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: Brunswick, 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, April 15, 2019

On the street today in Brunswick


I was out on the sidewalk in downtown Brunswick today for an hour handing out 'Tax day' flyers.  Local PeaceWorks member Rosie Paul made a nice two-sided card with an attractive color illustration of the military chewing up our national budget.

It was wet and cold out and I had not worn enough layers.  But what made up for it were some interesting conversations.

Everyone declares that they know where their tax dollars are going.  One woman asked me, "Do you mind that you are preaching to the choir?"  I replied, "But some in the choir don't know this song and the choir needs to sing it - publicly."  She smiled.

Several people (from young to old) asked me this fundamental question:  "What can we do about it?"  Most of them (especially the older ones) have become cynical, hopeless, resigned to our lot in life, and one woman claimed that she was just waiting to meet Jesus in heaven.

The Jesus lady blew me off when I offered her a flyer before she walked into a shop.  Later she approached me and said she was sorry for being rude.  I guess Christian conscience is still alive in some.  We had a long talk and at the end she wanted to shake my hand.

One well-to-do man, told me he was an investor, talked about how the national debt was a bigger problem than military spending.  I asked him if a strong percentage of the debt was due to our endless war$.  He thought for a moment and said - yes.

So in the end this sampling of people I spoke too (I handed out 46 flyers while other PeaceWorks members stood in front of the post office doing the same) convinced me that our biggest problem in the US is not so much the lack of education or awareness about the cost of war - but is instead that so many people have given up.  They don't believe anything is going to change.  They see nothing or no one in sight that is going to make things better.  Thus they are choosing to live a life of relative isolation and hopelessness.

One man asked me why I keep doing this.  He's seen me over the years on the street and follows local politics.  He also asked if my time in the military (I was wearing a VFP hat) had put me on this direction of lifelong opposition to the war machine.

I told him I have to do it - even if I am the only one (which I am not) - but that I can't live with myself if I surrender.  It's not in my makeup.  The tide comes in and the tide goes out.  Sometimes the people are with us and sometimes they are not.  But we should always keep doing the good work.

I told him my step-dad, from Rumford, Maine who married my mom when I was three years old, taught me by his rebellious and independent spirit.  He was in the Air Force and was known for telling generals what he thought of them when he saw fit.

There is no more important work for me to do on this wonderful planet.  I could never imagine giving up. My soul is connected to all life on Earth.  

Bruce

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