If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

  • Frederick Douglass

I want to thank those who stopped and conversed with me at my recent book signing at Stop & Shop, Naugatuck, CT. Sold out in 75 minutes! Whether my latest book, Hurry Down Gunntown, or my memoir, Moon Shadow of War, it shows interest is high in history and in the environment.

Here are some current events, including an environmental battle in Naugatuck with a successful ending.

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Bullies – In & Out Of The Shadows

Have you ever heard “Nobody likes a bully”? It is not true. Some people are attracted to bullies. Why? They appear strong, decisive. They win adherents. They display a shoot from the hip or shoot from the lips demeanor. It is a form of arrogance that attracts the unaware.

The problems bullies spawn escalate if they are not stopped, especially on the local level. There are different kinds of bullies. Quite often the environment is their target. Here are three examples.

The take-over of the wildlife sanctuary in Oregon stands out. Did you think the take-over of the National Wildlife Refuge was a spontaneous act? Think again. It was planned and executed by those in the 3% movement. These are gun toting, so-called super patriots, who claim only 3% of colonists took part in the fighting during the 1770s – 80s.

I checked out the facebook page of one of these self-righteous, armed guys. Guns, big ones, are on display as is the flag. The slogan “Despite what your mom told you, violence does solve problems” is clear. Itching for a fight would be an understatement. There is much bravado amid surface content. Facebook

There are other ways the environment is impacted without the above bravado. This is from Rev. Jim Conn, California, and Capital & Main.

“Most recently, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) upended its mission to clean our air. First the old Democratic majority opposed its staff’s recommendation for tougher rules that would govern the fossil-fuel industry. They watered them down. Then two months later, and with an even more pro-business Republican majority, the board went into closed session and fired its long-time executive officer. Praised by environmentalists, even though they often disagreed with him, he had faithfully pursued the AQMD’s goals while balancing the impact on industry. That was, apparently, not good enough for the fossil-fuel lobby.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the looser rules benefiting oil companies that the AQMD adopted came from a two-page memo written by the Western States Petroleum Association and other business groups. The new plan postpones the installation of expensive air cleaning devices and other efforts to control emissions.”

For our third example, let’s go to Naugatuck, Connecticut. The youngsters killed at the Sandy Hook elementary school are being honored through floral plantings, particularly to attract pollinators. The Wingman program, as it is called, is a noble one. However, worthy causes are often manipulated for ignoble ends. Watch for what lurks in the shadows.

A few anti-environmental elements attempted to misuse this program to make inroads into a passive park and nature preserve with inappropriate activities. One tactical move was not to list an important proposal and vote on the local Park Commission agenda. An alert environmental group, by exposing this anti-democratic activity, prevented the worst results while still supporting the wingman concept. Democracy and the environment won.

Of course, one might conclude that as long as these local bullies are in the shadows – fine. Not so. The challenges that they raise must be met least they emerge energized by the likes of demagogues like a Trump or a Cruz. We’re seeing some of this with the above examples.

Senator Ted Cruz (R) is ready to carpet bomb Muslim towns abroad and ghettoize Muslim communities here. He is responsible for some of the worst Tea Party inspired opposition to any legislation proposed by the Obama Administration. This political maneuver has been a standard Republican tactic for years. Dangerous waters for sure. Cruz was able to grandstand in the senate, run for the presidency, and poison the media for months. We’ll save some historical examples for the next blog.

One key to prevent bullying on a growing scale is by meeting these challenges at the grassroots. No blinking allowed. Whether confronting big bullies, like a Trump (R) or a Cruz, or little power abusers, Fredrick Douglass’s guidance above makes for good advise.

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One of my favorite little pieces of awareness is, “The challenge in organizing is to keep a healthy outrage at injustice while maintaining an inner peace.” Merrilee Milstein, who wrote those wonderful words of wisdom, was pulling from experiences in a lifetime dedicated to the labor movement. Thank you Merrilee.

We lose activists on both sides of that sentence because they forget it makes one interconnected whole. Some let their outrage consume them and recovery is never in full. Others get lost in seeking an inner peace that eludes them as outrage at injustice fades.

My “outrage “ side has been working overtime lately. Battling foes of passive open space and struggling with an onslaught of dirty fossil fuel initiatives involving a methane based power plant and new pipelines, head the list. Toping it off are the truly outrageous political events and politicians in the electoral arena.

Republican candidate Donald Trump’s clear racist incendiary statements on Mexicans and Muslims, with Senator Cruz joining him here, are much more than irritants. They are dangerous. The sight of white Trump supporters attacking African American protesters is down right scary. I can remember a veteran of progressive movements telling me long ago that if fascism comes to the USA, it will be on the backs of African Americans. Clearly we don’t have fascism or I wouldn’t be freely writing these words for a blog post. The question is, are we seeing its rolling thunder gathering steam? (More of this on another blog day.)

To take a break from all this, and in concert with Merrilee’s sage advise, I took a walk on Naugatuck section of the bridle trail. For those not familiar, this is a long woodland trail that was formerly a railroad bed stretching from Waterbury to Southbury, Connecticut and beyond. My approach to these outdoor walks is simple. Try to stay in the moment. If my thoughts drifted to the above challenges, I would reorient to be in the present.

While on this little nature excursion, I stumbled upon one of those small but truly magical moments. In the distance I saw what turned out to be a mid-sized bird seemly stuck to the side of a rock-like cliff covered with moss. It bobbed this way and that way while occasionally shaking its head. As I neared, the bird flew off into the surrounding treetops. Then I realized what it was doing there.

Thanks to the I-Phone on my hip, I can share it with you with a 35 second U-Tube video. I call it nature’s sounds of silence

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xHeJNPt5C-4

Apparently, that bird was taking a shower, shaking the water off as we do in a shower, and getting a drink of water at the same time. Whatever competing thoughts I had melted away.

Ecosystem is a flexible concept. It can be as large as a biome like trundra or small as a knothole in the tree. I was transfixed and enraptured by this micro ecosystem consisting of a bird, moss, water, and rock. It put a smile on my face, accompanied by a satisfying sigh. How basic is that?

Now science has given us data to substantiate what we feel in such instances. In the July 14th, 2015 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was reported that morbid rumination is strongly associated with increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. What’s the big deal? Here’s the punch line. Excursions in natural settings quieted that portion of the brain. The outdoors literally improved mood.

We need these green redoubts in today’s world and in our country with their topsy-turvy events. At the same time, or rather after these wonderful excursions in the outdoors, we need to pay close attention to what is going on around us. The reason is the necessary third ingredient to the outrage/inner peace package. That is action.

Activity is where we put our outrage and inner peace to good use. Outrage can eat our insides. Inner peace is an eternal search. Activity is what makes us whole. Win, lose or draw, it is where our humanity is practiced.

Journeys . . . And Getting Organized

While researching my book Hurry Down Gunntown, fascinating parallels emerged between the 18th century American Revolution and a 20th/21st century battle, both here in Connecticut. The organizing features had almost spooky connections. Let’s explore.

For those in the area, I’m speaking about all this at the Naugatuck Historical Society, Sunday, March 6, 2016, 1 PM, 171 Church Street. Check out their facebook page for my 4-minute video on this very topic.

https://www.facebook.com/NaugatuckHistory/

Journeys can be taken in a number of ways. Aaron Sachs’s wonderful book, The Humboldt Current, makes this point well. “Rootedness and deracination go hand in hand.” Sachs had me running for my dictionary with that one. Of course, I didn’t have to “run” too far as dictionaries are just a click away on a cell phone these days. Deracination means to tear up by the roots.

Sachs said this in a number of ways. “To me, the history of Humboldtian exploration suggests that there is a need for balance between cosmos and hearth.” The good Baron traveled the world but also returned to his “hearth” to write many books, including his ground breaking Cosmos. Sachs then goes on to use Henry David Thoreau as an example. I don’t think Thoreau is a good example. He certainly was not the international traveler of Alexander von Humboldt fame.

Henry David Thoreau had an incredible sense of place. His “journeys”, with exception, were mostly in New England and mainly around his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts. Yet he certainly had that Humboldtian sense of making connections to issues and places far removed from his home base. War, peace, natural history, and abolitionism were all fair game to this intrepid traveler. Not all these travels were of the intellectual variety. He didn’t hesitate to take action in his bailiwick. When John Brown was killed, Henry ran to the center of Concord and rang the church bells. It was time to organize.

I had similar feelings of connectedness when researching and writing about the colonial 18th century and emerging into the new millennium. I lived through that last part. The two intertwined stories happened, for the most part, right here in the Naugatuck Valley of Connecticut. It’s the pattern that surfaced as I took these two journeys that I want to share.

As the short video mentioned above explains, in March of 1780 Rebel trackers, also known as minute men, came galloping into a section of old Waterbury now Naugatuck, Connecticut. They were hot on the trail of a secret British agent and a young Tory gang he led on a raid. Danger lurked around every bend.

The marauders were heading to the Gunntown community with a distinct purpose. They knew it had more than its share of royalists. They could find sustenance there.

To put the cart before the horse, a favorite idiom from the 16th century, the Rebel trackers win the day. Let’s put this under a historical microscope. How did common people in the mists of war, boycotts, and civil strife, manage to pull this off?

The answer starts with organization, and plenty of it. There were vigilance committees. Their task was to make sure local business people in their town adhered to the various boycotts issued by the Continental Congress. Not buying indigo for ink from other British colonies was high on the list. The Committees of Defense and Correspondence made sure all the colonies were kept up to date in all matters practical and political concerning the revolutionary movement. Lastly, the Rebel trackers themselves, who could in a minutes notice, muster a fast response to any enemy activity in their town’s borders and beyond.

Of course, it all comes down to people. Who rose to the occasion to thwart the hand of the British secret agent? It was the young people in the Tory gang itself who stopped the killing of a young kidnapped victim. It was, incredibly, the Royalist mother of one of the Tory gang who gathered the courage to confront the secret agent. At the Oxford Inn, it was a house slave, Tobiah, who temporarily stayed the hand of sure death of the young colonial captive.

There was a patchwork of people who rose to the occasion. Dr. Jesse Carrington rode out of Bethany to help track down the thugs. There were Judd family members of the kidnapped boy. Toward the end of the saga there were sea-orientated people like Captain Steele of Derby Landing, which was a deep-sea port in colonial times. Any differences were put aside. Unity was their by-word.

How does this match up with the struggle that flowed into the new millennium?

Young people, mostly young women who were also girl scouts, led the grassroots committee that emerged to fight for the preservation of the Gunntown land where key events of the 18th century struggle took place. Their den mother, and a diverse group of 1960s/70s activists, rounded out the group. The young leader of the group was of Panamanian African American, and Portuguese descent. A Mexican played important roles, especially speaking at town hall meetings. There was no treasury and thus no treasurer. The group was quick on its feet as the minutemen of yore.

The comparisons don’t end there. Coalition building and networking was their by-word. Veteran labor organizers addressed the group and organized directly with the committee. Networking occurred with other environmentalists such as river groups and land trusts. Experiences of the local Pollution Extermination Group – gotta love that name – were a key ingredient in eventually winning the Gunntown Passive Park & Nature Preserve for all citizens to enjoy.

There is a message here for the present. For a just transition to renewable energy, E- Coops, community supported agriculture, and community gardens, we need a transformational movement. It would add the political clout to make the transition happen. Needless-to-say unity will be needed among environmental, peace, labor, and social justice movements to do this.

Maximum unity will be needed to prevent those frenzied people that are paraded across our T.V. screens every night from entering the White House. The electoral movement to prevent that, and advance the transition so necessary environmentally, is represented mostly in Senator Sanders campaign. Feel the Bern!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba Journal #2

Some readers wanted more on Cuba in the December Blog. Okay. What is critical to understand is that there is no separating Cuba, peace, and anti-imperialism. Thus the connections to Syria, the media “terrorizing” our people, the imperative to stop any and all military intervention in the Middle East and MLK Day. Here’s more.

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No sprawl. That was the first impression I had, as the U.S. delegation to the World Peace Council meeting and Foreign Military Bases Conference made its way for hundreds of miles by bus from Guantanamo to Havana. What a relief! We emerged out of urban areas to verdant hills, mountains in some cases, agricultural areas, and forests. In particular, surrounding Guantanamo are three large national parks and seven protected areas. The largest park is named after famed German explorer, Alexander von Humboldt.

Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is the largest in the Caribbean at 69,341 ha or 171,272 acres of forested, mountain and ocean ecosystem. How big is that? Central Park in NYC is 843 acres. Cuba’s largest river, the Toa, rises in the mountains here and its waters are teeming with biodiversity as is the area generally. The unique toxicity of some underlying rocks led to many endemic (evolved here and found only here) flora and fauna. This is where the controversial Ivory Billed Woodpecker was spotted.

All this raises an interesting question. Why would socialist Cuba honor an 18th-19th century German naturalist? Von Humboldt visited the Island in 1800-01. While he falls into the explorer category that we associate with some of the worst transgressions against Native Americans, it is a good lesson in that there is no “one size fits all” here.

In Cuba, Humboldt noted that the Spanish colonizers stripped the forests for sugar plantations, which rapidly replaced nutritious crops. He saw it leading to dependency, poverty and injustice. He reserved special venom for slavery. In his Personal Narrative, he described a slave market where slave owners examined the slaves’ teeth, “ . . . forcing open their mouths as we do those of horses.”

Along with his anti-colony, anti-slavery views, Humboldt was a dedicated naturalist/scientist who took a holistic approach to the environment and people. He noted that where there was more human suffering, there was also devastation of the environment. Humboldt was a considerable influence on Charles Darwin. He told Darwin at the one epic meeting they had, “You write a book so someone can write a better one.” The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism by Aaron Sachs

One benefit of the peace conferences in Cuba was updates from around the world. Some countries are following the bad example of Israel and the USA and building “walls” to keep people out. With the election of a progressive woman and communist in Nepal to its presidency, India is closing its border with Nepal. India is also closing its border with Bangladesh fearing climate migrants from rising sea-waters there. Ugh.

Climate and war migrants are coming to the USA. It will take awhile for them to reach our shores because of the stringent criteria now. How will they be greeted? The reaction of some to the events in San Bernardino, California was not good. Frenzied, reactionary Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) has added venom to the mix. The Portuguese Delegate to the World Peace Council (WPC) Conference pointed out that the negative portrayals of those desperate to escape deteriorating conditions in their home countries due to war/climate change are being used to fan the flames of racism and xenophobia. It will take much work and vigilance in our communities to see that all are welcomed.

The Foreign Military Bases Conference that followed the WPC gathering was a real eye-opener. The Cuban peace group held an art contest for posters to represent our conference. They lined the walls of our meeting rooms. The below poster was selected to advertise and represent the Foreign Military Bases Conference.

About ten countries have an average of two military bases outside their borders. Unfortunately, the USA is the leader of the pack. The Japanese delegate reported that there were 131 US bases in Japan alone. Further pressure from the Obama Administration has led Japan to “reinterpret” article nine of its constitution enacted after WWII. That law prevented Japan from using military force outside its borders. It’s being scrapped. Dangerous stuff.

An Australian delegate and former railroad worker, who lives in Cuba, reported that there are 300 U.S. military bases in the Pacific. He reported there were 20 joint military facilities in Australia with the ‘joint” mostly a euphemism. They are under USA command. Later others mentioned that the resistance to these occupations was not limited to Okinawa. The fierce resistance of the people of Jeju Island in South Korea was highlighted.

These moves by the USA administration and Japan appear to be part of the military arm of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP). Much of it seems to be encircling China with military bases as NATO, with the USA its largest component, is encircling Russia in Europe.

Thomas Friedman, NYTimes writer and ideologue of the fossil fuel industry and militarization, summed up this direction best in 1999. “The hidden hand of the market will not work without a hidden fist” (of the military). So, according to Friedman, nuclear threats, occupations, and war should be accepted not only in the USA but by the world. No thanks. But what to do?

We can get direction from none other than Martin Luther King. In the second paragraph of his famous Riverside Church speech, he refers to the prophetic “words” of the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam and “the time has come to break the silence.”

So it is time to “break the silence” as Martin Luther King advised us in 1967 addressing the U.S. War in Vietnam. We must “move on” to oppose the so-called war on terror. War has not been the solution to individual terrorism. While criminal elements must be brought to justice, the 90% civilian casualty rate alone is good reason to oppose the state terror of NATO and the U.S. The bombing must stop.

American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr: A Time to Break …

 

What better day to bring this message forth than MLK day or week starting on Monday, January 18th, 2016.

 

Note – In my last blog, I mentioned that the Palestinian delegate to the conferences lives in Latin America. I was wrong. The other Palestinian attending the conferences, who was actually the official delegate, resides in the West Bank.

I’m writing this blog on Thursday, December 10th 2015. It’s Peace As A Human Right Day. It took two peace gatherings in Cuba this November to remind me that without justice there is no peace. There are presently fifteen countries lobbing bombs and shooting missiles into Syria. Are we on the brink of WWIII or has it already started? Are we so “terrorized” that we can’t see the forest for the trees? Please join the conversation. We need everyone.

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The Museum of the Revolution in Havana was one of our first stops (11/18/2015) before the Peace Conferences would dominate our stay in Cuba. I was impressed with the resistance of the Cuban People to many regimes from 1925 up to the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. The March of the Mothers in the 1930s was one example. Many family members had disappeared during the Machado regime (1925-1933). Machado was a young general during the Spanish American War (1898). He became very wealthy. Uncovered during the 1930s was systematic torture of community/labor/socialist/communist leaders, with dead bodies thrown to the sharks. It continued into the 1950s.

The Cubans venerate the leaders of their revolution as we do George Washington & others. That is understandable. I thought more emphasis on the almost 35 years of resistance leading up to the armed struggle and socialist revolution would help put events in a healthy perspective. Come to think of it, we need more backstory to properly understand our own revolutionary period from 1750s through the 1790s. I hope Hurry Down Gunntown on CT history is helping a bit in this regard. https://www.createspace.com/5385780

It was the Platt Amendment of 1903 that gave the U.S. Navy a base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, via a lease. Cubans see the base as an insult to their independence, an expression of the U.S. imperial project, and a torture center. The present Cuban government has never cashed the yearly checks for the lease.

The first meeting(s) in Guantanamo, Cuba were reports from World Peace Council (WPC) representatives. The Canadian delegate pointed out that Islamophobia is closely related to racism. It causes mistrust and suspicion. Returning to the USA and hearing Donald Trump spew out backward policies brought this to life quickly. It was like a new Cold War. The damage of the first Cold War has never been fully presented and that hurts in this new situation.

The continual airing of individual, violent acts on major media outlets have “terrorized” people, especially in the USA. Combined with the government continually using “bad” guy scenarios e.g. Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Gaddafi (Libya), and Assad now in Syria, it has demobilized and confused peace forces. Never ending invasions and warfare has to be stopped. The danger of two nuclear powers e.g. USA and Russia, colliding is real. The shooting down of the Russian plane on the Turkey/Syrian border highlights this danger.

The WPC Palestinian delegate pointed out that there were 8 million Palestinians living outside Palestine. He lives in Panama. Five hundred thirty one Palestinian towns have been destroyed. Understanding the Mid-East requires this constant reminder. It helped put the present migrations into perspective. Solutions have to include the two-state, Israel/Palestine creation and diplomatic, peaceful approaches to Syria, Afghanistan. Declaring nuclear free zones everywhere can help get a handle to many of these issues.

I was invited by the U.S. Peace Council and presented a paper at the Foreign Military Bases Conference (11/23-25/2015), also in Guantanamo, on the connections between climate change and threats to peace. I emphasized understanding that the hatred of the U.S. Military/NATO and explaining it to our people, especially in the USA, was our special responsibility. I used the following quote from Najla Said. She was in Lebanon when it was bombed by Israel in 2006.

 

You can spend your life being a humanist, a pacifist, a thoughtful person who does not even think about hating, or does not even know what it is to hate – that is to say, you can really and truly be a human being who is tolerant and open-minded and humane, judging people by how they behave toward you, and treating them the way you wish to be treated, but 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 easy to look up to the sky and feel abject, boiling hatred for the people doing this to you, and you curse them out.

 

The civilian casualties with these and similar bombings now are in the 90% range <http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/05/90-deaths-war-civilians.html>. Clearly stopping the military/bombing/missile/drone “solution” is imperative. It doesn’t work and is just creating more hatred. IT MUST END.

The connection between climate change, civil strife, and war are easily shown concerning Syria. The weakening of moisture-laden winds from the Mediterranean, and more evaporation due to elevated temperatures, were beyond natural climate variability. It was anthropogenic climate change that caused the extreme drought in Syria from 2006 to 2009. The resulting civil war, which is now an international conflict, has led to at least 200,000 deaths. The United Nations estimates that half the country’s 22 million people have been impacted with six million internally displaced.

I am old enough to remember the riveting speech by Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, when he connected ending the U.S. War in Vietnam and moving civil rights forward at home. American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr: A Time to Break …

Weapons tried and tested in the Middle East are now making their way back to our communities, particularly impacting communities of color. As the celebration of MLK Day approaches (Monday, January 18th), we need to help our people make the connections between climate change, our communities, and war.

 

I’m aware some blog readers couldn’t access my T.V. interview with Bruce Gagnon, Maine, about revolutionary Connecticut. Here it is. My latest radio interview with Richard Hill on a similar topic is also below.

This Issue with Bruce Gagnon – Len Yannielli
Host Bruce Gagnon talks with Len Yannielli about his new book about revolutionary history.

November 2015 Radio Interview with Richard Hill, WPKN, Bridgeport, CT.

http://archives.wpkn.org/bookmarks/listen/129455

my latest book, Hurry Down Gunntown, on colonial history and the environment.

https://www.createspace.com/5385780

Living the Good Life – Wherever Home is.

Did you ever have that one time, chance experience that had an outsized impact on your life? I did. In 1973, there was a motley group of young men living in Central Square, Cambridge, Mass. There was a veteran of the U.S. War in Vietnam, a law student, an undergraduate, and an unemployed teacher – me.

I was fired from my grade school teaching job due to my opposition to the U.S. War in Vietnam. When the law student invited me to Bean Town, cheap rent, and an opportunity to live amidst 1,000s of young people, I left the Naugatuck Valley and my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut. Here was a chance to participate in a vibrant anti-war movement and to study peace, which I found out, in short order, meant studying war.

One spring day brought an opportunity to learn from a renowned historian. The undergraduate mentioned this expert was speaking at the Community Church of Boston. Off we went in mass.

Upon arriving, we learned there would be a preliminary speaker. This guy was wiry tall with a weathered, many-times wrinkled face, and a full stock of gray hair. From my perch on the world, he looked one hundred years old. I figured this was some lesser light, which we would have to tolerate before getting to the featured man of the hour. How wrong I was.

This very old, grandfather-like figure began speaking in measured tones. The facts and figures of imperialism, big business, and the military that followed, were his main focus. It was the U.S. War in Vietnam put in a very clear, economic framework. He helped make sense out of a time period that had its confusions, especially for young people. In an idiom of the day, he knocked my socks off.

To put this in perspective, Abby Hoffman, a nationally known youth leader, had told us to go home and kill your parents. You could not trust anyone over thirty years of age, you see. Abby instantly lost credibility that day.

It wasn’t until a number of years later that I picked up a used copy of “The Making of a Radical”(1972) by Scott Nearing. When I heard him speak in 1973, Nearing was on speaking tour promoting his autobiography. Of course what he was promoting was peace, especially for the end of the U.S. War in Vietnam. In the process, he was teaching us the imperialist roots of war(s). Peace, anti-imperialism, and socialism were life-long endeavors of Scott Nearing.

He had paid a high price for his humanist and anti-war positions during WWI. He was fired from two teaching positions. He eventually joined and left the Socialist Party and the U.S. Communist Party. Socialism became a life-long goal. He, along with his wife Helen, began living sustainably in the 1930s in Vermont and later in Maine. He became a guru of the back to the land movement in the 1970s.

As I mentioned, it was one of those experiences that had an outsized impact on my life. He taught so much with so little time at the podium. I remember that he wore a quite spiffy sport coat. When an audience member, clearly being cynical of Nearing’s life style, pointed this out, the response was both humble and enlightening. Scott calmly and succinctly said that he had just purchased the coat at a Good Will store down the street.

Where to live has life-style choices imbedded in them. I was among those young people who chose to move “home.” Others chose big cities, places with outsized military connected businesses, academic areas, scenes of intense civil strife, or rural life-styles. Scott Nearing gave good advice to all. “Do the best you can where you are and be kind.”

I would add two very important points. Engage the “other side.” Be they destroyers of the environment, those who beat war drums, and/or vilify victims of those who profit from it all. They don’t have to be “captains” of industry. It will be their lawyers, their scientists, and their bought politicians. They might live down the street.

Secondly, be a unifier. Bring around those who want a green environment, peace, social justice and want these wholesome objectives for all people in our beautiful, diversified country and beyond. Move beyond the “choir.” Speak, write, join, vote, talk to your neighbor, workmate, meet new people. These are all part of the “Good Life.” Scott Nearing was ninety years old when I was honored to hear his thoughts of the day.

The work of Helen and Scott Nearing continues at the Good Life Center, Harborside, Maine. Check it out at http://www.thegoodlifecenter.org

MYTHS & HOPE
Two fishermen, some retirees, and young people sat down at a picnic bench on majestic Lane’s Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. The majority were women. It was Sunday, August 9th, 2015. The date was particularly important to this gathering. It was August 9th, 1945 that a weapon of mass destruction was dropped on another Island. It obliterated the Japanese town of Nagasaki and instantly killed 80 thousand people. The United States of America detonated that weapon of mass destruction, killing men, women and thousands of children.

The youngest attendee brought the book, Hiroshima, by John Hersey. Three days before the plutonian-based atomic bomb wrecked death and destruction on Nagasaki, a uranium-based atomic weapon was detonated by the USA over Hiroshima. The radiation that stalked those lands would kill many thousands more in the weeks, months, and years following the initial blasts.

On June 12th 1982, there was a massive gathering of humanity from throughout the world in New York. This was the legendary Nuclear Freeze March on the United Nations. The demands were simple, straight forward, and clear. Freeze all nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in all countries and begin the process of ridding all peoples and the environment of these threats to life on our one, habitable planet.
The Hibakusha, survivors of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with later generations from those towns, marched. The Hibakuska handed out paper cranes, symbols of life, peace, and tranquility. The march is reputed to be the largest mass gathering ever on the planet. It was one of the most important and moving experiences of my life. The Peace & Planet March of spring 2015 in NYC was a logical extension of the historic Freeze March, with demands expanded to include opposition to nuclear power and climate change.

One of the most harmful myths about the atomic bombings was the rationale put forward by the U.S. government. It was claimed that it saved 100,000 lives of U.S. troops, as now an invasion of Japan would not be needed to end the war. This was a total falsehood. The U.S. bombing survey, conducted just weeks after the official end of WWII, showed that the 2/3 of the largest Japanese towns had been destroyed by the fire bombing of those areas from May of 1944 to June of 1945. Two hundred thousand Japanese men, women, and children were dead.

U.S. Secretary of War Stimson knew Japan was ready to surrender. He passed this information on to President Truman. While General Eisenhower concurred with this position, Truman had other political objectives. He was in the presidency because of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He faced his first presidential election in 1948 and wanted to appear a “strong” leader. He also wanted to demonstrate the power of the USA, via this weapon of mass destruction, as a message to the Soviet Union. It would display, for all to see, the USA’s willingness to wantonly kill thousands of civilians for its objectives. It was the beginning of the Cold War.

One of the myths of the later period is that Ronald Reagan initiated the freeze of nuclear weapons that followed the Nuclear Freeze March. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movement was initiated at the grassroots. In my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, there was a candlelight march supporting the freeze demand. Films and speakers educated us. This upwelling of understanding and support was occurring throughout the country and the world. It was this grassroots pressure that forced Reagan to meet with Soviet leader Gorbachev and begin acquiescing to the just demands of the people. No nukes.

The struggle against nuclear weapons and war continue. The recent agreement between seven countries and Iran over its nuclear program is the most recent example. The deal limits Iran to a stockpile of less than 300 kg of low enriched uranium. A metric ton or 1,000 kg are necessary to make a bomb. Two thirds of their centrifuges will be removed. Iran will not reprocess spent fuel rods, which is the pathway to a plutonium-based bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency has declared the agreement good, verifiable and enforceable.

Those opposing this deal want war with Iran. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is spending tens of millions of dollars to sink this deal and beat the war drums. It’s up to the grassroots to prevent this from happening. Peace loving people are asked to call/e-mail their senators on or by August 26th. Confirm the agreement with Iran.

Let’s make the same effort as those who gathered on Lanes Island, Maine, and throughout the country this August, and make HOPE happen.
In Maine:
Angus King (I) 1-207-622-8292
(202) 224-5344
Contact: http://www.king.senate.gov/contact

Susan Collins (R)
(202) 224-2523
Contact: http://www.collins.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email

In Connecticut:

Richard Blumenthal (D) 1-860-258-6940 1-202-224-2823

@SenBlumenthal
http://blumenthal.senate.gov

Christopher Murphy (D) 1-860-549-8463
@SenMurphyOffice http://murphy.senate.gov

Recent events in South Carolina cry out for a wholesome response. Below is an extension of the previous blog on freedom and human dignity. I’m presently on book tour with my fourth book, Hurry Down Gunntown, where a similar theme is emerging. https://www.createspace.com/5385780
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Impressment, billeting of British officers, losing control of what was coming in and out of our country, and a striving for a more democratic way of life, were just some of the issues that led to radical changes in North America in the late 1700s. After the mass killing of African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, the need for substantive changes are on the national agenda again.

Of course, the fight against racism and its ugly entrails have been on the agenda of left/progressive movements for decades. It has taken the cell phone era to literally capture the violence directed at African Americans for all to see. President Obama said it best. This is nothing new.

I remember returning to my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut in the mid-1970s and events there. A young African American man was walking in the north end of the city. He was told to halt by police. The information we have is solely that of the police. They saw a shiny object, thought it was a gun, and killed the youngster. The object was a radio. There was a second happening where police gunned down an armed African American male. Yet in a similar circumstance, a white male was disarmed with no injuries.

An organization was born at this time called Waterbury People United Against Racism. It had black, white and brown leadership. There was a march on city hall and a mass meeting at the old Wilby High School. One concession came out of this struggle. Existing major political parties nominated two African American candidates for state representative in the north end. The town had its first black state representative. Unfortunately, it took the deaths of two African Americans and the grassroots response to it, to make this happen.

The political home where racism festers and bursts forth is a known brand. While police departments are under somewhat more scrutiny of late, the ideological and political sources lie elsewhere. Nor does it arise from a deranged individual here or there as I am hearing of late. The breeding ground for this smoldering hatred is the extreme political right.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has touted the warning signs for years. With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, armed militia groups in our country quadrupled. The Center counts 784 hate groups in the country. A Justice Department statement indicated that, since 2000, twenty-five law enforcement officers have been killed by right-wing extremists who fear government confiscation of firearms.

Let’s be clear on this point. We are not referring to Muslim initiated actions here. Since 9/11, there have been 50 deaths perpetrated by American Muslims. In the same period, non-Muslim right-wing extremists have caused 254 fatalities. According to the Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, that latter number has increased since 2012.

But such activities and the one at the church in Charleston do not occur in a vacuum. They are encouraged by more “official” and seemingly acceptable events. Just five years ago in the same city a 19th century ball, including the singing of Dixie, exalted the racist and counter-revolutionary secessionist movement. It was all white. While Charleston is celebrated as “progressive”, its black population, through gentrification, has seen a decline of 16%.

Charleston’s deeper history has its warnings. The Denmark Vesey led slave rebellion in 1822 was put down with a vengeance. Thirty-five were hung. And this is most telling. The A.M.E. church was burned to the ground.
The attacks on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama care, have had racist overtones. Even the Pope was not spared. David Brooks, Op-Ed writer for the NY Times, led the way. He attacks the Pope’s encyclical on the environment as “relentlessly negative”, “condemns market-based mechanisms”, and “links self-interest with violence.” Brooks then chastises the Pope, a la Ronald Reagan, because he does not recognize, “greed can lead entrepreneurship.” Apparently the Pope came too close in hooking up greed and violence.

Solutions are many and varied. Racism can no longer hide behind freedom of speech. The four freedoms of FDR need to be extended and codified in law. Racist literature, whether in print or on-line, needs to be outlawed and purveyors should be fined and/or imprisoned.

Second, the disparity in living conditions needs to be vigorously addressed. It is a classist and racist legacy that needs to be halted. A living wage and an extension of Obama care e.g. a single payer system, would have the USA join the rest of the developed world. Most importantly, the four centuries of chattel slavery and the ideology of racism that arose to defend it, need to be addressed head on. An official government apology followed by a structured system of reparations involving jobs, housing, and education need to be on the political front burner.

Now, how do we get there? We saw a hint of the unity that can deliver the goods in the massive climate march in NYC in the fall of 2014. The composition of that march showed a deeper recognition by its many component parts or movements. We are in this together. That level of unity has to be reflected in all issues. When the Black Lives Matter gatherings occur, all components of the alliance must be there. When labor fights for the $15 minimum wage, all allies must be there. Immigrant rights must be fought for with recognition of its general humanity. In particular, the environmental movement needs to be a consistent participant.

Now we need your thoughts, ideas, and solutions. Show what’s right or wrong with the above. Start where you wish. Let the discussion flow.

http://www.lenyannielli.wordpress.com

My latest book, HURRY DOWN GUNNTOWN (May 2015 https://www.createspace.com/5385780) involves a specific fight to save land. But there is a broader theme that connects it to colonial days of yore. In just a thousand words, let’s explore the theme of freedom and human dignity in a historical context that connects these struggles to the USA today.

March, 1780. A British secret agent slips into the Naugatuck Valley of Connecticut. He recruits a Tory gang to raid the home of a privateer hired by the revolutionary government. After the raid, they make their way into the Gunntown neighborhood of Waterbury. By happenstance, they kidnap a young colonial because he recognizes members of the gang. Rebel trackers are on their trail. The chase is joined.

What possibly could any of this have to do with a 20th/21st century struggle to preserve land? Further, what could it possibly have in common with other environmental battles e.g. fossil fuel pollution, gas pipelines, climate change? Plenty. Here are the connections.

Why would any commoners be so committed as to change their daily routine instantly, leave their families, and join the chase of a dangerous Tory gang that terrorized a family in Bethany, Connecticut? Actually, before April of 1775 and events at Lexington and Concord, they probably wouldn’t have been moved by it. Many were loyalists, particularly in the Gunntown neighborhood of Waterbury. Blacksmiths for example, depended on trade with the mother country for metals.

On the other hand, Revolutionaries were talking about freeing the slaves. This was a direct threat to slave owning families like the Scovills and the Gunns of Waterbury. They remained loyal to the Crown.
There were other events that shook the everyday life of commoners. The British burned Danbury in April of 1777. This was getting close to “home.” These events were augmented by onerous British policies like the impressment of colonists into the Royal British navy. This was an instant involuntary military draft. Young people were grabbed, literally off the streets, and sent for years to serve British imperial interests. (For a cinematic representation of this policy, see the old film Mutiny On The Bounty, 1962).
The list of grievances had been growing during the revolutionary period well before the outbreak of hostilities. An armed struggle ensued. The raid of the Dayton house in Bethany, and the subsequent kidnapping of a young colonial in Gunntown, were symptoms of the intense civil strife within the colonies, especially in border states like Connecticut.

The pursuing of the Tory gang and freeing of the kidnapped boy became a defense of the revolution itself. It was the sloughing off of the tyrannical British King and being ruled from afar. It was a struggle for freedom and human dignity.

But just as the revolution began well before the war for independence, the struggle for freedom and human dignity continued after the victory at Yorktown in 1783. The revolutionary government declared that there would be no king what-so-ever. There were revolutionary repercussions throughout the world.

Was that the end of the struggle for freedom and human dignity? Not by a long shot. Slavery was still intact. Within the bowels of the antislavery movement came the abolitionists. They pursued, not only freedom for the slaves, but equal rights for all. The 1840s and 1850s saw this revolutionary movement gain steam. After the Civil War, it found further expression in the many freed slaves occupying state legislatures in the South.
In the late 1870s, reaction again gained the upper hand. The KKK terrorized African Americans. Lynchings became commonplace. Even during this retrograde period, strivings for freedom burst forth in the form of the women’s movement for the vote. None other than Fredrick Douglass, eminent abolitionist and freedom fighter, saw the potential of this movement for human dignity of all people. The women’s right to vote was won in 1920.
Labor unions burst on the scene in a big way in the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1950s, a third of workers belonged to a union. Due to unionization, workers prospered. Many working families transitioned from rental property to single family homes. Their children now had some access to higher education.

But progress is not a pure enterprise. The lynchings and separation of African Americans and whites continued in the south. Both black and white realized no one could live in freedom and human dignity while these conditions prevailed. It took the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s to begin applying a turniquet to the abuses. The “whites only signs” came tumbling down.

As in the previous two centuries, freedom and human rights movements continued to burst forth in new ways. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 added a new dimension to peace strivings. The U.S. War in Vietnam spawned the peace movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The production and wanton use of chemicals gave birth to a reinvigorated green movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It helped give a deeper grasp of the situation when agent orange and napalm were used by the USA in Vietnam. Connections were being made.

Society, like nature, did not remain static. As throughout the Cold War, the Reagan Administration attacked unions in the 1980s. Membership plummeted. Attacks on the environment, ranging from fossil fuel hunting in the USA and abroad, escalated. War became a permanent feature of US policy. In the new millennia, Black males, hunted on our streets by racist police, has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement. Fast food workers are striking for better wages.

Just as there were those loyal to the Crown during the revolutionary period of the late 1700s, we have those loyal to the high priests of profit today. Let’s go right back to Connecticut. In May 2015, the state passed legislation for five dirty fossil fuel (gas) pipelines to be rammed through the state. Incredibly, a new dirty fossil fuel (gas) power plant is OK’d by the CT Siting Council for the Oxford/Naugatuck/Middlebury border. In response, CT has its own climate march on Sunday, May 31st. Will it and other actions be enough to reverse the pipeline and power plant decisions?

Climate change grudgingly became recognized as a threat, as over 400,000 marched and flooded NYC streets in 2014. It included many unions, peace, green, and social justice groups. Is the fight for freedom and human dignity reaching a new level? Are we entering a new revolutionary period? Are we already there?
Now it’s your turn. What is your answer to the questions of the previous two paragraphs? Are we there yet?