Friday, September 30, 2016

Teach The Truth About Columbus & Stop Celebrating Genocidal Maniac Day

Ella Sekatau, Naragansett tribal historian: "The truth is the truth is the truth. And it's just waiting to be discovered." From the documentary film Language of America: An Indian Story by Maine filmmaker Ben Levine.
If you've never had the experience of teaching the truth about the Columbus,  you might give it a try.

It can take a form as simple as a five year-old raising her hand during a Columbus Day presentation in Kindergarten to say, “My grammy says that Columbus was a really bad man.”

Or it could be reading and discussing the hair-raising first chapter of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. A rapist and slave trader who chopped off the hands of native people of the Caribbean islands who didn’t bring him gold fast enough, this well-documented genocidal maniac was just waiting for historian Zinn to reveal the sad truth: Columbus is not a person to be celebrated.

Now, if you’re a teacher emerging from the exhausting pace of the first month of school it’s hard to argue with a three day weekend in early October. When I taught high school social studies a Penobscot student asked me to help her organize an alternative to celebrating. With her parents and student volunteers she recruited, we convened a day of outdoor education, read some truth, and visited an extensive collection of native artifacts at Nowetah’s Indian Store and Museum in New Portland. (A Passamoquoddy artist who uses traditional porcupine quill methods to create beautiful baskets, Nowetah traveled and traded with native artists all over the continent to build her collection and she welcomes school visits. Check out the facebook page here.)
Maulian Smith, Penobscot leader of the Not Your Mascot, Maine Chapter campaign to retire the Skowhegan High School "Indian" mascot speaking at Indigenous People's Day, 2015.
In the intervening years Penobscot leaders have convened Indigenous People’s Day each October to further the effort of re-educating people, and last year the town of Belfast became the first in Maine to follow a growing national trend toward renaming the holiday.

One of the most popular tools for re-educating about Columbus is The People vs. Columbus ready-to-use curriculum materials available free on the Zinn Education Project’s website. I’ve used this tool many times with teenagers who enjoy the mock trial format and role play that explores, not only Columbus’ role, but that of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the crew members of the ships that Spain sent, and the system of empire itself.

The related text Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years explains:
Why rethink Christopher Columbus? Because the Columbus myth is a foundation of children's beliefs about society. Columbus is often a child's first lesson about encounters between different cultures and races. The murky legend of a brave adventurer tells children whose version of history to accept, and whose to ignore. It says nothing about the brutality of the European invasion of North America.

That text was banned by schools in Tucson, Arizona under legislation that abolished Mexican American Studies, a program targeted by conservative politicians. Despite numerous studies finding that native students and students of color are adversely affected when their history and culture is not taught, schools continue to serve powerful interests by suppressing the truth.
Photo credit: Rob Wilson from "Over 20 Arrested After Militarized Police Raid #NoDAPL Prayer Ceremony" Sep. 29, 2016 by Lauren McCauley,

How many of us are teaching about the coalition of native groups taking a stand against oil pipeline construction that in North Dakota that threatens the water supply for millions? The wisdom of indigenous people about how to live on the planet without crashing its life support systems is sorely needed as the potable water supply dwindles and record temperatures continue to climb. Why would we suppress their voices now?

Whichever tools you choose, and especially if you have a young audience, you could find the experience of reteaching Columbus exhilarating. Then, move on to reteach Thanksgiving!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pentagon Drones Kill Civilians in Afghanistan As Protesters Arrested At Beale Air Force Base

Drone protesters Sharon, Chris, Toby, Shirley, Barry, and Cathy.  All but Barry crossed onto the base.

My sister activist Toby Blome connected the dots in an email this morning:
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, the very day that activists were at Beale Air Force Base protesting endless wars and illegal drone killing, a U.S. Drone attack killed 13 civilians and wounded 14 others in Afghanistan.   
Initially the Pentagon claimed that most of those killed were "suspected militants," but a day later they are admitting to most or all being civilians.  (story here)  Who will be next?
Toby pointed me to an account of the arrests and the rationale for being arrested by Sharon Delgado on her blog post "Campaign Nonviolence Action at Beale" which I repost here:
This morning I was arrested with four other women at Beale Air Force Base after crossing onto base property.   We were taken by military bus to a building on base, given citations, and released.  We may be given an arraignment date and we may go to trial, although in recent months all charges for peace activists have been dismissed. 
We were wearing blue scarves and we had #enough written on our hands because we took this action in solidarity the Afghan Peace Volunteers and their blog Our Journey to Smile.  Afghan Peace Volunteers is a group of young people working for peace in Afghanistan.   I became aware of them when peace activist Kathy Kelly came with us to Beale a couple of years ago.  Our blue scarves and the #enough banners and words written on our hands are a response to their invitation “Join us to say #enough.” 
Before we were arrested, each of us explained what we have had enough of.  I explained that I have had enough of drone warfare.  (Beale is the home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that identifies targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.)  I have also had enough of the U.S. Air Force Vision for 2020, which is geared toward “full spectrum dominance” for the purpose of “protecting U.S. interests and investments” as “the globalization of the world economy… continues, with a widening between “haves” and “have-nots.” 
 I have had enough of the U.S. military enforcing a global order that is enriching the already wealthy, protecting the privileged, exploiting those who are vulnerable, causing massive suffering, and destroying this beautiful earth.  #Enough war. #Enough “accidental” (or incidental) killing of children.  #Enough suffering.  #Enough extrajudicial killing.  #Enough. 
We also took this action in coordination with the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions.  Over 700 separate Campaign Nonviolence Actions have taken place in recent days. 
If you want to know more about drones or past demonstrations and trials related to Beale, seemy past blogs on drones.   Follow my blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  
I note that yesterday Congress overrode Obama's veto of what's being called the "Sue the Saudis" bill that allowing families of those who died on 9/11 to seek relief in the courts. Obama presumably vetoed it because Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the U.S., a country to whom billions of weapons are shipped regularly. Similar to our other good buddy in the region, Israel, Saudi Arabia has a horrendous record of human rights violations. 

From RT's report on the veto: 
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has argued that allowing JASTA to become law could lead to US being sued in foreign courts and subjected to an “intrusive discovery process.”
Can I get an Amen?
Image result for 9/11 brooklyn bridge

Perhaps some good will come of the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism" law. Perhaps a court case will involve some authentic disclosure of facts surrounding the fire bombing of the World Trade Center in 2001. 
Perhaps it will also set a precedent for victims of state-sponsored terrorism and their families to sue the governments responsible -- including their own.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lynchings By Police Are A National State Of Emergency #BlackLivesMatter

The twin sister of this week's unarmed black man shot dead by police, Terence Crutcher, mourns.
Give fearful people a lot of guns -- and what happens? They shoot innocent people to death often, and then excuse their behavior by saying they felt scared.

Lynchings by police of black people constitute a national state of emergency.

Don't give people the opportunity to feed and educate their children securely with access to good health care and decent housing and what happens? They lash out in fury in response to more lynchings, and destroy property that represents everything they don't have.

Give fearful people a demagogue to claim their nation could be "great" "again" -- and what happens? Other fearful people go beserk claiming a warmonger and nation destroyer is the only "moral" choice at the ballot box.

Don't give people who love and respect the planet the power to make decisions about the homeland we all share -- and what happens? Corporate overlords destroy the commons while native people put their lives on the line as protectors of the water upon which our form of life depends.

Give fearful people 24/7 entertainment packaged as news and commentary and what happens? They can't think straight because they lack authentic information and analysis.

Don't give a voice to marginalized groups like young people, native people, people of color, people with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBT -- and what happens? 

Our society gets dumber with each passing day -- which suits our corporate overlords just fine.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Stop The War$ On Mother Earth: 5th Annual Maine Peace Walk

5th Maine Peace Walk to Stop the War$ on Mother Earth

Indian Island (Penobscot Nation) to Kittery October 11-26

For immediate Release

Contact:  Bruce Gagnon (207) 443-9502

Peace and environmental activists from Maine and beyond will walk through large portions of our state from October 11-26 in order to bring the issues of endless war, environmental degradation, and climate change to the public’s attention.  The walk will begin on Indian Island (with a supper and ceremony hosted by the Penobscot Nation) and end in Kittery.

“We come together out of our deep concern about the many different wars being waged on Mother Earth, ranging from over-fishing, deforestation, and human-caused extinctions, to climate disruption and endless war,” said Russell Wray of Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST) in Hancock.

According to walk co-organizer Connie Jenkins from Orono, “Close to home we support the Penobscot Nation’s struggle for Justice for the River, opposition to the East/West Corridor, and conversion of war production to alternative energy at Maine shipyards.  We know from past experience of walking through rural and urban Maine that many people will be reached with our messages. We hope this spiritual act of walking and sharing conversation and food will help people in our state feel less isolated and despairing about the future.”  

The peace walk begins on Indian Island October 11 and will pass through Dexter, Pittsfield, Unity, Waterville, Augusta, Norway, Lewiston, Brunswick, Bath, Freeport, Portland, Saco, Kennebunk, York Beach, and Kittery.  The walk will average about 12 walking miles per day. (Some driving will be necessary between some of these communities.) In the evenings walkers will be fed at local churches and will often stay in local homes.)

The walkers will hold a protest at Bath Iron Works on October 20 at 3:00 pm and conclude on October 26 with a protest at the naval submarine yard in Kittery.  Both protests will call for the conversion of the Maine shipyards to alternative energy production such as public rail systems, solar power, wind turbines and tidal power systems. Studies at UMASS-Amherst Economics Department reveal that building needed alternative energy rather than military production would create more jobs.  See the study at

Buddhist monks and nuns from the Nipponzan Myohoji order will lead the non-violent peace walk.  Their order does peace walks all over the world.

Maine Walk for Peace is sponsored by:  Penobscot Nation; Smedley D. Butler Brigade Veterans For Peace (Boston area); Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space; Maine Veterans For Peace; Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST); Veterans For Peace (National); Peninsula Peace and Justice; Maine Natural Guard; Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks; Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center; Veterans For Peace, Jim Harney Chapter 003; Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine; Alliance for the Common Good; Grandmothers Against the East/West Corridor; Resources for Organizing and Social Change (ROSC); Pax Christi Maine; Friends of the Piscataquis Valley; Concord Massachusetts Peace Vigil; Peace Action Maine; ESTIA Maine; Stop the East-West Corridor (STEWC); Maine Green Independent Party; Mission Board of State Street Church (Portland); Reversing Falls Sanctuary; Peace to All Beings; Waldo County Peace & Justice

The daily schedule and entire walk route can be found at Maine Veterans For Peace

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Manning, Snowden, Assange: Three Bright Stars To Lead Us

How Chelsea Manning sees herself. By Alicia Neal, in cooperation with Chelsea herself,
commissioned by the Chelsea Manning Support Network, 23 April 2014.
With all the fuss about Oliver Stone’s film SNOWDEN this week my thoughts have turned increasingly toward the martyrdom of Chelsea Manning. Along with Julian Assange, Manning and Snowden form a constellation of stars that will illuminate the heavens as long as history endures. Which may not be all that long at the rate we’re going.

Chelsea Manning is similar to Ed Snowden in more ways than one, but it is she who felt compelled to go on a five-day hunger strike at Leavenworth prison demanding the right to treatment for gender dysphoria; Snowden lives in relative freedom in an apartment in Moscow with his girlfriend. Chelsea reports having experienced gender dysphoria from a very early age and that her father often beat her as a child for not being masculine enough. 

After being duped by an online “friend” she revealed her role in sharing evidence of U.S. Army war crimes, including but certainly not limited to the attack on Reuter’s employees and their would-be rescuers in the streets of Baghdad. The video of that attack includes the crude, contemptuous commentary of boys in a helicopter shooting down at human beings and is known by the name “Collateral Murder.”

For many of us, the “Collateral Murder” video is the very emblem of the rapacious U.S. foreign policy that has dominated this century: wanton killing of civilians and journalists in an oil-rich country that had nothing to do with the staged terror events of 9/11.

The silent killer riding the helicopter is the moral injury that leads so many U.S. veterans to suicide, more than 20 per day currently.

After Chelsea was accused of sharing truth via Wikileaks she was first kept in a cage in the desert in Kuwait for several very hot days and nights; she has reported that she expected to die there. In light of how events unfolded since, I imagine she might sometimes wish that she had.

Stateside, she was incarcerated at Quanitico prison on a Marine base in Virginia. A long bout of solitary confinement where she was kept in solitary for months, deprived of her clothing, forced to wear an abrasive garment alleged to prevent suicide, and then awakened by guards once an hour 24/7 to check if she was “okay.” Being woken up over and over for no reason alone is enough to make a person feel psychotic and hopeful for the release of death.

Bear in mind, all of this happened before Manning was convicted of anything.

Her recent hunger strike at Leavenworth followed a suicide attempt which followed administrative punishments for being found in possession of LGBT literature, and toothpaste that was past its expiration date. Manning has been forced to keep her hair military-man short, and until her hunger strike has been refused gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. These are now promised as a result of the hunger strike; also promised is more solitary confinement.

To say that Chelsea Manning is a martyr to the cause of transparency and upholding the fine ideals of the U.S. constitution would not be an exaggeration.

Image source: "Snowden: Most Wanted Man In Word Wrapped In US Flag" by Kevin Zeese
If Snowden is seen as a winner, at least by filmmaker Stone, and Manning as a martyr, Assange falls somewhere between the two. He, too, has suffered mightily for his role in creating the mechanism whereby the people find out what evils the U.S. government has actually been up to. Holed up in the London embassy of  the nation of Ecuador, which granted him asylum if he could only get there, the Australian citizen dares not emerge lest he be immediately arrested on charges of Swedish “rape” (i.e. intercourse-without-a-condom) and then extradited to the U.S. to be tortured like Manning. No one would choose to live as Assange has done these past several years, but he has several advantages that Manning doesn’t, not least of all the ability to continue his history-changing work via the information engine Wikileaks.

Assange and Snowden continue to “appear” at various international conferences in absentia by means of technology. Manning’s public profile is much more limited due to her incarceration in a maximum security federal prison. All three stars publish regularly in mainstream and alternative media outlets, continuing to share their thinking on the state of information freedom and the civil liberties eroding before our very eyes on a daily basis. 

Stone’s portrayal of Snowden as an idealistic militarist who continued engaging the ethical aspect of his life’s work -- until he found himself holed up in a Hong Kong hotel room, fleeing for his life -- redeems itself from the book it is party based upon, a book that irritates Assange. It also resonates with Manning’s story. Both swore to uphold the constitution; both responded to their own moral injury when it became apparent that their work for the military and/or its contractors (Snowden’s employer Booz Allen Hamilton is an intelligence subcontractor for the NSA, a branch of the Pentagon) grossly violated that constitution.

There are unsung whistleblowers amongst us who, I am happy to say, I will not be able to write about because they remain undiscovered. The noteworthy whistleblowers from the earlier years of my time on the planet continue to inspire -- Daniel Ellsberg, Erin Brockovich, and many who are less celebrated but no less important.

Blowing the whistle on torture can lead directly to being tortured yourself. This is the lesson that the U.S. government strives to teach to potential Mannings, Assanges and Snowdens who lie awake at night struggling with their consciences and wondering whether to risk sacrificing their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for the greater good.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

#NeverForget : 9/11 Mission Creep And The Creepy Ways It Is "Remembered"

A store in San Antonio, Texas reportedly had to close after running a commercial where two towers of mattresses 
were knocked down to advertise a sale of any size mattress at a "twin" price. Details here.
If you work in public schools like I do you may have been treated on Friday to the annual government-sponsored ad to "remember" 9/11. It's a manufactured memory, because even the oldest students in my school were not born in 2001 when the U.S. equivalent of the burning of the Reichstag was staged. Thus it is important for the powers that be to continue selling their version of the burning of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. As adults surely remember, it was this catastrophe that officially ushered in the era of the endless "war on terror."

You might think that the many, many, many corporate media spectacles selling 9/11 brand patriotism would be far more effective than school administrators interrupting classes to read a script calling on staff and students to stand up and observe a moment of silence. This had to be done on Friday, September 9 this year since 9/11 will fall on the weekend. This had the effect of making the "remembrance" effort aimed at kids even more contrived. 

You might not realize that middle school students seldom read newspapers or magazines these days, and hardly ever consume broadcast television unless it's a sporting event (more on that later). They are busy snapchatting, texting and watching YouTubers that amuse them. 

If it weren't for schools giving students weekly magazines like Time for KidsJunior Scholastic and other corporate media designed for their consumption, they probably wouldn't even know which two candidates for president the corporations have selected for them. Or which event kicked off the wars they have always lived with which funnel mad profits into the coffers of the most wealthy corporations on the planet.

A teacher I know recently reported her middle school students could not identify pictures of any of the candidates, and 40% of them could not identify a picture of the current president of the United States.

Who they could identify is the quarterback for the New England Patriots football team.

Their whole life the media spectacle of false dichotomy has been sold and sold hard via professional sports. Not only by the subliminal message of two teams, one with red shirts and one with blue, applying superior force to become wealthy and famous; additionally, their parents' taxes have been spent by the Pentagon paying NFL and other sports teams to stage patriotic spectacles.

As Maine's dumb-like-a-fox corporate-sponsored governor recently said in promoting his allegation that drug dealers in our state are predominately black or Hispanic (a statistic the FBI disputes): 
“Look, the bad guy is the bad guy, I don’t care what color he is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red."
So the governor understands what every kid "knows," that all the guys can be divided into two groups and you're always on the good side. This firm belief allows your government to sell weapons to the country that most of the 9/11 hijackers were alleged to hail from -- Saudi Arabia, which has been bombing the civilians of Yemen to smithereens these past several years -- thus siding with apparent "bad guys" while magically remaining good guys yourselves.

This is the real message and lesson of the 9/11 tragedy that killed thousands that day and then provided the pretext for killing millions more in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria that had nothing to do with it. There's a (false) dichotomy, and you had better know which side you're on.

Kids are afraid to be seen as unpatriotic now. They don't really know why it's so important to always support the military and always believe that their country is good, but they're getting the message loud and clear that they had better go along to get along. Or else.

Because if they fail to comply they might find themselves on the wrong side in an endless war with no goals, no victories, no exit plan, and no purpose other than self-perpetuating profits and resource theft.

And if that's not a good enough reason to "remember" 9/11, I don't know what is.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

#Zumwalt12 In Court As Destroyer Ship Sails In Obama's "Pivot To Pacific"

Members of the Zumwalt 12 at their arraignment in Bath on August 2. 
Report on Zumwalt 12 Court Hearing Sep. 7 and
Invite to Next Zumwalt 12 Event

by Bruce Gagnon

Eleven of the members of the Zumwalt 12 (arrested at Bath Iron Works on June 18 when we blocked the road and gate during a ‘christening ceremony) appeared in West Bath District Court early this morning.  (Our 12th member of the group Tarak Kauff is in Okinawa with a Veterans for Peace delegation). Bar Harbor attorney Lynne Williams was with us providing her expertise having represented activists following previous civil disobedience cases around Maine.
As it turned out the new $7 billion Zumwalt ‘stealth’ destroyer (the second one to be ‘christened’ at BIW) was leaving Bath today on its way to be home ported in San Diego where it will be sent into the Asia-Pacific as part of the Obama-Clinton ‘pivot’ of 60% of Pentagon military forces into the region to ‘contain’ China. 
The Associated Press has reported,  “A super-stealthy destroyer [Zumwalt] that could underpin the U.S. Navy’s China strategy will be able to sneak up on coastlines virtually undetected and pound targets with electromagnetic ‘rail guns’ right out of a sci-fi movie.  Using electric pulses, not chemical explosives, the ‘rail gun’ can shoot a 40-pound metal slug from New York to Philadelphia at up to 5,600 mph — more than seven times the speed of sound — with 32 times the force of a car traveling at 100 miles per hour."
Judge Matthews presided over the ‘dispositional conference’ and after learning that all 12 members of the group were planning to plead ‘not guilty’ - and that 11 of the group would defend themselves during a joint trial – the jurist adjourned the conference until 12:30 pm. 
Once Judge Matthews reconvened the court he began by asking the state prosecutor if Bath Iron Works (BIW) had been consulted about the case.  Matthews remarked, “BIW would probably like to see this all go away.”  The prosecutor said he didn’t know if anyone had reached out to BIW.
Judge Matthews then began a long series of questions to the state prosecutor that included the following:
“What is it about this case that the state wants to do a jury trial?  I don’t think a trial makes any sense but I am not the judge who would try this case.  I’d urge the [Sagadahoc County] District Attorney’s office to rethink this.  What would they achieve?  The last thing BIW wants in this case is to re-raise the issues in this case.  And this case will incur considerable time and cost to the court.”
Next Judge Matthews mentioned the first Plowshares action at BIW by Fr. Phil Berrigan and four others on Easter, March 31, 1991.  The judge told the state prosecutor, “Fr. Berrigan and his group were charged but the charges never proceeded.  He made his point and everyone went on.  Sometimes in these conferences we plant seeds that can later be worked out.”
The next step is for the District Attorney’s office to decide how they will proceed with the Zumwalt 12.  It is possible that by late November a trial date (likely in December) will be set.
In the meantime the Zumwalt 12 have decided to return to BIW for a peace vigil on Saturday, October 1 from 11:30 am for an hour during the midday shift change.  This protest will be held in conjunction with local events around the world during Keep Space for Peace Week.  Aegis destroyers, also built at BIW, are outfitted with so-called ‘missile defense’ systems that are key elements in Pentagon first-strike attack planning. 
Following the October 1 BIW vigil the Zumwalt 12 will hold a pot luck lunch at the Neighborhood Church (798 Washington St) in Bath and invite others to join us.  After the 12:30 pm lunch the Zumwalt 12 members will each offer their reasons for having taken the step to risk arrest at BIW.  This will be done in preparation for a possible trial in December.
Please come and support the Zumwalt 12 and help continue this important peace witness in Bath.
Convert BIW to peaceful purposes!
No war with China and Russia!
Fund human needs!
Stop the War$ on Mother Earth!
Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502  (blog)