Coordinator Trip Report - Northwest
28 July - 10 Aug 2005
From: Bruce Gagnon
This report covers the period of July 28 - Aug 10 as I traveled to the northwest for a speaking tour in Oregon, Washington, and Canada.
Before I left I did several radio interviews on Oregon stations promoting the trip. Stuart Henderson (Florence) served as the coordinator for my Oregon trip that took me to Portland, Corvallis, Florence, Eugene, Salem and Hood River. In Washington I spoke in Olympia, Seattle, Suquamish, at the Ground Zero peace community near the Bangor Trident submarine base, and in Bellingham. Then my last stop was in Victoria, British Columbia. All together I drove 1,200 miles and took several ferry rides in the beautiful Pacific ocean waters.
The Florence, Oregon talk was especially exciting as Stuart worked hard to turn out double the crowd they normally get for such events. Stuart even put flyers on cars in this tourist-busy coastal town in order to spread the word.
In Eugene my host, Michael Carrigan, took me to a noon-time hour-long interview on the local college public radio station that is heard throughout the region. My talk that evening in Eugene was again well attended and I was particularly pleased that Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson attended. Sorenson is now a candidate for governor - running against the unpopular incumbent governor who is a Democrat. One of his major themes in the campaign is opposition to the war in Iraq. This was the first day my new book, Come Together Right Now, was available and I sold one box of them that evening. Michael also arranged for me to meet with the editorial board at his local newspaper.
I was in Seattle for several days thanks to retired Episcopal minister Bob Beveridge. Bob, and his wife Berta, took good care of me. They led me to several great events held around the 60th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. My talk at Bob's church, St. Mark's Cathedral was well attended and the next day Bob and I took a ferry out to Bainbridge island to join a Buddhist Peace Walk. It was nice to walk the 12 miles that day after having been in a car for a week straight. The three-week walk began at the Hanford nuclear facility, and ended at the Bangor submarine base. On August 8, about 75 of us gathered at the base gates at 5:00 am to greet the thousands of sailors entering the base for work. Twenty folks blockaded the front gate and backed the traffic up for at least a half-hour before they were arrested and taken away.
While participating in the walk I was able to speak to two different gatherings of folks who turned out to support the walk. A member of Veterans for Peace, Mark Wilson, also spoke. He announced he is running for the U.S. Senate in Washington. It was good to hear a candidate speaking the truth about the war and the need for economic conversion. Very refreshing stuff.
On August 6, Bob and Beta took me to Seattle's "From Hiroshima to Hope" lantern floating ceremony at Green Lake. Well over 1,200 people attended this moving event that began with music and theatrical remembrances of the tragic nuclear bombing. This was the 20th year of the ceremony where people placed candlelit lanterns in the lake at dusk, creating a magical scene. I was very touched by the whole event.
On August 8, after the dawn demonstration at the submarine base, I drove north and spoke in Bellingham, just a few miles below the Canadian border. Long-time friends Dorie and John Belisle moved there about nine years ago from Florida and started an apple farm. Their kids had come to the Florida Youth Peace Camp for several years that I ran while working with the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. Today, in addition to the farm, Dorie works with local farmers to get them to plant trees along creeks and river beds on their land in order to protect the water bodies and ensure salmon survival -- as the fish are diminishing these days. John serves on the local planning commission to try to stop the rapid destruction of farm land for suburban living. He and I spent time talking about how peak oil will impact farm life and suburbia as prices of oil rise and supplies dramatically diminish in coming years.
From the Belisle farm I drove seven miles north to the Canadian border. Canadian immigration made me sit for 30 minutes as they ran computer background checks on me after hearing I was a political activist. They got hung up on my past arrests for non-violent civil disobedience and I had to spend time explaining the nature of the actions over the phone to one of their supervisors. Fortunately I finally was allowed into the country, but as a result of the delay I missed my scheduled ferry ride to Victoria.
After a wait I took the next ferry ride to Victoria and was amazed at the beautiful islands along the trip. (On the ferry ride back to Washington I was to see several Orca whales jumping out of the water.) Immediately after arriving in Victoria I was taken to a CBC radio interview to promote my talk at the university that evening. A potluck supper was held at the home of my host Susan Clarke. There I met several transplanted Americans who had moved to Salt Spring Island, just off the coast of Victoria. They had much to say about their reasons for leaving the U.S. - something I hear many people say they'd like to do these days.
My talk at the university was well attended and well received. I read from my new book at the start and end of the talk. My last chapter in the book is about America's addiction to war and violence and the need for a national 12-step program to heal our passion for war. Before I read from the last chapter I shared the story about my own family life - one of alcoholism and domestic violence. My military step-father had returned from Korea and Vietnam, never dealing with his emotions from the war experiences, and turned to drinking and violence to relieve his suffering soul. I told how he had often beaten me. Throughout this trip I had seven people approach me telling me that this was their story as well.
During the Buddhist Peace Walk one monk told me that a woman had been crying in their temple the night before when they returned there to sleep after my talk. They asked her why she was crying and she said that her husband had come back from Vietnam with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and had turned to alcohol and regularly beat her son. Her son had significant problems as a result and was now in prison. The monk told me my story had touched her heart.
Conversion was the central message of my trip. I said over and over again that we must convert the military industrial complex to sustainable technology development. And I said, we must heal the broken hoop - we need to convert the warlike heart of the American nation and the American people.
While in Seattle the Navy's "Blue Angels" jet performance team was making tremendous noise over that city. I began to refer to them as the "Hell's Angels" in my talks. That same Navy Hells Angels flight team comes to Brunswick, Maine on September 10-11 and I am now organizing a statewide demonstration to oppose their visit on Saturday, September 10. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier that died in Iraq who is camping outside George W. Bush's Texas ranch at this very minute, will be one of the speakers at our event. Our theme is that real angels don't drop bombs.
In the closing chapter of my book I say this, "After awhile this proclivity to violence turns to ugly addiction. We, as a culture, begin to celebrate it and brag on our prowess. We romanticize the wars and the warriors. We idolize the weapons and stand in wonder as the warplanes fly overhead in celebration of our collective insanity. And insanity it is. If you doubt it, just ask some of the people whose countries we have invaded."