Coordinator Year End Report

16 December 2001

Bruce Gagnon


I just returned from my last organizing trip in 2001.  This trip was closer to home, beginning with a talk in Gainesville and then stops in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Ft. Myers here in Florida.  This year my travels on behalf of the Global Network took me to 27 states and five countries.  I end the year reflecting on what I've experienced with many good people (and great activists) and thought I should share my thoughts with others.

On December 6 I had to go to Los Angeles for my civil disobedience trial for the action at Vandenberg AFB, CA on October 7, 2000.  There were 23 of us arrested and charged with trespassing on that international day of protest to stop the militarization of space.  Martin Sheen, the "acting president" as he calls himself, was with us that day in 2000 and has since pled guilty. He was charged with 3 years unsupervised probation and a $500 fine.  I was found guilty in a judge trial and was sentenced to 2 years supervised probation and a $1,000 fine.  Others in our group were found guilty as well, receiving one year unsupervised probation and $500 fines; several pled out to smaller fines; several others had their charges completely dropped, and one man was found not guilty.  The thing I found most interesting in our trials was that the federal prosecutor was joined by an Air Force Captain who assisted her with the prosecution.  The military is coming out of the closet to reveal its growing role.

Just days ago George W. Bush announced that the U.S. would be pulling out of the 1972 ABM Treaty with Russia.  Weak complaints were heard from a few in Congress, many of whom supported Bush's request for $8.3 billion for Star Wars research and development in 2002, and voted in favor of the "Missile Defense Act of 1999" that gives the president the "right" to deploy as soon as he feels ready.  The U.S. war in Central Asia continues while Bush administration "leaders" investigate expanding the war to include Iraq and North Korea, nations that they claim are preparing weapons of mass destruction.  It's a dark picture for sure.

In my travels this year I have witnessed a level of anger and despair among progressive folks that I have never seen before.  They feel as though they have been riding a roller coaster.  First the highs of the Seattle protests followed by the lows of the Daisy Cutter bombings of Afghanistan.  At each speaking event I hear the same question from people.  What is the one thing we can do to turn this madness around?

I always say that there is not one single thing - other than hard work.  But there are many things we must do.  We must first acknowledge reality: admit that our country has been taken over by the corporations, the fat-cats, the military.  Our Congress is under the control of the rich and powerful.  We've lost our democracy.  They are now chopping back our civil liberties.  The TV networks have become propaganda machines for the Pentagon.  Retired generals with pointing sticks are seen constantly on CNN reviewing the latest attack strategy in "America's new war."  Hardly a peaceful word is heard on the tube.

The truth must be told.  The time has come for a new American revolution. We have to say that the country has been hijacked by the forces that President Eisenhower warned us against.  A corporate elite has taken control of the USA.

While in Ft. Myers the other day I read in the local paper that 300 parents had turned out at a meeting to tell their political leaders that they would be voted out in the next election unless money was immediately restored to their children's schools.  Class sizes are dramatically growing in spite of the fact that Jeb Bush says that he is the "education governor."  All across America I've seen the same rage growing as education, health care, child care and other programs are cut and joblessness grows.  The social security "lock box" has been broken into. The people are being bled to fund the war in Central Asia and to pay for the new arms race in space - Star Wars. Because of mechanization, computerization and robotics there are now superfluous populations.  People are not needed and there is nothing more dangerous to the elite than educated, unnecessary people.

At the end of the first American revolution, the people who fought the war were betrayed.  The peasants who did the fighting were not paid as promised and many of the small farmers had their lands confiscated by the new landlords who by law were the only ones who could vote.  The people rebelled but were suppressed.  They had rebelled against the king of England and established a new democracy, only to have a new gentry take his place. Today we see the legacy of the deceit.

We all know that ultimately there is little difference between the Democrats and Republicans today.  Oh, there are surely some good politicians like Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Dennis Kucinich who still fight the good fight for the people.  But the heart and soul of the Congress is dead.  There is little inspiration in Washington.

If we are to survive, if we are to have small family farms and schools for our kids, then we must support this new awakening American revolution.  If we are to preserve our environment, if we are ever to have health care for all the people, then we must call for an end to the corporate monarchy.

Our friends around the world are hoping and praying that the American people will find the courage to throw off the chains that bind us.  The chains of TV propaganda, the chains of competition, fame and fortune, the chains of fear - they all must come off.

If there is to be peace in the world the American people must throw off our addiction to power and violence.  We must acknowledge that we live in a decaying society that pretends to be a glorious bastion of freedom and democracy.

These are not my words.  These are the things I've heard people tell me over and over again as I've traveled this year on behalf of the Global Network. Our struggle to keep space for peace is only a part of this larger American revolution that is now in progress - simmering, growing, happening right before our eyes.

A new American revolution begins when we say out loud what we are all feeling or sharing privately with friends.  The new American revolution grows when we give others hope by giving voice to their growing frustration and alienation.

A well-known Italian community organizer who worked with the poor in Sicily always began his work with new people by asking them to reflect on the difference between them and a tick.  The people felt so powerless that he had to start at that basic level.  There is no doubt in America that most people think we can't "beat city hall."  How can they be expected to dream of a new revolution?  People need to know that they are not alone in feeling that something is terribly wrong.

People are fighting for their children.  They are fighting for education, and health care and clean drinking water.  At the same time, they support a big military budget because they think it will protect their kids from "terrorist attacks."  Our job is to create a discussion in our local
communities that reaches into people's lives and shows them how Star Wars and war with Iraq are killing their children's future.  They know that the corporations control the country - most of them work for one.  They need to see how military spending steals from their future.

Of course it will take years to unravel this tightly bound knot that keeps true democracy in the U.S. locked up and out of reach of the people.  Our call for a new revolution cannot be time bound and it must be done with love. Hatred is not an option.

There is no easy answer or easy path forward.  We have to avoid despair and the tendency to hide until the storm of patriotic fervor subsides.  It takes determination and courage to stand up in the midst of those chanting USA! USA! USA!

This past October 13, our international day of protest drew events at over 115 locations in 19 countries.  In 2002 we will extend the day of protest to a week (Oct 4-11) of protest and educational events.  It is this emphasis on local organizing that provides the opportunity to connect the issues in ways that are relevant to people.

Please join with us on May 10-12, 2002 as we gather in Berkeley, CA. for the 10th Annual International Membership Conference and Protest of the Global Network.  Help us build momentum for this new revolution that values the Earth and human dignity over hate, profit and war.

Happy holidays to all of you.

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