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'm back to work for the Global Network. Will continue to help Lisa Savage for US Senate campaign on my free time. Trying to self-isolate as much as possible. Best wishes and good luck to you all.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Memorial day parade - what is the message?


Video by Peter Woodruff

On Monday morning members of our local peace group (PeaceWorks) and Veterans For Peace (VFP) were in the Memorial Day parade that was about 2 miles long from Topsham to Brunswick.

They close the roads fairly early so Mary Beth and I walked to the starting point in Topsham and then characteristically we all had to wait around for a long time for our spot near the tail end of the parade.

The parade organizers long ago objected to peaceniks being a part of the Memorial Day parade.  It's a parade that essentially and mindlessly glorifies war so our peace message is not popular with the pro-war forces.  One of the leaders of PeaceWorks years ago arranged for her lawyer son to threaten a law suit against the parade that likely would have cost the sponsoring towns alot of money.  So they relented.

We moved to Maine in 2003 and have been in the parade most years since then.  In those days, during the height of the Iraq war, we got alot more people to join us.  Some of them have passed on or just can't walk that far any more.

Like in so many communities across the nation local peace groups are hanging on by a thread.  While once vibrant, things took a real down turn following the election of Barak Obama.  Many liberals, opposing the George W. Bush Iraq war, left the peace movement thinking that Obama would take care of things.  He did that for sure....

I will always remember a Washington Post poll during Obama's administration that asked self-identified liberal Democrats if they 'supported Obama's drone war' in the Middle East.  Over 70% of them said YES.

If that poll had been asked during the Bush years that same 70% of Dems would have 'opposed Bush's war'.  This is how it works.  With many people 'political party' comes first.  Loyalty to the peace movement is ephemeral. Here today and gone tomorrow.  Ride the movement to get back into power and then lock it in the barn and throw away the key.

The same thing is happening to the environmental movement today.  The Dems are riding it since polls show the public is alarmed about climate catastrophe.  But when the Dems in Congress had the chance to pass the 'Green New Deal' with some real teeth in it, the leadership of the party watered it down.  The corporate funders of the Dems don't want any serious action to change industrial America.

Photo by Nancy Randolph (click on photo for a better view)

To hell if our Mother Earth dies - the game is all about whoever has the most toys at the end - wins.  It's America's greatest sickness - consumerism, materialism, capitalism and the aggressive, unforgiving foreign policy that comes out of this destructive system.

So we did our bit in the parade - no signs are allowed - just the flags and banners of the group.  One woman quietly winked to me as we walked past her along the parade route.  Many in the crowds are too timid to show support for peaceniks.  The DNA of America is about war and many people's identities are wrapped around the flag.

We did see some other support - during one long parade stoppage an older woman congratulated VFP and told me she is ashamed of the country.  So in a small way our presence in the parade might give people like her more confidence to speak out.

While walking I thought about the recent 'Victory Day' march in St. Petersburg, Russia that our study tour group joined on May 9.  There it was 1.2 million people in the 'Immortal Regiment' march - no trucks, motorcycles, Baptist churches promoting their version of god, high school marching bands, and retired vets marching in uniforms that showed their aging bulges.

In Russia it was about memory of the 500,000 who died just in St. Petersburg alone during the Nazi invasion and occupation from 1941-1945.  All together across the Soviet Union it was 28 million who died from the war.  It's a public mourning, carrying the photos of their relatives who died or survived the war.  Never again they say.

One old vet and his wife turned their backs on us as we walked by on Monday in Topsham.  He'd likely say the American wars make it possible for us to be in the parade although if he had his way we'd be banned.  It is a parade to underscore America's exceptionalism and domination of the world on behalf of corporate capital.  They call it freedom.  Yes, free to rape, pillage and plunder.

Mary Beth thought the crowds along the parade route were thinner and more subdued than in the past.  Maybe people have grown weary of all the wars and military spending.  Maybe like the woman I met, they are increasingly ashamed.  Maybe they find the parade unimaginative and boring.  Maybe it has no emotional appeal at a time when our government squanders our future on Mother Earth.

Happy memorial day - as they say here in the USA.

Bruce

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