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.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

FLOWER IN THE DESERT

I was out early this morning and took the subway north to 125th Street in Harlem. There gathered about 100 people (25 of whom were monks and nuns from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order) from the four different peace walks that merged onto New York City in time for the peace conference and today's march and rally.

The combined peace walkers headed south on 1st Avenue all the way to the United Nations - about 85 city blocks in the intense heat and humidity of the day.

As we passed through Harlem, black and Hispanic people greeted us in an open and friendly way. They stopped respectfully as we passed by, many people looked out of the rows of public housing apartment towers and waved to us once they got an idea what all the drumming and chanting was about. People flashed smiles and peace signs. The old black women, dressed for church with their big summer hats, nodded in a way that showed they understood the spiritual nature of the peace walk.

After about 20 some city blocks we left Harlem and moved into the predominately white community. There the response was much different. Many of the white folks, with their ipods plugged into their ears were jogging by and didn't bother to look at us, or they rushed past (and sometimes even through) our walk. Blank looks on their face were quite common as they erected a sentry tower around their emotions. I had the thought that it was like the peace walk was a lovely rare flower in the desert and these people didn't have the "time" or the inclination to notice. Some even looked dead inside.

Of course I am generalizing, there were some exceptions in the white community, but by and large there was a world of difference in how the people - just 20 city blocks apart - viewed the walk.

After the walk arrived at the U.N. the walkers were invited into the church center just across the street from the U.N. where an inter-faith service was held. I went and had lunch with two dear friends who are here from Santa Monica, California - Cris Guiterrez and Randy Ziglar. Whenever I am in Southern California, I always stay at their home and sleep on their small apartment living room floor. Randy is a retired beach lifeguard and a great organic urban gardener, and Cris, a longtime worker in the public school system, recently lost her job due to fiscal crisis in their state. They took the train across the U.S. to come to New York City.

After lunch we wandered down to Times Square where the rally was to be held. Much to our surprise the rally was spread out over about 4-5 blocks with one lane of traffic barracaded off and the 10,000 or so peace advocates were spread along this long line and had to sit on the hot road pavement for over three hours before the official march to the U.N. began. They had a good sound system set up with powerful amplification along each block but the heat made the wait difficult.

The good thing though was that as new people arrived they had to walk along the sidewalk past the long string of caged protesters (most of whom seemed to be from Japan or from Europe) - Americans seemed to be vastly outnumbered. But sitting there for that long I was able to see many friends pass by which helped make the hot wait bearable.

Finally just after 4:00 pm the march began and it took about an hour to make our way back to the U.N. where the march ended and organizational tabling and music was going on. By that time I was physically drained from the heat and the long day of walking. The first thing I wanted was something cold and fruity and I went inside the first store I found to buy a popsicle.

I figured I had earned the delicious treat.

In the morning I head back to Maine on the train and bring Narayana Rao from India with me for a few days.

You can see photos from the NYC march here

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