Archives for category: Resistance

Myths, Media, & Misunderstandings

Myth II – “There are no leaders.”  I’ve heard this said by different people in different settings. Most recently, it was uttered at the Union church, Vinalhaven, Maine, in a community discussion about the horrible events in Charlottesville and confederate flags flying from trucks here. Before grappling with this pervasive myth, a word more on the media.

One friend questioned my singling out writer Michael Roskin and The Free Press newspaper of Rockland, Maine. I pointed out above that concentrated wealth and power around the so-called “free press”, and media generally, are part of the problem we face in our country. It certainly aided the election of our current president.

Of course, most of the people working for The Free Press are NOT the main problem. It’s the controlling interests. More on that below.

At the same time, we must be able be able to constructively criticize those people, who with good intentions in the broadest sense e.g. including anti-Trump, feed some of the very problems we face as a people that contributed to these horrid election results. This criticism extends to institutions like our so-called free press (lower case).

For example, let’s use Mr. Roskin’s column, The Persistence of Vietnam, in The Free Press (9/21/2017). He makes a number of good points including the psychological effects of the U.S. War in Vietnam on veterans and the physical effects of Agent Orange. At the same time, he says, “Vietnam’s jungled mountains aided the enemy . . .”

As many of us learned in the 1960s/70s, it was the USA that was picking up the baton from French colonialism in Vietnam. Here’s just one example.

Herbert Fuller is an American promoter who wants to set up a $10 million sugar mill in South Vietnam. He is a “fervent believer in South Vietnam/s future.” When troops arrive to clear the area, as they sooner or later must, this American capitalist will literally be one step behind them “ . . . I am in it for the money,” Fuller says. “We could get our money back in two years.” {Fortune, 3/1966).

I went on to learn U.S. companies had already invested $100 million into Vietnam in the previous five years, including Gulf Oil drilling off the coast. The Vietnamese as “the enemy” receded for many of us back then. Mr. Roskin and The Free Press, by continuing this label push the anti-communist “fight for democracy” charade that led to the U.S. War in Vietnam.

With that same statement “Vietnam’s jungled mountains aided the enemy . . .” he justifies the very chemical warfare he decries at the end of the article. He states “Many veterans . . . and the effects of Agent Orange . . . we have damage across generations”. Notice also he leaves out the many millions of Vietnamese who were impacted by this chemical warfare in the first place. Leaving out the indigenous people smacks of racism. It’s like they don’t count. No. Vietnamese lives matter.

“Nixon finally got us out of Vietnam . . .” Really? As is well known, Nixon delayed the Paris peace talks before the 1968 elections. For compliance of the corrupt Thieu regime in South Vietnam, he promised total victory if elected. Once elected, Nixon promulgated the war for years.

It was the persistence of the Vietnamese plus the peace movement in the USA and the world that ended the U.S. War in Vietnam.
One last point, it was never the “Vietnam War.” As noted above, the U.S. War in Vietnam was an imperialist attempt to continue the colonial benefits from that land and its people. Ken Burns, in an effort to show the agony of war, continued this misnomer with his mislabeled documentary, The Vietnam War.

Of course woven in with the persistent anticommunism of many politicians and the racist stereotype of a people who don’t matter, you have the perfect storm the Vietnamese and we experienced.

BTW – Consider the review of Burn’s documentary on the next page from Mr. Roskin’s column on “The Persistence of Vietnam.” It was a reprint from The Washington Post. That’s the same newspaper owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

Also, in 2015, billionaire Mexican Carlos Slim became the top New York Times stockholder, with a 17% ownership of the company valued at $300 million. As with Amazon’s Bezos, it’s a plaything, and power, with Slim. His net worth according to Forbes, as of July 2017, is 67.9 billion.

My previous point about The Free Press was its ownership being another example of concentrated ownership over many papers with big bucks having controlling interest. It goes in spades for these national papers with international distributions.

Recent ominous statements by the U.S. President about North Korea and Venezuela, along with a compliant press in various and different ways, spell trouble for the USA and the world.

How do we begin finding our way out of all this? One part of a beginning to answer this question is by tackling Myth II – “There are no leaders.”

Here’s a short list of grassroots leaders, and their organizations, with local, national, and international reach.

  • Henry Lowendorf is chairman of the Greater New Haven Peace Council, New Haven, Connecticut. As a member of the Executive Board of the U.S. Peace Council, he led a fact-finding mission to Syria in 2016.

www.uspeacecouncil.org/

 

  • Naomi Kline is an internationally recognized leader of peace, environmental, and social justice movements. She was an organizer of the massive climate march in NYC, 2014. Her latest books include This Changes Everything and No Is Not Enough.

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, Black Lives Matter Movement. They lead struggles against violence and systemic racism.

BlackLivesMatter.com

–   Bruce Gagnon is Secretary & Coordinator of The Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He has led peace delegations to Hiroshima, Japan and Jeju, South Korea. He leads continuous protests in front of the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, as they produce the Aegis destroyers. http://www.space4peace.org/

Bruce Gagnon’s blog:     http://space4peace.blogspot.com/

If you don’t know these peace and social justice leaders, look no further than the so-called free press. The media works overtime to keep these organizations, their actions, and their leaders out of the news.

Now it’s your turn. Join one or more of the above groups. Spread the word. The groups, leaders, and leadership are there. Are you willing to participate?

 

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Dangerous Happenings and Dangerous Myths

A Vinalhaven, Maine resident, who lived through WWII, said it very succinctly. This is the way it starts. What did this person mean? What happened?

Charlottesville happened. Of course there were prelims. Rufus Wolf, with a confederate flag waving in the background, happened. Nine African Americans shot dead in a church, happened. Two men slashed to death protecting Muslim women, happened. A grandfather and nephew killed outside a synagogue, happened.

The old Buffalo Springfield song, For What It’s Worth, ripples through the air. (I thought you might want to play the song as you read.)

Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth 1967 – YouTube

“There’s something happening over here.” It is clear. But dangerous myths abound that divert from that clarity. Let’s see how.

It’s actually been happening for some time. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, extreme right-wing militia groups quadrupled during the Obama presidency. They were developing. They were waiting for their moment. Then it happened.

A misogynistic, wealthy, ignorant but sly leader, with gobs of free media exposure, happened. U.S. military forces surrounding Russia and China, happened.

There are myths afloat that not only prevent people from grasping the clarity necessary, but also further feed this growing, fascistic movement.

What are the myths? Let’s consider three.

Myth I. The military will keep Trump under control. Myth II. There are no grassroots, progressive leaders. Myth III. Both the Right and Left are violent. I also did some digging into the purveyors of these myths. So let’s take them one at a time.

Myth I. The military will keep Trump under control.

Every time I hear this little ditty, my mind flashes back to the fall of 1968. Teaching Junior Senior High in Thomaston Connecticut, I was directed by the administration to take my eight-grade class to the auditorium. Introduced was a retired military general replete with metals from chin to waist.

The general had one clear demand that I remember to this day. He emphatically told my twelve and thirteen year old students to convey a message to government leaders – unleash the air force on North Vietnam. Bomb them into the Stone Age.

It took a short time before I realized who was subjecting my students to this madness. We have to go back 28 years from my introduction to General Curtis LeMay. He was the commander who ordered the firebombing of Tokyo in the spring of 1945. Over 100,000 people died in a rolling, flaming hell. The napalm made infamous by U.S. use in Vietnam was experimented with here. An overwhelmed Secretary of Defense Stinson, reported to President Truman with a sense of bewilderment. No one seemed to object to killing all these civilians.

Of course, events escalated from there. Brigadier General Leslie Groves advised President Truman. This General encouraged the next mass killing of civilians in Hiroshima and in Nagasaki. The vast majority of the 210,000 killed were civilians. State terror had found something close to the ultimate weapon.

It was only later I learned that “the bomb” had little to do with ending the war. This mass killing was to keep the Soviet Union from having a say in the peace process in the Pacific. It was also a message to communists, socialists, and the world. Don’t mess with us. It helped kick off the Cold War.

Another connection brought home to me around that fall time of 1968 was just as important. One George Wallace served with that XX Bomber Command under General Curtis LeMay. The archetypical racist, now Governor of Alabama, would team up with his former military boss in the 1968 presidential race. LeMay would be his running mate. What my captive students in small town America were being subjected to was a not so disguised campaign stop with public taxes supplying a pliant audience.

Racism, militarism, and rabid anticommunism were being combined in deadly fashion.

It took me many years to realize that little Thomaston, CT was not some random stop. Small towns are a soft target. The most racist and militarist elements in the USA make small town America a destination.

LeMay, and other militarists like him, pushed the likes of Presidents Johnson and Nixon to bombs away. They followed orders nicely. Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians died in large numbers, 3.8 million would die in Vietnam alone. It also left 55,000 very sad U.S. families.

So with all this data readily available, how can the myth of generals being a “calming” influence on a President still have currency?

Myths need help. They need mass dissemination if they are to serve. They need to be kept up-to-date. Let me give an up-to-date example.

The Free Press is a newspaper of the Mid-Coast Maine area. The area is peppered with small town America for sure. Their very small town America newspaper is located right on Main Street, Rockland, Maine. The August 31st, 2017, Page 4 editorial page headline caught my eye. It was titled – Protective Layer?

It states that there is this “heroic” protective layer in government. It’s a “thankless task.” This protective layer prevents, “ . . .Trump’s latest self-inflicted crisis from spiraling out of control . . . “ Really?

Who occupies this “protective layer”? The editorial points to a small group. It says they are “ . . .not ideological” but have a “ . . .heroic if thankless task.” What stood out among this group was the dominance of the career militarists in the White House – H.R. McMaster, James Mattis, and John Kelly.

Peek back at the historical examples above and tell me if you feel these “bright, accomplished “generals are “protecting the Republic.” Do you rest at ease nightly because these generals are the “controllers”? Did ‘’generals ”protect the republic”, or the world for that matter, from the Bush Family when they gleefully invaded Iraq and Afghanistan? How about when the Obama Administration invaded and created yet another failed state in Libya? You know answers.

Now who are the purveyors of this myth of generals as the “calm downers”? Is it just The Free Press of cozy Rockland, Maine? Think again. The Free Press is owned by Maine Today Media. That group also publishes the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, and the Coastal Journal in Bath, as well as the pressherald.com, centralmaine.com and mainetoday.com websites.

It doesn’t stop there. It also has its tentacles around The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, The Camden Herald, and The Republican Journal in Belfast. For good measure it owns the Alliance Press, a commercial printing company in Brunswick.

And it does not end at the state border. Maine State Media may have to change its name. It now owns The Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, and their affiliated print and online publications. Yes, that’s Vermont.

As is so often the case, the concentration of wealth and power led to corruption. One publisher at Maine State Media made off with $530,000. Also, victimized were 160 jobs cut just at the Portland Press Herald alone. They were union jobs with health benefits.

Ownership of Maine State Media has gone through many hands. Just recently financier and hedge fund owner Donald Sussman had controlling interest. Sussman managed Paloma Partners which received $200 million in US taxpayer funds as part of the AIG bailout. He also owns the Turner Farm on North Haven Island. In 2015, Maine State Media was sold to Reade Brower of Camden.

Michael Roskin, who wrote the above opinion piece in The Free Press, is a retired professor of political science. Among other stops, Roskin served as Visiting Professor of Foreign Policy at the U.S. Army War College from 1991 to 1994. Among esteemed graduates are George Patton and Leslie Groves (See above.).

What would be comical if not so insidious, are that people will hand me copies from multiple newspapers named above thinking they reflect multiple sources. Wrong.

So is The Free Press giving you some small town viewpoint? No. It’s among a long list of media outlets that has been gobbled up by concentrated wealth. They are the purveyors of the long-standing myths.

The truth – militarists propose military solutions. Further truths. Concentrated wealth controls the media. It extends from the print media to digital media. Concentrated wealth with a pliant media helped give us the 2016 elected president of the USA. Concentrated wealth, including the owners of the media, love those myths. It serves their interests.

Next up is Myth II. There are no grassroots, progressive leaders. Then there is Myth III. Both sides are violent. Stay tuned. Stay active.

 

 

The below blog is my essay that was published by the Maine Writers & Publishers Association. http://p0.vresp.com/ZRfiyq  I highly recommend the U-Tube video near the end of the essay. Per usual, let me know your thoughts. The journal, The Peavey, is named after a tool used by loggers in days of old.

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Detachment.

I enjoy The Peavey. How could anyone who enjoys writing and reading not enjoy The Peavey. One reads about all kinds of writers. They are retirees. They are young like Tracy K. Smith. Then there are all those scribblers in-between.

Scribblers. Yes. Scribblers all. I say it with the very best of intentions. Trying to reach people with the written and spoken word. How important is that? Very important. It is at the essence of culture. It is one of the activities that we do and the content reflects all the other doings of humans.

Still that word surfaces. Detachment.

The genre is all over the place. That’s a healthy thing. Right? Do you agree? Mystery, memoir, fantasy, and sci-fi are there. There are the broadest of categories e.g. fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Still, that feisty, somewhat ugly word reappears. Detachment. It’s just around the corner. It won’t go away.

The Peavey celebrates success. How important is that? Extremely important. The big time publishers narrow their production to those who make them the most money. Profit was always part of their motivation. Now it is everything. They celebrate profit. Wealth has concentrated everywhere.

Celebrating the successes, big and small, of the 99% of the rest of us takes on added importance. This applies not only to writers but also to independent publishers as Sophia Khan pointed out.

When you ponder it, none of what is going on in publishing is that surprising. Now you have to be among the 1% to run for political office or at a minimum, have the backing of sectors of that group. Maybe the 0.1% would be more accurate as one climbs the political ladder to “success”. That usually means the fossil fuel boys.

Those last two paragraphs may seem like a digression. They are not. It scares me. Politics is about power. There is a whole bunch of power rapped up in who gets published and who doesn’t. Power is deciding not only who gets published but also what gets published. They go together like the old horse and carriage. It’s about content.

It is also why detachment scares me. It goes far beyond the writing and reading world. But, I fear, we can be participants in separating ourselves so far from this moment in time.

Are we separating ourselves from our readers? Alienation, or is it estrangement, is bad for any relationship.

Detachment. It haunts mind, body, and soul.

And this moment in time is dark, and getting darker. Citizens, rising to protect our youth, Muslim in this case, are slashed to death. African Americans are gunned down in a church. An LGBQ bar is a target.

The President-to-be mocks a handicapped reporter. A Congressional candidate in Montana attacks a reporter. The candidates are elected. What?

Ever wonder where terrorists come from? Ideology? Of course, but what is the material basis for this gobbledygook to stick to ribs? Foreign troops and bombs will do just fine. A President more than willing to stoke racist embers adds to the mix.

“ . . .when you are being attacked, when bombs are falling around you, planes are hovering over your head, when your life is in danger and you are scared, it is so easy to look up to the sky and feel abject, boiling hatred for the people doing this to you, and you curse them out.” (Looking For Palestine, Najla Said, 2013)

Courageous Mainers demonstrate at Bath Iron Works. Their protest is aimed at the product, not the hands that do the work. Aegis Destroyers carry missiles that destroy lives in the Middle East. The President says bombs away. Lives taken. More terrorists created.

A Maine artist objects to it all. He demonstrates and is arrested. He painstakingly explains it all, including the damage to sea life these destroyers wrought through sonic waves. He shows his anguish through his sculpting:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BUQonAjTAA&feature=youtu.be

Mainers are resisting, marching, demonstrating. Do we know it? Do we hear it? Do we see it? Do we write it? Do we feel it? Do we publish it?

It is time to end the detachment. No more aping the big time book sellers and publishing houses. Detachment must be replaced. By what?

Resistance.

Resist what you might say? The content. Resist war, misogyny, racism, white nationalism, and terrorism, especially the homegrown variety. Resist violence, whether at a ball field, in a train, mall, or church. Resist militarism.

A welder has tools. So have we. We’re writers. We’re booksellers. We’re publishers. We’re printers. We’re storytellers.

Unite. Organize.

Detachment haunts.

Resist!