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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Walk Photos

Walking from Saco to Pratt-Whitney

Rosemary from Montana carries the banner

Starr embracing the return of Dud Hendrick

Lunch stop in Kennebunk
Sally Breen calling the local media

The banner returns

VFP members from Massachusetts
The whole gang at the end

Photos by Peter Woodruff

Healing Time

Walking Underneath the Curtain of Censorship

Nipponzan Myohoji monks and nuns drumming and chanting yesterday at Pratt-Whitney F-35 fighter engine facility.  We learned that the company moved to North Berwick in order to get rid of the union at their previous location.  There is still no union at the Berwick weapons plant.

The walking
would not be possible
for me
without the drums
and chanting
Na mu nyo ho renge kyo

I don't often chant
out loud
it comes
and goes
in my mind
as I walk
other thoughts
pass my way
personal issues
my connection
to the natural world
and to all
my relatives

The Nipponzan Myohoji
monks and nuns
are all in
their whole lives
walking for peace
grateful for food
grateful for other walkers
grateful for life

Each step
a statement
we all need to speak up
we need to create community

Our isolation is our defeat
allows the dark forces
to gain and hold power
the story of humanity's
long struggle
to be free
is largely unknown
we've lost our griots

the walk is a story
told in many ways
by many people
slipped underneath
the curtain of
and neglect

Monday, October 20, 2014

Images of the People

The core walkers

One of our best lunch spots during the walk

I am home now after our big finish at Pratt-Whitney in North Berwick.  We walked from the UCC church in Saco where we were hosted last night in a supper of more than 50 by church members, great food, words and music from walkers.  Then this morning the church minister and his staff (about 7 in all) walked nine miles with us.  Walking with us too were a good bunch of Veterans For Peace (VFP) members from Massachusetts so our walking line was impressive - particularly with the white VFP flags. 

As we walked the last two miles to Pratt-Whitney (where they are building the expensive F-35 fighter jet engines) the many cars going by were more supportive than I would have expected so close to a military industrial facility. One local man rode up on his bicycle to join us - he lives next door to the weapons production plant.

The wayward boondoggle at Pratt-Whitney will cost the taxpayers more than $1 trillion (I can't imagine that sum.) 

Overall I feel that Mainers are fed up with war.  They just don't see any way out - they don't trust that the politicians will do a damn thing about it. 

I don't yet have photos from the last two days so pulled out these above from a couple of days ago.  The top picture is of our core walking group. Here are a few other mental images from the walk:

  • Don from New Jersey drove a truck for a living and since he retired is doing some peace walks.  His best moments were when he carried our red warning flag ahead of us on country roads and would bow to truckers with hat in hand.  He got us alot of honks.

  • We handed out 1,000 flyers along the walk.  It was a working community - people carried signs and helped with the extra walking it took to take flyers to people we passed along the way.  Morgana from Maine was an incredible help in this distribution.  She worked on her fear of rejection in the process and got better at it as we went along.

  • Sally from Maine helped host us in Portland and then showed up today in North Berwick for the protest at Pratt-Whitney.  She has been fighting cancer for several years and pushed her walker across the street in front of the weapons plant several times - once stopping the guys in monster trucks as they left work in a hurry during the 3:30 pm shift change.  There is fierce love and determination in this woman who originally hails from the lone star state (Texas).

  • It was an honor to have several of the young vets from VFP in Massachusetts who walked with us today.  One read two poems last night at the church in Saco. They say they want to come back next year.

  • Music every night helped unite us and inspire us.

  • Lots of donations of apples along the way.  Our lunches were simple peanut butter, bread, cheese, and any left overs from the night before.

  • Two little girls outside of Saco as we approached town yesterday inspired me with their enthusiasm and love.  It's like they were watching the circus come into town and they were jumping for joy and cheering us on.

  • A woman tourist from Montana joined us for two days and threw in like she was part of the family.  She gave a massage to Jun-san the Buddhist nun, handed out flyers on the opposite side of the street in Biddeford, and carried the lead banner for a few miles.  She kept saying, "If I'd only known....."

  • The former mayor of Biddeford heard the drumming this morning as we walked past her house and came running out to cheer us on.  A few years ago while mayor she invited our whole walking group into her office to talk politics.

  • Many of the faces inside the cars, stopped at traffic lights, who refused to take a flyer still appear in my mind.  They watched us walk by and their mental gears were turning.  I wonder what they were thinking?

  • The many honks, cheers, thumbs up, waves, and peace signs from folks driving by was always like a warm mug of cider on a cold night. The largest percentage of them were younger folks.

  • If you want to have contact with the people of America trying walking across the highways.  They are in their cars.

  • The guys at a hard, dirty job site this morning that I approached as they sat outside at picnic tables during their break time touched my heart.  They looked worn out, poor, forlorn, but took the flyers I offered them and said, "Rangeley to Berwick....that's a long way."  Many people said that to us and I knew they would read the flyer and talk to each other about it....and they would understand.

  • Up and down the highway for 125 miles some folks took a ride with us - even for a brief moment - they were swept away in the moving Occupy movement.  It was fun and satisfying.  And I even gained one pound.
Photos by Peter Woodruff

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Peace Walk Arrives in Saco

We walked 17 miles today from downtown Portland to Saco where the UCC church will host a pot luck supper and provide home stays for all of us.  Bob Klotz, a leader of Maine, did the first three miles with us and took this photo. and some others that he posted on Facebook.

Also this morning, just as we were starting from Monument Square in Portland, a woman from Montana saw us and walked two miles with us.  She is in Maine on vacation.  Surprisingly she just turned up at the church here in Saco and is going to walk with us tomorrow.

We are expecting a large group of Veterans For Peace from the Boston area to arrive here this evening.  They plan to join the pot luck supper tonight and walk with us tomorrow as well.  Several others who have walked with us earlier in the week will also come back for the final day.

After the vigil at Pratt Whitney we will be hosted for dinner by our friends Karen Wainberg and Brown Lathem who live in North Berwick.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sunday Song


Oklahoma U.S.A.

Written by: Ray Davies


All life we work but work is bore,
If life's for livin' what's livin' for,
She lives in a house that's near decay,
Built for the industrial revolution,
But in her dreams she is far away,
In Oklahoma U.S.A.
With Shirley Jones and Gordon McRea,
As she buys her paper at the corner shop,
She's walkin' on the surrey with the fringe on top,
Cos in her dreams she is far away,
In Oklahoma U.S.A.,
She walks to work but she's still in a daze,
She's Rita Hayworth or Doris Day,
And Errol Flynn's gonna take her away,
To Oklahoma U.S.A.,
All life we work but work is a bore,
If life's for livin' then what's livin' for.

Originally written by Ray Davies of the Kinks, this song is performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring Clint Maedgen on vocals. Filmed mid-2005, this music video features Clint Maedgen, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and a guest appearance by the New Orleans Bingo Show.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Peace Walk: Cars, Oil & Endless War

Walking along the road slows everything down.  Today I noticed a bird at the top of a tree on the other side of the road singing as we passed by.  We heard a big pack of dogs at a 'doggie daycare' howling as we went by - they were pleading to come along with us but the chain link fence prevented their act of solidarity.  Four graceful and powerful horses moved in unison as they intently watched us pass them by.  We were hosted for lunch by an organic farm family that gave us fresh tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, melons and a comfortable place to relax under a warm sunny sky.

But the overwhelming thing we have experienced during the walk is the car culture.  Cars and trucks zoom by us and rarely slow down even though we have our red flag waving ahead of the walk.  Everyone is in a hurry and god forbid they have to slow down for fifteen seconds because of this unusual band of people walking along the highway.

Today as I walked I made a point of looking for signs of this dominant car culture that so completely engulfs us.  Here we are in the US with 5% of the world population using 25% of the planet's resources.  We like our cars and we like them big!

Along the way I could see why we are in a constant state of war - because our entire way of life - our economy - our entire identity and being is wrapped up in the car culture.  As I walked I scribbled down the following signs of this addiction to the automobile:

  • Car insurance agencies
  • Auto detailing shops
  • Auto repair shops
  • Auto sales dealers
  • Auto body shops
  • Disabled van renovation shop
  • Auto parts stores
  • Gas stations
  • Truck stops
  • Road paving companies
  • Drive thru lanes at fast food outlets
  • Road crossing guards at schools
  • Expensive bridges over rivers

I know I must have missed some but you get the idea.  There is no enterprise in rural or urban Maine that is more pervasive than the automobile related industry.

Most people say they want to end wars though we keep using our cars.  We are all responsible for endless war.

We are killing people all over the world because we 'love our cars' more than we love our planet or the people living on it.

Update:  WERU radio here in Maine covered the walk and you can listen here.  Also the Biddeford Courier ran a nice story here

Video from the Peace Walk

Video by Vietnam veteran Eric Herter from Brunswick. Day six of the walk from Rangeley to North Berwick. This day was from Lewiston to Gray.

NATO Expansion: Chicken or the Egg?

Rear Adm. John Kirby battled with Associated Press reporter Matt Lee at the State Department’s daily press briefing on Thursday. The Pentagon press secretary stated by positioning forces within several kilometers of the Ukrainian border, the Russian army was encroaching on NATO’s “doorstep.” Lee pressed the spokesman on this statement, seeking to clarify whether Ukraine is in fact a member of the Western military alliance, and whether NATO’s eastward expansion over the past 15 years is a factor in the escalating tensions.