“It is time to speak your truth, each of you. Do not look outside yourself for the leader. There is a river flowing very fast. Trust the river has its destination. You must let go of the shore, push off into that river. Keep your eyes open and your head above the water. See who is there with you and celebrate. The time of the lone wolf is over. We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

 

                             – Message from Hopi Elders in Arizona

 

I can always tell an effective read when it comes to the environment, peace, and social justice. I begin sharing bits and pieces of the book with family and friends. Bruce Gagnon’s autobiography, Come Together Right Now, 2008, 2nd Edition, Just Write Books, Topsham, Maine (www.jswrite.com) does just that. It makes for a great holiday read and gift(s).

I read his poem – Who Are You To Challenge Me – to my wife yesterday. A few days later, I e-mailed my older son the quote about the soldier in General Washington’s Army who is burning the homes of native people (1779) and wonders if this will lead to another empire. Gagnon starts most chapters with a quote that gives a framework to the writing. I used the above Hopi Elder’s quote for a call to a meeting about the saving land.  

The author blends just the right amount of family events with all the ups and downs of organizing. I loved the meeting where a Florida woman says she wished Gagnon had not come to her church to speak about the militarization of space. She explained that it had been a tough year with the hurricane of 2004 and that she came to church to feel better – reality, check.  It is here he teaches us that many in our country pull the blinds down on reality.

The details of organizing campaigns are the strength of this book. The author tells of a campaign to save land and a building in the Black community, the Callahan neighborhood, of Orlando Florida. It is about to be redlined. Compromises are made with the mayor and a school is saved. At this juncture, he is pulled aside by an African American and told he should work in the white community. It is white folks who need organizing and be involved in the fight against racism.

I could continue to effervesce. But autobiographies are about learning curves. There are swales and bumps in the road. Gagnon works as a Vista volunteer and a United Farm Workers organizer. He takes on the toughest problems. The bumps have to be there. Here are a few.

I don’t see a vision. We can inspire with how we live our lives, our dedication to peace, the environment and social justice, but we need to instill a positive vision if we are to recruit others to La Causa. I see a procession of tactics – great stuff. I see the outline of a strategy. I don’t see a vision.

On the ideological front, I did not like the title to the last chapter – Healing Our Violent Souls. It hints at war as inherent in our DNA. I do not believe that when some military person pushes a button to send a drone to kill people, he or she is driven genetically. I do believe we have a culture of war & violence. I’ve seen it taught in our schools. One teacher had a model club, something many young people can relate to, and all they did is build military hardware. The corporate world is connected to that. Gagnon say that strongly in the last chapter and in many ways. But the “Violent Souls” title is both false and hints at a kind of hopelessness.

Concerning strategy, at times I worried that what was being projected was nonviolent resistance forever, elevating a tactic to the level of strategy. But as I read, the author displays a good grasp of the need to halt the extreme right along with the reforms to move that step forward. His most recent show, This Issue, can be seen at,

https://archive.org/details/ThisIssueBathIronWorks

It is a good example while not in the book. Hopefully, it will be in his next one.

In other words, concerning aspects of strategy and certainly vision, where are we going with all this? What are we pointing to? Solar? Wind? No. A technical transition will not do it, important as that is. Is it we have to be the change we are fighting for? Okay, but how do we lay an objective basis for that change so it happens more readily in the future. Strategy, and certainly vision, must include the future. 

It has to do with people, their relations to family, work, community and each other. It must extent democracy to the community, the electoral arena and the economy. In a word, it’s some kind of socialism in the long run. We need to come together, a 3rd American revolution, to make all that happen. Certainly, it has to be “made in the USA” and not some imported version. At the same time, even if the workers at Bath Iron Works, Maine, where the Navy’s Aegis Destroyers are made, want civilian, green production, there has to be a political component outside BIW to push this. Strong pro-democracy, anti-monopoly and socialist elements must be there.

There are other issues. Gagnon goes to Cuba. Why didn’t he report on that? Why the initials for his partner Mary Beth? I found that a bit strange, nonfunctional and tending toward a dismissal. Acronyms are bad enough, let’s not do it to people.

I’m saying all this and at the same time enthusiastically promoting this exciting book to contacts, friends and relatives. I read his hints on meetings before I went to a meeting this week for a dog park. (Trying to win them as allies to the environmental movement.) Bruce Gagnon educated me big time on the connection between the military industrial complex and space. Thank you.

Come Together Right Now does what it sets out to do. It is an organizer’s handbook told through autobiography. I love his writing style, incisive story telling with verve. He, his partner, Mary Beth, Veterans For Peace, and all his brothers and sisters in the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space ( www.space4peace.org ) are doing major work for a transformative movement. One that will bring together many moderate to progressive to revolutionary movements for major political, cultural change. It isn’t only possible, it’s necessary.