to war in our own communities where these manifestations of violence are present.  No matter whether they are military bases or military production facilities we must bring this spirit of non-violence to challenge the push for endless war that is currently chewing up the resources of the world on behalf of corporate interests.  

We all have much to learn from places like Okinawa and Jeju Island, South Korea where indigenous people continue to struggle against the dark forces of our time.  In that struggle they refuse to surrender their lands, their natural beauty and their souls to the US military colonization.  They sing, dance, shout, and get dragged away from gates as they try to protect the future generations from the scourge of war that has been made real on their lands in years past.  They are not protesting for some theoretical peace – these people know war and don’t want to ever go there again.

Bruce

Photos by Shigeru Hirai  

1 Comments:

Blogger chucksearcy said...

Bruce,

You and Tarak and Dud, and the peace-loving people of Okinawa, are an inspiration to the rest of us.

I've been thinking about you over the past few days, in particular as the stunning events at the Korean DMZ have unfolded with such dignity and hope.

Dour warnings from the usual TV pundits, U.S. neo-cons, retired generals, nuclear advocates, and a few academics who insist that this is mainly a photo-op, should make it clear that strong interests are marshaling their forces to prevent an outbreak of peace on the Korean peninsula.

The people of Okinawa have probably pointed out to you this week the unhelpful comments of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who seems determined to push Japan into an expanded military posture. Abe has no interest in a peaceful and united Korean peninsula.

The global arms industry led by U.S. manufacturers, and many others who profit from perpetual war. are queuing up for CNN and BBC soundbites. Their mission is to disabuse us innocents of the notion that peace may be at hand in Korea, a half century after our disastrous proxy war there which we know now was a geo-political project launched with no concern whatsoever for the people of Korea.

We have to use our numbers, our smarts, and our personal experiences – including people-to-people friendship links around the world – to counter this predictable surge. Places such as Okinawa, where you have joined the people of that island this week in demonstrating our shared commitment to peace, and Jeju Island, where our long-suffering and courageous Korean friends have taught us so much about peace, should make us all determined to continue.

Thank you for standing up for us.

CS

4/28/18, 1:21 AM  

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