Saturday, October 24, 2015

News From Maine Peace Walk 2015 -Day 14

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day - 14 Biggest Walk Day So Far

A few from the 'Leftist Marching Band' greeted us as we arrived in York Beach

Pat Scanlon (right) greets walkers at they arrive at his York Beach home for the night

Students from the New School in Kennebunk walked with us today

We walked 14 miles today from Kennebunk to York Beach.  Thirty people joined the walk giving us our largest turnout since we began on October 9 in Ellsworth. Eight of the students from the New School walked as did seven folks from a senior intentional community near Kennebunk.  It was an impressive line of walkers during the high point of the day.

Early on this morning it began to drizzle a bit but the sun finally broke through the cloudy sky.  The rain held off until we got to York Beach - just as we started to eat supper outside at Pat Scanlon's house the rains came back for about an hour.  Luckily the Smedley Buter Brigade out of Boston has set up the three canopies where we huddled and ate the pizza, chili, and salads provided for us.

About 10 members of the Smedley's were here to greet us as we arrived at Pat's house.  Many of them will join with us tomorrow as we walk into Portsmouth.  There will be a rally at 5:00 pm at Prescott Park after we arrive in Portsmouth and at 6:00 pm there will be a supper and program at St. John's Episcopal Church (100 Chapel St).

As we pulled into York Beach we were photographed by the York Weekly and then a reporter from the paper interviewed several of the walkers.  Our good string of coverage by local weekly papers continues (except for the Bath area where those weeklies don't like to report on protests at the BIW shipyard - although we did get front page coverage in the local daily paper there).  But circulation numbers show that most small weekly papers often have larger distribution than the daily papers due to the fact that many people are canceling their subscriptions to the dailies and relying on the free weekly papers for their news as a way to save money during these hard economic times.

The Leftist Marching Band that greeted us today in York Beach has a slogan that I just adore - "Our music is better than it sounds".  Gotta love these folks. 

News From Maine Peace Walk 2015


The Phoenix Potpourri: Maine Peace Walk arrives in Portland; another transition at City Hall

potpourri_peace walk_102215A Maine Peace Walk that started Oct. 9 in Ellsworth meandered its way across the state, arriving in Portland Monday via the Martin’s Point Bridge from Falmouth.
The theme of this mobile protest is militarization of the seas and the Pentagon’s impact on oceans, organizers said.
The walk focuses on “the military effect on both the climate and the ocean and animals in the ocean,” said Jacqui Deveneau, an activist.
Maine Veterans for Peace activist Bruce Gagnon said, “The U.S. pivot into the Asian Pacific is moving 60 percent of naval forces into the region, and there are all kinds of stories of major environmental degradation.”
The only soft-coral forests left on the planet are being destroyed for dredging to make space for destroyers and aircraft carriers, Gagnon said.
“We have a status of forces agreement with all these countries which gives the United States carte blanche to use their bases,” Gagnon said.
Destroyers from Bath Iron Works will be ported in that region, he said. On Oct. 31, activists plan to return to BIW and protest the christening of a new destroyer.
Day 14 on Thursday, Oct. 22, brings the group to York Beach, where a supper, music program and sleeping setup are at 6 p.m. Day 15 on Friday, Oct. 23  finds the protesters arriving in Portsmouth for a supper and program at St. John’s Episcopal Church (100 Chapel St.) at 6 p.m. Day 16 on Saturday, Oct. 24  marks the finale in Portsmouth, when the group will meet at Market Square at 10 a.m. They will walk through the downtown and back over the bridge to Kittery for a rally at the shipyard gate.
The walk is sponsored by Maine Veterans for Peace; PeaceWorks; CodePink Maine; Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST); Peace Action Maine; Veterans for Peace Smedley Butler Brigade (Greater Boston); Seacoast Peace Response (Portsmouth); and Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

Chelsea Manning Remembered During The Maine Peace Walk To Demilitarize The Oceans

Chelsea Manning Remembered During The Maine Peace Walk To Demilitarize The Oceans

On this year’s Maine Peace Walk of some one hundred and seventy-five miles from Ellsworth, Maine to the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Naval Base held between October 9th and October 24th some walkers carried signs along the way honoring the heroic Wiki-Leaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning now serving a thirty-five year sentence for telling the American people the truth about military atrocities by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other nefarious actions of the American government. The walk sponsored by Maine and Boston chapters of Veterans For Peace and other groups were highlighting the destructive role the U.S. military has as the number one offender against the sea and its inhabitants with its huge carbon footprint with its endless wars. We in VFP have used, and will use, every opportunity to keep Chelsea’s case in the public eye. We will not leave our sister behind.     

Chelsea Manning continues to speak out in new Medium blog

Chelsea continues to speak out in new Medium blog

The story of an incredible trans girl and her family as told by another mediocre book by a cisgender author

My thoughts on Becoming Nicole: The transformation of an American Family
October 19th, 2015 by Chelsea Manning
I was pleasantly surprised at the prison meal window on Friday, when an advance copy of a book was delivered to me. The book, Becoming Nicole: The transformation of an American Family, was sent to me directly from the publisher. In the letter, the book was billed as the story of the Maines family — two parents and their identical twin children — and their struggles during the transition of the twin sister, Nicole.
The book is a relatively short and light read at about 250 widely-spaced pages. I read the book in about four to five hours on Saturday evening. The story of the Maines family is actually pretty inspiring and impressive. Despite their flaws (who’s perfect anyway?) these people are basically amazing. They navigated through tough circumstances that, looking at myself and the trans women that I see today, could have ended pretty awfully for this young woman. I don’t know how different my life would have been if I had a family even remotely as determined to stick together and get through life as the Maines family.
Unfortunately, despite having a perfect story to write about, the author misses the mark. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt — a cisgender woman — falls into the now worn and old-fashioned trap of all the other “experts” who write or talk about trans issues: trying to explain the “transgender phenomenon” using science and medicine. For instance, in several portions of the book — with such chapter titles as “Gender Dysphoria,” “The Xs and Ys of Sex,” “Transgender Brain,” and “Born This Way” — the author starts talking about medical facts regarding gender and sex, the administration of cross-sex hormones, and a disturbingly detailed description of bottom surgery for a trans woman barely out of high school. Is all of this really necessary to the story? Why can’t the Maines family just be awesome on their own? Do we need the power and magic of science and medicine to explain everything away and make life okay?
Basically, the tone of the book when not talking about the Maines family keeps coming off a bit preachy, even when it continues to box us trans people who are outside of the white, middle class, gender-conformist expectations just a little bit more. This brings up a question from deep inside my mind, yet again (and I’m tired of asking it in my head, so I’m saying it out loud as I write this): Why do we still need to be “explained” by a cisgender person with fancy titles, awards, and credentials?
I have read some pretty amazing books by trans authors this year. Fiction books like Nevada, by Imogen Binnie, and A Safe Girl To Love, by Casey Plett, perfectly capture the complex, beautiful, and horrific essence that is the diverse trans — and very human — experience of living life.
My message to Nicole, if she ever reads this: You are an amazing writer and you can be one hell of an inspiration to people like me. You should write your own story — fiction or nonfiction — in your own voice. We want to hear you.~

New whistleblower steps forward: The Drone Papers

New whistleblower steps forward: The Drone Papers

By the Chelsea Manning Support Network. October 16, 2015
“I waited 40 years for Chelsea. Three more for Snowden. And so it’s wonderful that somebody is telling the truth about this series of crimes. I’m very glad to see it,” noted Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg today regarding the Drone Papers.

Yesterday, the Intercept released The Drone Papers, a series of secret documents providing previously unknown insights on the inner workings of drone warfare courtesy of a single, currently anonymous source.

Click here to read the complete Drone Papers from the Intercept

As WIRED magazine notes, “It’s been just over two years since Edward Snowden leaked a massive trove of NSA documents, and more than five since Chelsea Manning gave WikiLeaks a megacache of military and diplomatic secrets. Now there appears to be a new source on that scale of classified leaks—this time with a focus on drones.”
Similar to Chelsea Manning, this whistleblower was moved to act by their conscience, and a belief that the American public has the right to know what the military is doing in our name:
“This outrageous explosion of watchlisting—of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield—it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source tells the Intercept. “We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”
Among the leaked info is the startling revelation that, “nearly 90% of people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.
Edward Snowden weighs in via his twitter account
Edward Snowden weighs in via his twitter account
Speaking with the Guardian regarding the leaks, Daniel Ellsberg noted:
“It comes down to this. Hundreds could have done what I did, literally. And should have. Hundreds of people could and should have done what Edward Snowden did. And hundreds of people could and should have done what Chelsea Manning did. They did the right thing. The others were wrong to keep those secrets.”

4 thoughts on “New whistleblower steps forward: The Drone Papers

To Seek A Newer World- With Alfred Lord Tennyson In Mind

To Seek A Newer World- With Alfred Lord Tennyson In Mind

I have used the expression “to seek a newer world” or variations of that expression any number of times the past several years when presenting sketches and pieces about what made my generation tick, the politically and culturally progressive active part of it anyway, who tried might and main to change the course of American history and sensibilities in the 1960s, my Generation of ’68 which I use for shorthand. The expression cribbed from a Bobby Kennedy pre-1968 presidential campaign book that I had read about what the world was in desperate need of in the face of the bloodbath in Vietnam and other pressing social problems who cribbed it from the 19th century English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson seemed to me all these many cyberspace years later a fitting way to describe what the Generation of ‘68 was in search of. What we are still in search of since we have been, mostly unsuccessfully, fighting a rearguard action against the progeny of the night-takers we faced in the 1960s. Here, in any case, is the original poem from which Bobby (or his speechwriter although I sense that he probably picked that one himself) and I cribbed our expression.

Many of those sketches can be found on the American Left History blog.  


By Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809–1892 Alfred, Lord Tennyson


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

         This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

         There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Once Again- Stop The Damn Wars- Stop The Damn American And Allied Bombings In Syria And Iraq

Once Again- Stop The Damn Wars- Stop The Damn American And Allied  Bombings In Syria And Iraq- Stop The Damn American Killer Drone Attacks Everywhere- Stop The Saudi Bombing Decimation Of Yemen-Stop The American Military Aid To Israel- Hell, Just Stop The Madness In The Middle East 


Late one night in 2014 Ralph Morris and Sam Eaton had been sitting at a bar in Boston, Jack Higgin’s Grille, down a few streets from the financial district toward Quincy Market talking about various experiences, political experiences in their lives as they were wont to do these days since they were both mostly retired. Ralph having turned over the day to day operation of his specialty electronics shop in Troy, New York to his youngest son as he in his turn had taken over from his father Ralph, Sr. when he had retired in 1991 (the eldest son, Ralph III, had opted for a career as a software engineer for General Electric still a force in the local economy although not nearly as powerful as when Ralph was young and it had been the largest private employer in the Tri-City area) and Sam had sold off his small print shop business in Carver down about thirty miles south of Boston to a large copying company when he had finally seen a few years before the writing on the wall that the day of the small specialty print shop specializing in silk-screening and other odd job methods of reproduction was done for in the computerized color world.

So they had time for remembrances back to the days in the early 1970s when they had first met and had caught the tail-end of the big splash 1960s political and social explosion that stirred significant elements of their generation, “the generation of ’68” so-called by Sam’s friend from New York City Fritz Jasper although neither of them had been involved in any of the cataclysmic events that had occurred in America (and the world) that year. Sam had that year fitfully been trying to start his own small printing business after working for a few years for Mr. Snyder the premier printer in town and he was knee-deep in trying to mop up on the silk-screen craze for posters and tee shirts and had even hired his old friend from high school Jack Callahan who had gone to the Massachusetts School of Art as his chief silk-screen designer, and later when he moved off the dime politically his acting manager as well. Ralph’s excuse was simpler, simplicity itself for he was knee-deep in the big muddy in the Central Highlands of Vietnam trying to keep body and soul together against that damn Charlie who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Occasionally over the years Ralph would come to Boston on trips at Sam’s invitation and they almost always would go have a few at Jack Higgin’s during his stay talking mainly family matters before Ralph would head back to Troy and his family but more frequently of late they would go back over the ground of their youth, would go over more that ground more than one time to see if something they could have done, or something they did not do, would have made a difference when the “counter-revolution,” when the conservative push-back reared its head, when the cultural wars began in earnest with the ebbing of that big good night 1960s explosion. Sam would return the favor by going out to Albany, or more frequently to Saratoga Springs where he, they could see who from the old days, Utah Phillips before he passed away, Rosalie Sorrels before she left the road, Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger before they passed but you get the picture, the old folk minute of the early 1960s that Sam had been very interested in when he started to hang around Cambridge later in that decade, were still alive enough to be playing at the famous coffeehouse still going from the 1960s, the Café Lena, although minus founder Lena for quite a while now. Sam had never lost the bug, never lost that longing for the lost folk minute that in his mind connected in with him hanging around the Hayes-Bickford in Harvard Square on lonesome weekends nights seeing what was to be seen. Sam had dragged Ralph, who despite living on about less than an hour away had never heard of the Café Lena since he had been tuned to the AM stations playing the awful stuff that got air time after the classic period of rock went into decline and before rock became acid-tinged, along with him and he had developed a pretty fair appreciation for the music as well.         

The conversation that night in 2014 got going after the usual few whiskey and sodas used to fortify them for the night talkfest had begun to take effect had been pushed in the direction of what ever happened to that socialist vision that had driven some of their early radical political work together (in the old days both of them in these midnight gabfest would have fortified themselves with in succession grass, cocaine, speed and watch the sun come up and still be talking. These days about midnight would be the end point, maybe earlier.). The specific reason for that question coming up that night had been that Sam had asked Ralph a few weeks before to write up a little remembrance of when he had first heard the socialist-anarchist-communist-radical labor militant   international working class anthem, the Internationale, for Fritz Jasper’s blog, American Protest Music.

Sam had noted that Ralph had with a certain sorrow stated that he no longer had occasion to sing the song. Moreover one of the reasons for that absence was that  despite his and Sam’s continued “good old cause” left-wing political activism socialism as a solution to humankind’s impasses was deeply out of favor (that activism as Ralph mentioned to Sam on more than one occasion these days considerably shortened from the old frenzied 24/7 desperate struggles around trying unsuccessfully end the Vietnam War from the American side by getting the government to stop the damn thing although the Vietnamese liberation forces in the end and at great cost had had no trouble doing so).

People, intellectuals and working stiffs alike, no longer for the most part had that socialist vision goal that had driven several generations, or the best parts of those generations, since the mid-19th century to put their efforts into, did not have that goal on their radar, didn’t see a way out of the malaise through that route. Had moreover backed off considerably from that prospective since the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellites in the early 1990s if not before despite the obvious failure of capitalism to any longer put a dent in the vast inequalities and injustices, their suffered inequalities and injustices, in the world. Sam had had to agree to that sad statement, had had to agree that they, in effect, too had abandoned that goal in their own lives for all practical purposes even though they had been driven by that vision for a while once they got “religion” in the old days in the early 1970s, once they saw that the anti-war struggle that animated their first efforts was not going to get the war-makers to stop making war.

Maybe it was the booze, maybe it was growing older and more reflective, maybe it was that Ralph’s comments had stirred up some sense of guilt for losing the hard edge of their youthful dreams but that night Sam wanted to press the issue of what that socialist prospective meant, what they thought it was all about (both agreed in passing, almost as an afterthought that what had happened, what passed for socialism in the Soviet Union and elsewhere was NOT what they were dreaming of although they gave third world liberation struggles against imperialism like in Vietnam dependent on Soviet aid plenty of wiggle room to make mistakes and still retain their support).       

Both men during the course of their conversation commented on the fact that no way, no way in hell, if it had not been for the explosive events of the 1960s, of the war and later a bunch of social issue questions, mainly third world liberation struggles internationally and the black liberation question at home they would not even be having the conversation they were having (both also chuckling a little at using the old time terms, especially the use of “struggle” and “question,” for example the  black, gay, woman question since lately they had noticed that younger activists no longer spoke in such terms but used more ephemeral “white privilege,” “patriarchy,”  “gender” terms reflecting the identity politics that have been in fashion for a long time, since the ebb flow of the 1960s). 

No, nothing in the sweet young lives of Samuel Eaton to the Carver cranberry bog capital of world in Carver (then) working-class born (his father a “bogger” himself when they needed extra help) and Ralph Morris, Junior to the Troy General Electric plants-dominated working- class born would have in say 1967, maybe later, projected that almost fifty years later they would be fitfully and regretfully speaking about the their visions of socialism and it demise as a world driving force for social change. 

Ralph and Sam had imbibed all the standard identifiable working-class prejudices against reds, some of those prejudices more widespread among the general population of the times, you know, like the big red scare Cold War “your mommy is a commie, turn her in,” “the Russians are coming get under the desk and hold onto your head,” anybody to the left of Grandpa Ike, maybe even him, communist dupes of Joe Stalin and his progeny who pulled the strings from Moscow and made everybody jumpy; against blacks (Ralph had stood there right next to his father, Ralph, Sr., when he led the physical opposition to blacks moving into the Tappan Street section of town and had nothing, along with his corner boys at Van Patten’s Drugstore, but the “n” word to call black people, sometimes to their faces and Sam’s father was not much better, a southerner from hillbilly country down in Appalachia who had been stationed in Hingham at the end of World War II and stayed, who never could until his dying breathe call blacks anything but the “n” word); against gays and lesbians (Ralph and his boys mercilessly fag and dyke baiting them whenever the guys and he went to Saratoga Springs where those creeps spent their summers doing whatever nasty things they did to each other and Sam likewise down in Provincetown with his boys, he helping, beating up some poor guy in a back alley after one of them had made a fake pass at the guy, Jesus; against uppity woman, servile, domestic child-producing women like their good old mothers and sisters and wanna-bes were okay as were “easy” girls ready to toot their whistles, attitudes which they had only gotten beaten out of them when they ran into their respective future wives who had both been influenced by the women’s liberation movement although truth to tell they were not especially political, but rather artistic.  Native Americans didn’t even rate a nod since they were not on the radar, were written off in any case as fodder for cowboys and soldiers in blue. But mainly they had been red, white and blue American patriotic guys who really did have ice picks in their eyes for anybody who thought they would like to tread on old Uncle Sam (who had been “invented” around Ralph’s hometown way).      

See Ralph, Sam too for that matter, had joined the anti-war movement for personal reasons at first which had to do a lot with ending the war in Vietnam and not a lot about “changing the whole freaking world” (Ralph’s term). Certainly not creeping around the fringes of socialism before the 1960s ebbed and they had to look to the long haul to pursue their political dreams. Ralph’s story was a little bit amazing that way, see, he had served in the military, served in the Army, in Vietnam, had been drafted in early 1967 while he was working in his father’s electrical shop and to avoid being “cannon fodder” as anybody could see what was happening to every “drafted as infantry guy” he had enlisted (three years against the draft’s two) with the expectation of getting something in the electrical field as a job, something useful. But in 1967, 1968 what Uncle needed, desperately needed as General Westmoreland called for more troops, was more “grunts” to flush out Charlie and so Ralph wound up with a unit in the Central Highlands, up in the bush trying to kill every commie he could get his hands on just like the General wanted. He had extended his tour to eighteen months to get out a little early from his enlistment not so much that he was gung-ho but because he had become fed up with what the war had done to him, what he had had to do to survive, what his buddies had had to do to survive and what the American government had turned them all into, nothing but animals, nothing more, as he told everybody who would listen. When he was discharged in late 1969 he wound up joining the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), the main anti-war veterans group at the time. Such a move by Ralph and thousands of other soldiers who had served in ‘Nam a real indication even today of how unpopular that war was when the guys who had fought the damn thing arms in hand, mostly guys then, rose up against the slaughter, taking part in a lot of their actions around Albany and New York City mainly.

Here is the way Ralph told Sam in 1971 about how he came in contact with VVAW while they had plenty of time to talk when they were being detained in RFK Stadium after being arrested in a May Day demonstration. One day in 1970 Ralph was taking a high compression motor to Albany to a customer and had parked the shop truck on Van Dyke Street near Russell Sage College. Coming down the line, silent, silent as the grave he thought later, were a ragtag bunch of guys in mismatched (on purpose he found out later) military uniforms carrying individual signs but with a big banner in front calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and signing the banner with the name of the organization-Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). That was all, and all that was needed. Nobody on those still patriotic, mostly government worker, streets called them commies or anything like that but you could tell some guys in white collars who never came close to a gun, except maybe to kill animals or something defenseless really wanted to. One veteran as they came nearer to Ralph shouted out for any veterans to join them, to tell the world what they knew first-hand about what was going on in Vietnam. Yeah, that shout-out was all Ralph needed he said, all he needed to join his “band of brothers.”                               

Sam as he recalled how he and Ralph had met in Washington had remembered that Ralph had first noticed that he was wearing a VVAW supporter button and Ralph had asked if he had been in ‘Nam. Sam, a little sheepishly, explained that he had been exempted from military duty since he was the sole support for his mother and four younger sisters after his father had passed away of a massive heart attack in 1965. (He had gone to work in Mister Snyder’s print shop where he had learned enough about the printing business to later open his own shop which he kept afloat somehow during the late 1960s with Jack Callahan’s help and which became his career after he settled down when the 1960s ebbed and people started heading back to “normal.”) He then told Ralph the reason that he had joined the anti-war movement after years of relative indifference since he was not involved in the war effort had been that his closest high school friend, Jeff Mullins, had been blown away in the Central Highlands and that had made him question what was going on. Jeff, like them had been as red, white and blue as any guy, had written him when he was in Vietnam that he thought that the place, the situation that he found himself in was more than he bargained for, and that if he didn’t make it back for Sam to tell people, everybody he could what was really going on. Then with just a few months to go Jeff was blown away near some village that Sam could not spell or pronounce correctly even all these many years later. Jeff had not only been Sam’s best friend but was as straight a guy as you could meet, and had gotten Sam out of more than a few scrapes, a few illegal scrapes that could have got him before some judge. So that was how Sam got “religion,” not through some intellectual or rational argument about the theories of war, just wars or “your country right or wrong wars,” but because his friend had been blown away, blown away for no good reason as far as that went.  

At first Sam had worked with Quakers and other pacifist types because he knew they were in Cambridge where he found himself hanging out more and more trying to connect with the happenings that were splitting his generation to hell and back. They got him doing acts of civil disobedience at draft boards, including the Carver Draft Board on Allan Road the place where Jeff had been drafted from (and which created no little turmoil and threats among the Eaton’s neighbors who were still plenty patriotic at that point, his mother and sisters took some of the fire as well), military bases and recruiting stations to try to get the word out to kids who might get hoodwinked in joining up in the slaughter. As the war dragged on though he started going to Cambridge meetings where more radical elements were trying to figure out actions that might stop the damn war cold and that appealed to him more than the “assuming the government was rational and would listen to reason” protest actions of those “gentile little old ladies in tennis sneakers.”

1971 though, May Day 1971 to be exact is, where these two stories, two very different stories with the same theme joined together. Sam at that point in 1971 was like Ralph just trying to get the war ended, maybe help out the Panthers a little but before May Day had no grandiose ideas about changing the “whole freaking world.” Sam had gone down to Washington with a group of Cambridge radicals and “reds” to do what he could to shut down the war under the slogan-“if the government does not shut down the war, we will shut down the government.” Ralph had come down with a contingent of ex-veterans and supporters from Albany for that same purpose. Sam and Ralph had as a result met on the bizarre football field at RFK Stadium which was the main holding area for the thousands of people arrested that day (and throughout the week)

So May Day was a watershed for both men, both men having before May Day sensed that more drastic action was necessary to “tame the American imperial monster” (Sam’s term picked up from The Real Paper, an alternative newspaper he had picked up at a street newsstand in Cambridge) and had come away from that experience, that disaster, with the understanding that even to end the war would take much more, and many more people, than they had previously expected. Ralph, in particular, had been carried away with the notion that what he and his fellow veterans who were going to try to symbolically close down the Pentagon were doing as veterans would cause the government pause, would make them think twice about any retaliation to guys who had served and seen it all. Ralph got “smart” on that one fast when the National Guard which was defending the Pentagon, or part of it that day, treated them like any Chicago cops at the Democratic Party Convention in 1968, treated them like cops did to any SDS-ers anywhere, and like anybody else who raised their voices against governmental policy in the streets.

Ralph told Sam while in captivity that he still worked in his father’s shop for a while but their relationship was icy (and would be for a long time after that although in 1991 when Ralph, Senior retired Ralph took over the business). He would take part in whatever actions he could around the area (and down in New York City a couple of times when they called for re-enforcements to make a big splash).

Ralph has like he said joined with a group of VVAW-ers and supporters for an action down in Washington, D.C. The idea, which would sound kind of strange today in a different time when there is very little overt anti-war activity against the current crop of endless wars but also shows how desperate they were to end that damn war, was to on May Day shut down the government if it did not shut down the war. Their task, as part of the bigger scheme, since they were to form up as a total veterans and supporters contingent was to symbolically shut down the Pentagon. Wild right, but see the figuring was that they, the government, would not dare to arrest vets and they figured (“they” meaning all those who planned the events and went along with the plan) the government would treat it somewhat like the big civilian action at the Pentagon in 1967 which Norman Mailer won a literary prize writing a book about, Armies of the Night. Silly them. 

They after the fall-out from that event were thus searching for a better way to handle things, a better way to make an impact because those few days of detention in D.C. that they had jointly suffered not only started what would be a lifelong personal friendship but an on-going conversation between them over the next several years about how to bring about the greater social change they sensed was needed before one could even think about stopping wars and stuff like that. (The story in short of how they got out of RFK after a few days was pretty straight forward. Since law enforcement was so strapped that week somebody had noticed and passed the word along that some of the side exits in the stadium were not guarded and so they had just walked out and got out of town fast, very fast, hitchhiking back north to Carver, and Ralph later to Troy). Hence the push by Sam toward the study groups led by “red collectives” that were sprouting up then peopled by others who had the same kind of questions which they would join, unjoin and work with, or not work with over the next few years before both men sensed the tide of the rolling 1960s had ebbed. 

Old time high school thoughts even with the cross-fire hells of burned down Vietnam villages melted into the back of his brain crossed his mind when Ralph thought of Marx, Lenin (he, they, were not familiar with Trotsky except he had “bought it” down in Mexico with an icepick from some assassin), Joe Stalin, Red Square, Moscow and commie dupes. Sam had not been far behind in his own youthful prejudices as he told Ralph one night after a class and they were tossing down a few at Jack’s in Cambridge before heading home to the commune where Sam was staying.

Ralph had gone out of his way to note in that blog entry for Fritz that before he got “religion” on the anti-war and later social justice issues he held as many anti-communist prejudices as anybody else in Troy, New York where he hailed from, not excluding his rabidly right-wing father who never really believed until his dying days in 2005 that the United States had lost the war in Vietnam. Ralph had realized that all the propaganda he had been fed was like the wind and his realization of that had made him  a very angry young man when he got out of the Army in late 1969. He tried to talk to his father about it but Ralph, Senior was hung up in a combination “good war, World War II, his war where America saved international civilization from the Nazis and Nips (his father’s term since he fought in the Pacific with the Marines) and “my country, right or wrong.” All Ralph, Senior really wanted Ralph to do was get back to the shop and help him fill those goddam GE defense contract orders. And he did it, for a while.

Ralph had also expressed his feelings of trepidation when after a lot of things went south on the social justice front with damn little to show for all the arrests, deaths, and social cataclysm he and Sam had gotten into a study group in Cambridge run by a “Red October Collective” which focused on studying “Che” Guevara and the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky after an introduction to the Marxist classics. Sam who was living in that commune in Cambridge at the time, the summer of 1972, had invited Ralph to come over from Troy to spent the summer in the study group trying to find out what had gone wrong (and what they had gotten right too, as Sam told him not to forget), why they were spinning their wheels trying to change the world for the better just then and to think about new strategies and tactics for the next big break-out of social activism. At the end of each meeting they would sing the Internationale before the group broke up. At first Ralph had a hard time with the idea of singing a “commie” song (he didn’t put it that way but he might as well have according to Sam) unlike something like John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance, songs like that. As he, they got immersed in the group Ralph lightened up and would sing along if not with gusto then without a snicker.

That same apprehensive attitude had prevailed when after about three meetings they began to study what the group leader, Jeremy, called classic Marxism, the line from Marx and Engels to Lenin and the Bolsheviks. A couple of the early classes dealt with the American Civil War and its relationship to the class struggle in America, and Marx’s views on what was happening, why it was necessary for all progressives to side with the North and the end of slavery, and why despite his personal flaws and attitudes toward blacks Abraham Lincoln was a figure to admire all of which both men knew little about except the battles and military leaders in American History classes. What caused the most fears and consternation was the need for revolution worked out in practice during the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917. They could see that it was necessary in Russia during those times but America in the 1970s was a different question, not to speak of the beating that they had taken for being “uppity” in the streets in Washington, D.C. in 1971 when they didn’t think about revolution (maybe others had such ideas but if so they kept them to themselves) and the state came crashing down on them.    

The biggest problem though was trying to decipher all the various tendencies in the socialist movement. Ralph, maybe Sam more so, though if everybody wanted the same thing, wanted a better and more peaceful system to live under then they should all get together in one organization, or some such form. The split between the Social Democrats and the Communists, later the split between Stalinists and Trotskyists, and still later the split between Stalinists and Maoists had their heads spinning, had then thankful that they did not have to fight those fights out.

All in all though they had the greatest respect for Trotsky, Trotsky the serious smart intellectual with a revolver in his hand. Had maybe a little sympathy for the doomed revolutionary tilling against the windmills and not bitching about it. Maybe feeling a little like that was the rolling the rock up the hill that they would be facing. That admiration of Trotsky did not extend to the twelve million sects, maybe that number is too low, who have endlessly split from a stillborn organization he started when he felt the Communist International had stopped being a revolutionary force, the Fourth International. Sam brought up a Catholic would make Ralph laugh when he compared those disputes to the old time religious disputes back in the Middle Ages about how many angels would fit on the tip of a needle. They, after spending the summer in study decided that for a while they would work with whoever still needed help but that as far as committing to joining an ongoing organization forget it. 

At the beginning in any case, and that might have affected his ultimate decision, some of Ralph’s old habits kind of held him back, you know the anti-red stuff, Cold War enemy stuff, just like at first he had had trouble despite all he knew about calling for victory to the Viet Cong (who in-country they called “Charlie” in derision although after Tet 1968 with much more respect when Charlie came at them and kept coming despite high losses). But Ralph got over it, got in the swing. 

The Marxism did not come easy, the theory part, maybe for Ralph a little more than Sam who had taken junior college night classes to bolster the small print shop he had built from nothing after Mister Snyder moved his operation to Quincy to be nearer his main client, State Street Bank and Trust (although for long periods his old Carver friend, Jack Callahan, managed the place when Sam was off on his campaigns). They got that the working-class, their class, should rule and be done with inequalities of all kinds but the idea of a revolution, or more importantly, a working class party which was on everybody’s mind in those days to lead that revolution seemed, well, utopian. The economic theory behind Marxism, that impossible to read Das Capital and historical materialism as a philosophy were books sealed with seven seals for them both. Nevertheless for a few years, say until 1975, 1976 when the tide really had ebbed for anybody who wanted to see they hung around with the local “reds,” mostly those interested in third world liberation struggles and political prisoner defense work. Those were really the earnest “socialist years” although if you had asked them for a model of what their socialism looked like they probably would have pointed to Cuba which seemed fresher than the stodgy old Soviet Union with their Brezhnev bureaucrats.

After that time while they would periodically read the left press and participate any time somebody, some group needed bodies for a rally, demonstration, some street action they would be there in their respective hometowns that they both eventually filtered back to. Then 2002 came and the endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and seemingly a million other places drove them to drop their “armed truce” (Sam’s term picked up by Ralph) with society and return to the streets , return with an almost youthful vengeance. They would see young people at the rallies hocking their little Marxist papers, maybe buy one to read a home but that flame that had caused them to join study groups, to work with Marxist-oriented “red collectives,” to read books that were hard to fathom had passed, had passed just as socialism as a way to end humankind’s impasses had fallen out of favor once the Soviet Union and its satellites had gone up in a puff of smoke.

Then the endless wars came Iraq I (old man Bush’s claim to fame) although too short to get Ralph and Sam off their couches, Serbia, the big flare-ups in the Middle East name your country of the day or week where the bombs, United States bombs no matter the disguise of some voluntary coalition of the “willing.” The thing that galled Ralph though was the attempts to do war “on the cheap” with killer-drones in place of humans and war materials. The gall part coming from the fact that despite the new high-tech battlefield each succeeding President kept asking for “boots on the ground” to put paid to the notion that all the technology in the world would not secure, as he knew from painful experience in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, the ground which needed to be controlled. So the grunts would have to be rolled out and the drones, well, the drones would just keep like all bombs, manned or unmanned, would keep creating that damn collateral damage.    

So the wars drove them back to the streets as “elders” but then things like the Great Recession (really depression except for the rich who did not fallout of high office buildings this time like in 1929) and the quicksilver minute response of the Occupy movement where they spent much time for the short time the movement raised its head publically.

More troubling recently had been the spate of police brutality cases and murders of young black men for being black and alive it seemed. Ralph and Sam had cut their teeth in the movement facing the police and while they were not harassed as a matter of course except when they courted the confrontations they did know that the cops like a lot of people think, a lot of people in the movement too, were nobody’s friends, should be treated like rattlesnakes. Every fiber of their bones told them that from about high school corner boy days. Still how were a couple of old white guys with good hearts going to intersect a movement driven by young mostly black kids who were worried about surviving and who for the most part were not political. They both longed for the days when the Black Panthers could get a hearing from that crowd about self-defense but also about the dirty role of the cops in keeping the ghetto army of occupation in full force.  

Everywhere they went, to each demonstration, rally, vigil, speak-out they would see a new cohort of the young earnest Marxist-types hocking their newspapers and leaflets. Sam thought one time, maybe more than one time, that maybe those earnest kids with their wafer-thin newspapers will study the classics and make more sense out of them than Sam and Ralph could. As for Sam and Ralph they would now just keep showing up to support the “good old cause.”              

Here is what Sam had to say recently about the endless wars that were disturbing his sleep these days with the carnage and pillage:
For a very long time, a very long time it seems now since the first days that  I started looking to the Russian revolutions of 1917 (the essentially embryonic stillborn one in February and the more world-historic Soviet socialist one in October) and to a somewhat lesser extent that of 1905 as historical events that anybody seriously interested in working-class centered revolution has to take the measure of I have seemingly endlessly touted the example of the Bolshevik Duma deputies (who actually resided in the workers section of that body, proving yet again the second, hell, maybe third class status of that class in Imperial Russia) in voting against the Czar’s war budgets for supplies in World War I (and winding up in Siberian exile for their troubles) as a prime example of what anti-war parliamentary representatives should do when the war drums start beating. I have also noted the examples of the Bulgarian and Serbian Social-Democrats in that war voting against their respective war budgets, and more so given the more decisive character of the betrayed of socialism by the cowardly majority of the German Social-Democrats, the valor of Karl Liebknecht in Germany in breaking with Social-Democratic Party policy of voting as a bloc in voting against the Kaiser’s war budgets also in that same war (and winding in the Kaiser’s jails for his efforts). I have argued with those in the now almost moribund anti-war movement as well as in the past starting with George McGovern in the early 1970s when I began to think through how to stop the damn wars that seem to constantly confront us in the age of the American imperium that the key to any political support to any politician is their negative vote on the war budgets. That, at times, has meant not voting for the over-all defense budget which is asking for way too much of any bourgeois political these days and would have me put away in some protective institution for my own good even by Senator Bernie Saunders of Vermont just against the specific budgets for whatever current adventure the United States government has embarked upon. You know the one hundred billion here and there each year for Afghanistan, Iraq and the odd conflict all of which by every reasonable account adds up to some serious money, over a trillion dollars at last count, drawn down the drain. That is the litmus test for any serious opposition at the parliamentary level. [Saunders who has just announced for the presidency here in America for 2016 not as an independent socialist but as some kind of animal called a “democratic socialist” running as a Democrat against Madame Clinton, one of the wings of the war party and thus no longer worthy of consideration as a candidate. His consistent votes for endless military aid to Israel in order to continue the savage suppression of the Palestinian people within and outside its borders also precludes such support.]

This, if the recent past is any example, is no abstract question these days as I wrote in February 2015 when President Obama was scratching around once again for Congressional authorization to go after ISIS and whoever else he has in his gun-sights these days. Who knows what is next if the Saudis get bogged down in Yemen, some other country becomes a “failed state” after a little off-hand American bombing and troops, somebody’s troops paid out of the U.S. mint coin of the realm. At that moment I, we, the anti-war movement was not even asking anything about saying “no” to the war budgets but for Congress to simply say “no” to another imperial adventure. That simply sane act would be a big step and even Senator Bernie Saunders of Vermont would grant me a reprieve from that institution he was about to throw me in for such a reasonable request. Let’s get to it, let’s set a fire under the Congress each time war resolutions and war budgets come to the floor and hold each and every hand to that fire on this one. Even if we have to hold our noses while doing so. 

Some of my fellow anti-war activists have argued with me about this “no support for politicians who say “yes” to war resolutions and budgets citing the “progressive” variation of the old chestnut that you must support Democrat X because despite the fact that he or she put up every hand for every war resolution and every war budget you have to support him or her because the other guys, usually Republican W, Y, Z, are so much worse, maybe wants to bomb extra countries or jack up the war budget or something. All these so-called anti-war maneuvers of supporting the “lesser evil” whether my fellows know it or not were honed into an art form in their turns by the Socialist Party whose pro and anti-war faction fights over World War I and the example of the Russian October as the most decisive anti-war action in history when they withdrew from World War I, the Communist Party when they back-handedly (and not so back-handedly when the deal went down) backed every Roosevelt action in World War II and the Socialist Workers Party who openly promoted their links to bourgeois politicians and refused to make a no on the war budget a litmus test in the Vietnam anti-war movement, the three leftwing organizations in this country that have had the minimal clout necessary to argue this point. I cannot follow that path. However I am always ready to join with the too few forces who care about such questions of war and peace to oppose whatever action the American government is taking to gear up for war, or gear up their incessant bombing, and now drone campaigns. So yes you will see me walking along with the brethren whenever the call comes out.   

Off the recent track record in the failed state of Iraq, the failed state in Libya, the nearly failed state in Syria (I am still looking for those “moderate” anti-ISIS forces that the United States is trying to supply in Syria) and also the nearly failed state in Ukraine all of which have the fingerprints of American involvement over them the beginning of wisdom is to oppose further military involvement beginning with a “no” vote to supply the damn wars. Hands Off Syria! No New War In Iraq! Stop The Bombings and Drone Attacks! Down With The Saudi Bombings In Yemen! No Military Aid to Ukraine….and that is just for starters.