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.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

I'm tired of war



I am home now - tired from the long journey to Okinawa and Taiwan but glad I took it.  After I left Okinawa I stopped in Taipei to visit my son Julian and his wife Emily.  We share a love for food so Julian enjoys showing me some of their favorite places to eat - always a good adventure.

When my flight left Taipei I had a stop in Tokyo with a four-hour layover.  I used that time to get caught up on emails and reading.  I was deeply struck with a sadness as I confronted the feeling that I've spent my whole life hearing about and seeing wars.

I was born during the Korean war. Growing up in an Air Force family war was always present.

During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis we were living at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota and my step-dad was called in on alert and I remember wondering if he'd be coming home or not.  My mom divorced my father when I was two years old and I never saw him again.  Now I might be losing another father I feared.

One evening in the Cold War period of the mid-1960's, while living in Germany, we were returning home from some all-day outing and I was spread out in the back of our station wagon. On the Armed Forces radio network was a play about nuclear war. A family (mother, father, and son around same age as me) were living in an isolated valley after a nuclear exchange.  They could not go beyond the valley because of radiation.  They were doomed to a life of non-existence really - the boy had no future.  That story has hung in my heart ever since.

I joined the Air Force in 1971, during the Vietnam War, largely because it was really all I knew.  My induction physical was to be done in Oakland, California and we were instructed to report to the induction center quite a bit early.  There was a long line of us young guys standing outside the center waiting for the doors to open. A woman, some one's mother, began working the line of mostly draftees - wailing and pleading with us not to go to war.  She had lost her son in Vietnam.  Her cries still live inside my heart.

The woman was followed by a young black man with no face.  He had no nose, no ears, no eye brows, no lips, just a burnt scarred face and he too begged us not to go to war as he had done.  His painful to see face also still lives inside of me.


During our recent week in Okinawa the hundreds who blocked the construction gate at the US Marine base at Camp Schwab each day were mostly older people.  Many of them have memories of the terrible Battle of Okinawa where at least one-quarter of the civilian population died in 1945 when the US attacked the island and defeated the Japanese occupiers.  People there are deeply marked by WW II and fear another war as the Pentagon occupiers use Okinawa as an 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' aimed at China, North Korea and Russia.

On the plane home I searched for movies to watch and was not surprised to find that most of what the airline offered were war movies or films that suggest humanity's future on this planet will be filled with violence.  The 'entertainment industry' helps keep people stuck in the endless war cycle with a sense of helplessness about doing anything about it.

My step-dad was stationed in Okinawa during the Korean war and worked in photo reconnaissance.  He had several picture books from his time there and when I was young I spent many hours pouring through these books - similar to the way kids are drawn to video games in current times.  I wonder if my four trips to Okinawa and numerous trips to Korea are tied to these books?

I was thinking about all of this during my trip home and feel lucky that I found a path in life that rejects this violent view of human culture.  I don't accept it and want something different - and believe that I've got to help create the new path forward.  I thank the great spirit for guiding me on this peace road.

Bruce

7 Comments:

Blogger Jo McIntire said...

You are indeed an inspiration to many of us!
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5/3/18, 7:59 AM  
Blogger Geoff Holland said...

Thanks for sharing your personal journey Bruce. Tired of war, hungry for Peace!

5/3/18, 8:37 AM  
Anonymous John Schneider said...

When will we ever learn?

5/3/18, 9:05 AM  
Blogger Gene Marx said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts, Bruce. It looks like you and I have been immersed in the same malaise of late. Why we haven't given up hope for an end to war I'll never know. BTW, you and I share the same Air Force brat background, only my father was killed in a B-47 accident when I was very young.

5/3/18, 9:59 AM  
Blogger Bruce K. Gagnon said...

Thx for all your kind comments. Sorry to hear Gene about losing your dad so young. Once in South Dakota a man across the street in base housing was killed in a plane crash. I could never shake it that he was not outside washing his car every weekend. His family was gone in a flash - what happened to all of them?

5/3/18, 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Jon Olsen said...

When I read the very familiar sentiment, "tired of war," what immediately came to mind was the concept of a "sleep-in"_ at the gate of some military base. People "just so tired they have to lie down and rest." Just a quick thought.

5/3/18, 3:59 PM  
Blogger Elaine said...

So moved by this, Bruce! Even without the full range and depth of experience you've had because of your background, and being male - I also am shaking my head, tired of war. . . .I remember as a young child, during World War II, having to vacate to a certain room during the air raids.

5/8/18, 9:34 PM  

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