West Coast Speaking Tour Report

May 4 2012

By Bruce Gagnon


Outside the South Korean consulate in Seattle on the last day of my trip

I have just returned from my 30-day (24 city) speaking tour that took me from San Diego, California to Bellingham, Washington.  Along the way I did a total of 31 talks including six events at colleges/universities.  I did 14 radio interviews (two of which were broadcast nationally) and recorded three public access TV programs.  At least a dozen times my talks were video recorded for Internet or local TV use.
Not once, that I am aware of did mainstream newspapers or TV news cover any of my talks.  This indicates how the corporate media now effectively blocks out the messages from the peace community (and other progressive movements).  Years ago on such a trip it would have been normal to frequently have a local newspaper cover such an event.  But due to cutbacks in newsroom staffs and the general corporatization of mainstream media that is no longer the case.  The same can also be said for local TV news.
But the positive side of this is the tremendous growth of alternative media - radio, public access TV, and video production, which gets wide distribution via the Internet.  We must all recognize and give more support to these alternative media activists who spread our movement messages.
My talks featured the Obama administration "pivot" of foreign and military policy into the Asia Pacific, which is resulting in a doubling of Pentagon operations in that region.  This is particularly being manifested in the "missile defense" encirclement of Russia and China today.  These moves on the grand chessboard are intended to give the U.S. greater control of the declining supplies of scarce resources around the planet.  The Pentagon's role in the world today is to serve as the primary resource extraction service for corporate globalization.
At several of my speaking events some local elected officials were in the audience.  My favorite part of these presentations was the question & answer period.  You can imagine that quite often the same themes emerged.  Here are a few of the top questions and a bit of my responses:
  • What can we do? (We first have to decolonize our own minds; take a trip to the Wizard of Oz to get more courage and determination; connect the dots in our work so that we build links between progressive organizations that sadly often work independently of each other; remind people that the Pentagon is the world's biggest polluter with the largest carbon boot print.)
  • Why has Obama betrayed those who put him in power? (He is a corporate captive; google the Crown family of Chicago that in 2008 were majority stockholders of the General Dynamics Corporation and gave Obama $500,000 and raised $$ for him within the military industrial complex - MIC.  Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine reported soon after the 2008 election that Obama raised more funds from the MIC than the right-wing war hawk John McCain did.)
  • Don't the corporate bigwigs realize that their children will suffer as well as the environment worsens and the economy collapses?  (These folks seem spiritually disconnected from our Mother Earth.  Their love for the dollar has broken their connection and ability to see how they are fouling their own nest.  Consumerism, materialism, greed, and hunger for power are a disease.  We have to reject the “Business Model” and the “Success” mythology.  We have to embrace our Mother Earth and hear the next seven generations cry out to us to give them a future.)
  • Who in the Congress can we really count on?  (There are a few noble exceptions but politicians aren't going to save us - we have to do it ourselves by getting organized and making demands to end corporate control of our government and to convert the MIC.)
  • What keeps you going? (I find my hope knowing that everywhere I go there are good folks doing this work.... plus I am very stubborn.  We each don’t have to solve all these problems, we just each have to do our bit.  It all adds up to create a global movement.)
There are way too many people to thank in this email but I want to make one exception.  Global Network board member MacGregor Eddy (WILPF) suggested I take the train from San Diego north and I did.  It was a pure joy.  The ride was great (now and then I had to take a bus as well and only a couple of times did I have to catch a ride in a car) and being on the train allowed me to spend those travel hours on my laptop keeping up with my email correspondence.  The scenery was often spectacular.  MacGregor donated most of my train travel segments using her frequent travel awards on Amtrak, which was a huge donation to the organization. 
It felt good to be using mass transit and I always spoke about the great pay-off that happens when we spend $1 billion on building rail systems (19,675 jobs) instead of putting that same $1 billion into military production (8,600 jobs).  In each talk I asked the audience to raise their hands indicating support for spending their tax dollars on either rail jobs or weapons manufacturing.  You can imagine which side easily won.
The Navy base on Jeju Island, South Korea was also a key feature of each of my talks.  At the end of many of the talks I showed a video from Jeju Island to make things more real for people.  As was fitting, on the last day of the trip about 25 of us held a protest vigil at the South Korean consulate in Seattle.  The consulate staff handed several of our delegation a piece of paper that inaccurately stated that the Gangjeong villagers support the base - in fact 94% of them voted in a secret ballot to oppose the Navy base.  The Jeju issue is an important human and environmental example of just how the U.S.  pivot into the Asia-Pacific is already negatively impacting life in that region.
This trip was a remarkable experience for me.  I was deeply touched by the kind hospitality offered me all along the way.  I also felt that each local host organizer appreciated that they were linked to a larger effort and that made their task more valuable.  I am grateful to everyone – especially those who turned out to hear me speak.

The timetable for the tour can be found here.

Coverage of the trip can be seen on Bruce's blog - http://space4peace.blogspot.co.uk/2012_04_01_archive.html from April 7 2012 onwards.

At the end of the tour he gave this interview to TalkingStickTV:


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