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

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush & Obama's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

OBSERVATIONS ON A MEETING

I went to an Obama supporter meet-up in Brunswick last night. There were about 35 folks there who impressively drove from many towns in the region, some from at least an hour away. They had come because the Obama team asked them to gather across the nation and to send him their thinking on what issues were priorities for the new administration.

I wanted to go to listen to what people had to say. I wanted to go so I could get a sense of what the Obama supporters were like, what kind of people they were, how strong were they on the issues? I wanted to go and see if there was common ground on which we could work together in the future.

After the introductions they asked folks to list what issues were important to them: Jobs and economy, health care, green energy, education, financial sector corruption, domestic violence, Maine fisheries, trade agreements (By now I'm wondering, is Iraq and Afghanistan on their minds?), returning veterans, .....on it goes and the list is being written down on paper and hung on walls, several sheets of paper now hung and still wondering......

There were four of us there from the local PeaceWorks group but we were mostly listening and waiting......then the facilitator, who we know and knows what issues we are concerned about, looks at us and says, "I don't see Iraq and Afghanistan on the list and think they should be."

This is our signal so a couple of us peaceniks speak up. When I do I say that I want to mention three things: Just saying health care is too vague, we need to give more direction here, are we in favor of "single-payer health care, Medicare for all" or continuing to leave things to the insurance corporations? The facilitator, to her credit, asks how many people support single-payer and two-thirds raise their hands. But then one talkative woman interrupts and says that single-payer will never happen and she doesn't care what we have as long as we get something. That was that and the group moved on - health care remained vague.

My second and third points were Afghanistan and Iraq. I suggested that we need to look at the larger U.S. policy in the region which is all about controlling oil and pipeline distribution routes and thus we don't intend to leave either country for the next 50-75 years. The facilitator responded by saying, "Obama has a plan to get out of Iraq and will use diplomacy in Afghanistan."

The group felt confused enough about Afghanistan that they decided to ask the Obama team to clarify his policy on that country. A victory of sorts I thought.

It was nearing 7:00 pm and Mary Beth and I had to soon leave to get home for a birthday dinner being held at our house. But just before we left the meeting one local Democratic party town committee person stood up and said, "You have forgotten why we are in Afghanistan. It was because of 9-11 and the Taliban. We have to stay there until we have killed every last Taliban." In the introductions this woman had introduced herself as a Hillary Clinton supporter. She must be pleased that Hillary will now be the Secretary of State.

On the Afghanistan issue two other points were made during the discussion. One was that "We need to put more money in Afghanistan" and the other was "We need nation building" there.

Frankly, trying not to sound judgemental here, I was not impressed. The people were very nice and I'm sure they want change but "change to what" is an important question. I know this is just one sampling of the Obama supporters from this very big country. But it indicates to me a certain reality that I think we will face in the future.

When the Obama forces talk about needing to push him I can't help but ask myself "Push him where?" If you don't have a corporate analysis of our government today then the direction you are pushing very well might be the wrong direction. Do we need to push Obama into more health care by the insurance companies that are only interested in covering those who are healthy and leaving those who are sick to fend for themselves? Do we need to push Obama to "nation build" in Afghanistan when the reality is that our bases are there to ensure that pipelines moving Caspian Sea oil remain in the hands of the U.S./British oil corporations?

I am sad to say that there very well might be a collision in the making here as those in the peace movement will be running headlong into those Democrats inside the Obama camp who for whatever reason are going to stand with their new president on issues like health care, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Just an early observation and warning signal. Time will tell us more I am sure. Keep your eyes on the bouncing ball.


"Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces." - Sigmund Freud

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