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

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

DEMANDING DEMOCRACY & TOWN HALL MEETING


On March 1-2 I headed north to the University of Maine in Orono (UMO), where I spoke to a group of students brought together by my friend Dud Hendrick who teaches peace studies at the school. Dud and I are members of Maine Veterans for Peace.

The day before, a one-hour interview on the community radio station, WERU, had been set up for me by Dud. Already several new people have contacted our office who had listened to the show.

It was the second time I have spoken to Dud's peace studies class at UMO. In this case several of his students brought in their friends who don't take the class to hear my talk. I was told by the head of the peace studies department that several students were overheard after my talk saying they wanted to have me back to speak to a larger group of students.

From UMO I followed Dud as we made the 1 1/2 hour drive to Deer Isle, near Acadia National Park, where I was to speak to Dud's local peace group that evening. The meeting of Island Peace & Justice was well attended, and we had a lively discussion following my talk. In both of these talks, I put heavy emphasis on how space technology is used to fight modern war. Thus, if the U.S. can "control and dominate" space, the Pentagon is able to be the world's preeminent military power.

I also told both audiences that day that they were lucky to have Dud around as a teacher and friend. Dud went to the U.S. Naval Academy and was a pilot in Vietnam during the war. He went on to become a successful lacrosse coach at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Dud has been one of the key organizers of our Freqent Visitor Program here in Maine, where we have occupied the offices of our Congressional delegation reading the names of American GI's killed in Iraq and an equal number of innocent Iraqi civilians. Eight times during the past year we have held such events across the state. Dud was one of the 19 people with whom I was arrested on December 15, 2005 when we sat in at the Bangor office of our Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). We have been demanding that our two Republican senators hold a town hall meeting on the Iraq war so that the public may have an opportunity to speak directly to them. So far have they refused to hold such an event.

On February 9, Dud and six others were invited to the Bangor office of Sen. Susan Collins to speak with her via fuzzy teleconferencing technology. She was in Washington DC. The group of peace workers went into that meeting determined only to talk about the need for a town hall meeting on Iraq. Sen. Collins saw it as an opportunity to say she was meeting with small groups of people to discuss the war and thus there was no need for a town hall meeting. When it was Dud's turn, he read from prepared remarks and told the senator that, "I want to speak to you about the notion of responsibility - the responsibility of citizens in a democracy. It is in the best interests of a democracy that it functions at the behest of an informed citizenry....You have a responsibility to listen, to hear your constituents......The longer you refuse to enable us to have this democratic right, the more convinced I become that you are in D.C. to do the bidding of the dinizens of K Street."

Sen. Collins shot back that she found Dud's comments "insulting" thus effectively redirecting the discussion from her refusal to meet with growing numbers of the public who oppose the war. Instead, she could now "justify" her refusal as being necessary because people like Dud had "insulted" her. The games politicians play to hide from the truth are quite astounding.

After spending the night of March 1 at the home of Dud and his wife Jean, he took me to speak to his class at the Liberty School in Blue Hill, an alternative high school that describes itself as a "democratic learning community." Dud also teaches a peace studies class there and this particular morning several parents joined the class to hear my talk. At one point during my talk with the students, while describing the likely consequences of a plutonium release after a space nuclear accident, I asked the class what they thought would happen. "We'd be f_ _ ked," one girl shouted. We all laughed and I said that in older company, I might have given the same answer.

As I left Blue Hill to make the three hour drive home it began to snow. The world always seems to slow down a bit when the snow comes, covering everything with pure beauty. As I drove, the view of the bay was breath taking and I was filled with delight as I thought of how lucky I was to be in Maine. I am thrilled to see such natural wonders and to have such a good friend like Dud Hendrick.

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