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, ME, 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. @BruceKGagnon

Saturday, February 26, 2011


It snowed some last night so when we started out this morning the road was slushy and slippery. We walked to Hingham just outside of Boston. Tonight we are on the floor at a local Unitarian Church. In the morning we will be out early so we can get to the Old South Church in downtown Boston by 11:00 am to participate in the Sunday service. MB is taking the bus down to Boston to meet us at the church and then we will both head back to Maine after the service is over.

The walk officially ends on Monday when they go to the office of the governor to present a letter about the walk and the concerns that local hosts shared with us along the way. An issue we heard over and over again was that the people would like their governor to initiate a process to explore how Massachusetts could move away from its addiction to military spending in order to create more jobs.

I talked many times along the journey about the University of Mass-Amherst Economics Department study that clearly indicates that military spending creates less jobs than any other kind of investment. I challenged activists throughout Massachusetts to do more to make the important findings of this study widely known by the public. You can see the results of the study here We should all be talking about this study non-stop as the public's #1 concern these days is jobs.

The war machine has us locked in a form of economic slavery where the taxpayers pump their hard earned dollars into perpetual war and get few jobs in return. It's my belief that standing on the street with signs and banners that say things like Peace or War is Not the Answer are fine and dandy but these messages don't link the peace movement to the primary concerns of the public. Of course the moral and ethical questions about war are important, but the public as evidenced by the current events in Wisconsin, is crying out for an economic analysis that protects the people from the corporate scalpel.

I read the other day that 23% of America's debt is due to military spending and endless war. But few in the country are making the links between Pentagon spending and the virtual impossibility of an economic recovery as long as we are spending $12 billion a month in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan.

The peace movement must accelerate this debate by making these key connections. And we can't just do it once or twice and then move on to some other hot issue. We've got to stay on the case long-term and keep pounding away with the information from the UMASS-Amherst study.



Friday, February 25, 2011



Located near the Plymouth Rock monument
Our dinner stop on Thursday evening

We had lunch at a church in Plymouth, Massachusetts today. We walked through a torrential downpour and winds that approached 30 mph. When we arrived we walked down near the water to the spot where the pilgrims landed in 1620. The legend is that when they got off their boat they prayed at a huge rock that today has a big-pillared shrine around it. During the lunch one man, a former Navy submarine captain and now a member of Veterans for Peace, told us that the "rock is a crock". For those of you not familiar with that expression - crock means a pile of shit. The story was made up to build the mystique about the pilgrims.

By the time we got to the church in Plymouth my waterproof shoes were full of water and my socks were dripping wet. My waterproof pants were wet inside and my long underwear were wet. I changed and stuffed my shoes with paper to help dry them out. After lunch we walked about five more miles in the rain to a church in Duxbury and by the time we got here I had even more water in my shoes and my leather gloves were full of water. Some cars would slow down as they approached us along the road knowing that the huge water puddles alongside the road would splash us if they drove fast. But some cars and trucks plowed right into the puddles sending a stream of water onto our already wet bodies as we walked down the road. I spent alot of time trying to work out in my mind how people could be so cruel. Anyone who has been driving for more than one week knows what happens when you zoom thru standing water on a street.

Last night we slept on the floor in the home of a woman named Mother Bear who is a Wampanoag leader on Cape Cod. We first met her at the Old Indian Meeting House in Mashpee which has recently been renovated. This simple church is a living testimony of the native people's effort to keep their culture intact through all the years of adversity. Mother Bear served us one of the best clam chowders I've ever eaten.

Her home is like an Indian museum. When you walk in the door weaved baskets hang from the ceiling and photos of Wampanoag people in traditional dress are all over the walls in virtually every room. A bear skin rug, with the head attached, was sitting on a chair and a large animal hide hung over the fireplace with Mother Bear's family tree etched into the smooth side.

On the wall in the dining room was a large map (1877) of the town of Mashpee and if you looked carefully you could see the town divided into 60 acre plots with the names of natives in each of the plots. Mother Bear told us that the land was given to each member of the tribe so they could have a community where their culture could be preserved. But then the state of Massachusetts mandated that they form an official town charter which required them to begin collecting property taxes. Most of the Indians could not pay the taxes and over time they lost their lands as white people bought up the tracts. At one time the Wampanoag controlled all the elected offices in Mashpee but now that is all gone as the dominant white population has taken over the town and built condos and shopping centers.

These same kinds of things happened on Indian reservations throughout the country as the whites always found a way to take lands set aside for the native people.

I did not know the story about Plymouth rock being a phony until today but it did not surprise to me at all. So much of our history in this country is illusion and public relations. This is just one more important example.

Thursday, February 24, 2011



"Low-income" housing in Bristol, Rhode Island, a town made wealthy by the slave trade

Last night we made it to Fairhaven, Massachusetts where we slept on the floor at a Unitarian Church. We had quite a wonderful potluck supper and one of the better sharing discussions afterwards. Much to my delight there were several key organizers at this event who are working locally to connect spending on our current wars to the economic problems here at home. One local postal worker, and a leader in his union, spoke with great passion about the need to increasingly make these connections.

We began yesterday in Warren, Rhode Island (we have been criss-crossing back and forth between these two states in recent days). We held at short vigil at the National Guard Armory in Warren (these guardsmen are trained to be military police and have been sent to work at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo). Then we walked to a local park by the river, which we learned had been the summer camp for the Wampanoag tribe for thousands of years. Amongst the baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts are several mounds that were burial grounds for the Native Americans who once flourished throughout this region. There the Buddhists, who are leading the peace walk, drummed and chanted and I watched as geese flew over our heads. I thought about the deep roots of the old trees on top of the mounds being nourished by the mostly forgotten bones of the native people.

Two days ago we had lunch at a home overlooking the Cole River in Swansea, Rhode Island which was the first house burned down by Indians when King Phillip’s War (King Phillip was the name the British gave to the native leader called Metacomet) began in 1675. The original chimney still remains in the restored house and I spent much time while walking during the last few days thinking about this thing we call “progress” that the white man brought to North America. Two cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant stick out like a sore thumb just on the other side of the river from this ancient house where we ate lunch. All around us as we walked we saw auto junk yards, neon signs, fast food restaurants, polluted water, highways with cars spewing exhaust fumes, and miles of asphalt highways. None of this enhanced the land nor did it offer the wildlife or the people a real chance for survival.

The woman who now lives in the house that was burned at the start of the war against the Indians talked about the inevitability of war between the white pilgrims and the Indians because each had fundamentally differing philosophies about the land. The pilgrims believed land could be possessed and sold for profit. The Indians couldn’t comprehend the concept of ownership of land – their way to life was made possible by a reverence for the land and a belief that the people had to live in harmony with nature. Much like in today’s world the victor was not necessarily the one that was most righteous but the one that had “superior firepower”.

But there is no peace in the land today. The Mother Earth is having convulsions as her body has become toxified and heated up by this out-of-control way of life the descendants of the pilgrims, and subsequent generations of immigrants, have brought to this continent.

I feel a deep sadness about all this, which gets magnified when we walk past huge graveyards where the white people are ornately buried. The Indian burial mounds now have junkyards and ball fields planted on top of them as the victors have even determined that these sacred sites must be desecrated and forgotten. But they are not forgotten – at least during this walk we are talking about the Native people and their culture and holding their memory up in our simple prayers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


This photo (thanks Vanessa) was taken yesterday morning as we prepared to leave the Smithfield Friends Meeting (Quaker) House in Rhode Island. I was stretching my legs. A wet snow had begun to fall. It was a 15-mile walk day. I did about 12 miles and took my turn driving the support vehicle. I got lost trying to find my way back to the walk after checking the mileage to our final destination last night.

We had an interesting lunch stop yesterday. There were not many possible lunch stops available to us in the area so one of our walkers, Betty, just knocked on the door of a place that looked interesting. The house was inside an old mill grain shed and a man answered the door and Betty asked if we could have lunch there. He said yes, he'd be happy to have company.

It turns out the man is about my age, an out-of-work carpenter, and is renovating the inside of the place. It is an open design with no walls and overlooks a water fall and a river begin his house. He had a hot fire going inside his wood stove and we sat at the bar in his kitchen area and talked politics. It was one of those magical moments that often happen during walks.

The night before we slept on the floor at the Quaker Meeting House after a nice supper and one of our better discussions with our hosts. There were several Hispanic people who attended so one of our walkers, who speaks some Spanish, did the description of the Walk for a New Spring in Spanish.

Other than the fact that I could use some more sleep I am holding up better than I had expected. My legs and feet, while stiff and a bit sore, are still moving me forward. In the past, at this point in one of these walks, my legs would be swollen by now. Knock on wood.

I am barely keeping up with the news, my time on the Internet is rare. But I imagine there is still a war going on and the new-feudalists are still doing their best to send social progress packing.

Last night in the program following our supper at the Attleboro Unitarian Church I took note that people avoided talking about war with one exception. It's surprising but then again it is not. Even though our walk banner reads "End War" most people we meet are not really into discussing the subject in any great detail. They might make generalized statements that they are against war, and are for peace, but mostly they want to talk about other things.

I attribute this to the fact that we no longer have a Republican president in office. Most of these folks I would venture to say voted for Obama and they don't want to admit that their vote was a tragic mistake. While we were eating one woman told me we couldn't really leave Afghanistan because one could just imagine what the Taliban would do to the women and children. There are Republican wars (which are bad) and then there are Democrat wars (which are largely to be ignored). The logic escapes me - especially when I am walking behind a banner that reads End War.

On I go through the streets of America. I'll keep you posted.

Yes, I am a bit grumpy this morning.......for good reason.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Sunday, February 20, 2011