High school senior Alaena Merrill also wowed the crowd, drawing sustained applause several times (full disclosure: I edited out much of it because my camera work got shaky during those intervals) with her remarks about what funding can do for public school programs, and what war spending does to school budgets.
College senior Nicole Moreau of CODEPINK Maine and Veterans for Peace delivered stunning testimony about the high cost of education and the astronomical levels of debt today's students are graduating with -- into a bleak landscape with few job prospects.
College student Curtis Cole captioned this photo I shared on his facebook page: "Pic of my speaking with members of the ruling class looking on."
His speech also drew cheers and prolonged applause -- though not from the governor (at left in blue shirt with hand on his mouth).
Stagnation: War Money and Maine Society
I’m here today on a simple mission: that mission is to tell all of you of the obsolete and deceitful nature of the 1%. You see, the 1% would like us to believe it is in our best interest to spend billions of dollars annually on a defense budget. They would like students to believe that it is in the student’s best interest to maintain funding occupation soldiers’ salaries; they want us to believe that we can ‘suffice’ without quality healthcare, education, civil servants, and decent infrastructure. Yet, most of all, they would like society at large to swallow the ultimate lie: that maintenance of the Imperialist Murder Machine, i.e. The Military Industrial Complex, is needed for our safety.
Such words are blasphemous to the truth. We, the 99%, need a military in the same way that hell needs more fire. No, we do not need to spend any amount, let along such obscene proportions, on war. Here in the Great State of Maine, the taxpayers are gouged of 1.3 billion dollars annually. This drain is directed towards the military defense budget. A budget which is so over bloated that our nation’s budget alone dwarfs that of the rest of the world’s-combined!
You see, the ‘Powers that be’ needs the young to believe that without an armed force breathing down their necks at all times society as we know it will collapse. Masterful propaganda has made our modern world one of such sharp distortions that even breaking away and glimpsing the truth is a daring feat.
To accomplish this they saturate the media with horrifying claims. Claims of mass murder, genocide, and land hungry entities annexing their neighbors accompany images of tactical maps indicating the supposed threat to American safety. Without a strong police state, the warmongers argue, society will inevitably be taken over by foreigners, communists, Queers, Muslims or whatever new scapegoat the liberal/ conservative alliance dreams up; dreaming being the primary method of thinking and data collecting for the elites who create such fantasies.
Fantasies such as this condemn people to live in poverty and indignation. Mainers must fight against these draconian measures otherwise nearly no one would have access to healthcare (as the sum would readily be reallocated to the wars). As Many as 1 in 5 Mainers2 live in rural areas, and are unable to even locate a healthcare provider; let alone pay the exorbitant post-procedure costs. With Maine Care being slashed left and right, it is becoming increasingly impossible to afford vital treatment. Yet, under our current system such low-income people are disregarded as lazy, underachievers because of their socio-economic class. A designation labeled onto them despite rigorous efforts at improving their lot through education. This task would be easier if working class and young people were actually able to access higher education.
I believe the term ‘mediocre’ is a fitting word to attribute to an administration which views funding state sanctioned murder as a more pressing concern than providing for its citizens. You see, the Military Industrial Complex exists for two reasons and two reasons only: To start wars and for capitalists to make profits. That’s it! The government controls over 1000 military bases worldwide; bases which they use to dictate the world stage of affairs3. Each base must be filled with troops, small arms and ammunition, weapon systems, and food. Obviously this is all expensive and is indicative of only a single base.4
This total amounts to over 800 billion dollars, however, this tally doesn’t include the amount spent financing expansionist wars, “donations” to sympathetic armed factions, and the salaries of “fighting men.” Instead this marks only the expenditures for the Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Army branches; the strain of them purchasing battleships, tanks and fighter jets, small arms and protective gear. When one adds in the amount of this “hidden” waste the sum skyrockets; total war in Iraq and Afghanistan, covert operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, as well as the continued defense of client states Israel, South Korea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the true total, while breathtaking, is at least four trillions dollars!
Hear that? That was trillion, with a “t.” For the same amount over 530thousand children could receive low- income healthcare, 15.2million elementary school teachers and 17.4million firefighters could receive salaries for a year, over 939million households could revive renewable wind- powered electricity, and over a 131million college students could receive year ‘round scholarships.
This is the reality of life in Maine so as long as we continue to allow the para-fascist 1% to dictate our future. Such people need the 99% to believe the delusion they spread -delusion about capitalism, about wealth distribution, and resource allocation-because they need all afraid of foes which do not exist. They need all brainwashed into believing this manufactured fairytale about terrorists all while ignoring the fact the United States is the world’s biggest funder of actual terrorism. The truth is stark: we have no enemies; we make our own future and if we are to create, as some here wish, a horizontal workers democracy, than what we must do is rise up and overthrow the 1%.
My name is Karen Heck and I am the Mayor of Waterville. Our city is facing an $800,00 shortfall between our expected revenue for the city and $1.6 million less this year than last for our schools…and that’s without spending the money we should be investing in our youngest residents, those 0-3, at a time when they are developing 85% of their brains. If we could be fully supporting their healthy development, we could be reaping the benefits within a few short years of lower special education costs, higher fourth grade achievement scores and higher graduation rates. Instead, we are being forced to cut 12 more teachers in our K to 12 system, don’t have enough money to staff an available infant and toddler classroom, and are facing the elimination of two head start classrooms due to proposed elimination of state funded Head Start.What kind of country have we become when we are killing and maiming women and children half way around the globe at the same time we are abandoning poor women and children here at home? It is time we stopped this madness and brought our war dollars home.An issue even closer to my heart than the lost revenue for our struggling cities and towns, is the disruption of families and the loss of life. Two years ago, the family of Alan and Mary Slack received the kind of news no parent should have to hear. Their 19 year old son Wade had been killed in Afghanistan. A year and a half later, Alan Slack died of a broken heart leaving the family coping with the loss of two of its members due to the war. Another family in our town, is now on pins and needles praying for the safe return of their father and husband. Dr. Joseph Lopes was called up to return to the war for the fourth time in the past 5 years.You can bet if we had a draft and the sons and daughters of Congressional leaders were being called to duty, we would have been home years ago. I am sick to death of watching old men send young men and now women to war while they do nothing more than wear flag lapel pins and drive around with yellow ribbons on their cars. We need to stop this madness. We need the President to overrule the generals, stop the fighting and bring our war dollars home now.
Tammy Trask of MAIN gave stirring testimony of the effects on Maine's poorest families while the governor looked on.
The governor, who had been halted by some in the crowd chanting "shame, shame" as he scurried into his office near the rally, gave this non-verbal response (zoom in to see what the governor learned in Kindergarten):
|photo credit: Peter Woodruff|