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.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Where I learned about life....


Imagine the early-to-mid 1960's.  My family is living on Ellsworth Air Force Base next to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  We arrived in a blizzard and I begin to ask myself how the native Lakota people were surviving the harsh winter inside of the sub-standard 'shot gun' shacks they lived in - with holes in the worn wooden siding.  This began my journey into learning about native history, culture and spirit.

Another learning I had during this same period was inside the base gymnasium.  I'd take the shuttle bus from base housing where we lived across the air base (loaded with bombers) to the gym.  I had to escape my chaotic family and found solace playing basketball with mostly young black GI's.  They taught me to play the 'street ball' version of the game and it was from them I first heard about Cassius Clay just before his famous fight with Sonny Liston in 1964.  I was 12 years old and soon enough Muhammad Ali became one of my greatest heroes.  I loved his spirit, his brashness and his sense of justice.  When he gave up his world heavy weight boxing title by refusing the Vietnam War draft he taught us all so much about courage and real values.

My family was poor, scraping by on an enlisted man's pay with six kids.  (In those days there was no Food Stamp program, if there had been we would have easily qualified.) I was always skinny and hungry.  At that point I was going door-to-door in the base housing area selling donuts from the local grocery store for 10 cents a bag.  I knew hard work early on.  I also learned how to talk on the fly.

When we moved to Germany in 1965 I became a regular at the Wiesbaden base gym.  While waiting at the shuttle bus stop to return home I'd listen to GI's sing the latest hits which helped form my musical interest in R & B - along with my big sister's Elvis records.  I heard the GI's graphically use curse words, some of which I'd never heard before.

I had no money to go buy french fries at the bowling alley on base, an exciting hangout spot for my peers. Even though I often worked as a caddie at the base golf course on weekends I couldn't afford either the bowling fees or the fries.  I had to use the money I earned to buy my own underwear and socks. Once I went through the gym lockers and removed a few coins from the pockets of several GI's hanging pants - socialism at work.  I made sure I was not greedy, I just took enough to get some fries.

Also during this time while in Wiesbaden I first heard The Kinks on the Armed Forces radio station playing in our kitchen as I helped my mom with dinner. (Since I was always hungry and impatient I found the kitchen was the best place to help deal with both of my needs.) Thus began my life-long love of cooking and this British rock band which became famous for social reflection and satire. This was one of the songs that snagged me.



So I owe much to the bouncing ball.

Bruce

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