Veterans for Peace
PRESENT: Fred Brancato ( Guest From Elders for Future Generations), Ginny Schneider (guest from Maine WTR Resource Center on Youth and Militarism), Martha Morrison, Dave Crowley, Peter Morgan, Gerry Kamke, Richard Clement, Bud Buzzell, Peggy Akers, Robin Spencer, Rita Clement, John Morris, Dan Ellis, David Larsen, and Doug Rawlings
Tom Sturtevant Chapter 1
February 25, 2016
USM Wishcamper Building, Room 203
- Peggy began the meeting by referring to a letter from Dot Blanchette, Tim's widow, which Richard subsequently read to us. In the letter, Tim's brother mentioned that he would like to work with our chapter to set up a Bike Ride in August to Acknowledge the Impact of Multiple Sclerosis. An award could be set up to especially recognize a person who has overcome adversity. Richard suggested that we could combine this with our annual fundraiser for MaineShare. Tim's brother also thought that it would be meaningful for us to connect with Tim's sons. Peggy volunteered to be the chapter member who will remain in contact with Dot and Tim's brother.
- Despite the misspelling of Ms Topa's name, the previous secretary's minutes were accepted. At this point, members of the chapter were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of a five piece band that celebrated the passage of the secretary's duties from these weary hands to those of Nicole Moreau. Richard told us that she contacted him and wants to do this task. Next meeting will be her first opportunity to do so. (Everyone is very glad! We can stop listening to the current temp secretary’s complaints. . . not that he hasn’t done an extraordinary job . . . Dan)
- Treasurer's Report: we have a balance of $7,675.84. Richard prepared and filed a 990 report to the State of Maine. Dan Ellis is our new treasurer.
- Richard announced that the MaineShare reports are all in. We are all set with them until June.
- Dan Ellis presented the Membership Report. We currently have 84 paid-up dues-paying members. There are currently 23 members who are not up-to-date with their dues, so Dan has written each person a letter inquiring whether they want to continue on as VFP members. He will update the membership roles accordingly.
- Richard read from a letter presented by Regis Tremblay about his recent trip to Germany promoting and working on his next full-length documentary. He also travelled to Italy, finding wherever he went that people are concerned about the U.S. foreign policies , especially with Russia, that threaten to ignite a war in Europe. He also stopped over in Turkey, reflecting on how people everywhere only want peace to raise their families.
- Doug passed out recent copies of the latest VFP newspaper PEACE IN OUR TIMES, remarking on its increased size (24 pages), its excellent coverage of national and international events, and its suitability for us as we work on peace issues. Members picked up multiple copies to distribute in their locales. He also announced that we are putting together a special edition covering the VFP Full Disclosure movement that will come out in a few weeks and will be used to promote our VFP letter writing campaign. Once again, Doug reminded folks to write their Letters to The Wall for this year's Memorial Day action in Washington, DC.
- Fred Brancato prefaced his remarks about the Elders White Paper by thanking us for working with him and his group in the recent action to get Senator King to advocate for more reasonable gun controls in our state. He thinks (and we agree) that we made for a good team that could make a difference. He looks forward to working with us in the future.
Fred then read the draft of his group's white paper entitled "Peace as a Powerful Alternative to War and Violence." He is seeking input from us as a veterans' organization, as well as setting the groundwork for an alliance between our two organizations. Fred's remarks were enthusiastically received by all around the table. Here are a few highlights that I picked up, knowing that Fred will send us his observations on our conversation at a later date:
- The Elders are a group of 80 senior citizens (grown from an original enrollment of 15) who have been meeting every two weeks at USM for the past two and a half years. They consider themselves more of a "network" than an organization as such. And, Fred pointed out, their network reaches out to other networks in larger areas. They are concerned about the legacy we will be leaving for future generations. The group mostly focuses on public policy issues. Their hope is that their finished white paper will be disseminated widely around our country.
The group has worked on the four general areas: the environment, education, health care, and campaign finance reform (an issue they consider to be of extreme importance). On the environment front, Fred noted that one of their members was the key driving force that stopped the TarSands pipeline from coming through Portland and that they are currently working on the "Clear Skies" ordinance. In terms of education, they are concerned about measuring and improving the quality of local teaching institutions.
Right now, however, the group is focusing on war and peace, hence the white paper under consideration, which they hope will garner national attention. They anticipate forming alliances with groups like VFP as well as with churches and other community organizations.
After Fred finished reading his group's paper, we became engaged in a spirited discussion of its finer points (all of us agreeing that the paper is well written and comprehensive in its reach). One sticking point was the paper's recommendation that a compulsory requirement be established for young people to engage in two years of community service. Some of us were concerned about how this might encourage continuing a military draft registration program. Some of us thought that perhaps that requirement might make military adventurism more unlikely since more people would have "skin in the game." Rita shared her experience growing up in Germany, where compulsory community service was the norm (but is no longer). She thought that it worked pretty well since she and her colleagues accepted this service as just a part of growing up.
Fred informed us that he did hear back from Senator King's office concerning our recent visit about gun control. The staff said that they did not differ much with our proposed policies and with our suggestion that a firm statement from King himself might put Maine in the spotlight on this issue. One point that we might actually see concrete action take place around is the issue of magazine capacity. Right now King supports a rifle magazine capacity of ten rounds. We advocated for a capacity of three rounds. A member of the Elders group, upon researching state regulations, found that the state recommends five round capacity. So, we will go back to King's office and strongly recommend that he change his proposal to align itself with the existing Maine legislation calling for a maximum of five rounds per magazine. Stay tuned.
Fred's observations will be forthcoming.
- Ginny Schneider from the Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center spoke next. Richard introduced her by way of reminding us that he, as the recipient of Maine's Peacemaker Award on our chapter's behalf, passed the award on to Rosalie Tyler Paul this past year. Rosalie had worked closely with our beloved Tom Sturtevant on combatting militarism and military recruitment in our schools. She had convinced Ginny to approach us to renew the conversation about how to continue Tom's work.
Ginny has been a war tax resister since 1985. She has served on the national War Tax Coordinating Committee. She went to El Salvador during the height of their war. After moving back to Maine, she was approached by Larry Dansinger to work on war tax issues and to begin planning for April actions. She has already contacted seven or eight towns and colleges to set up tables, etc.
Ginny is interested in working with us on the issue of the militarization of youth. She pointed out how the U.S. currently violates the United Nations charter when our military actively recruits young people under the age of eighteen. In the past, she worked with the American Friends Service in New Hampshire to pass legislation that curbed the use of the military's ASVAB exam and that made the opt-out option available to high school students. Now she wants to start a youth and militarization project here in Maine. Not only does she want to work on how the military gets data about our youth through the ASVAB exam, but also wants to reach out to beleaguered guidance counselors who have to fend off military recruiters on a daily basis. She wants to form a group within VFP (some of us volunteered to work with her) to raise money and start to work on getting back into schools. The conversation revolved around how we can do that. Peace Jam was mentioned. Paul Chapelle's upcoming visit to Maine in March was mentioned. We resolved to continue meeting with Ginny and to keep the chapter informed of our actions.
- Peter Morgan reminded us that the Vietnam Moving Wall is arriving in Thomaston on May26th for four days through Memorial Day. We discussed briefly how we might engage with others at the Wall. Some of us will be in Washington, DC on those days delivering letters through the national Full Disclosure action. Doug shared the thought that those of us involved on the national level are encouraging people to replicate this effort in their local communities by writing letters (and placing them at local sites) and then sending them to us for placement at the Wall in DC. Please write a letter! For further examples, go to our website at vietnamfulldisclosure.org.
- Peter also announced that he was driving to Boston to participate in the Smedley Butler chapter's anti-Islamophobia action. The chapter is gathering at the largest mosque in New England to show that VFP supports those of the Islam faith who have moved to the U.S. Gerry Kamke indicated that he would go with Peter, and a few others from our chapter might join them. Richard read from the official VFP statement on Islamophobia that calls for all of us to stand up to intolerance.
- Richard announced that the annual Memorial Day parade in Brunswick has accepted the theme of "Remember Pearl Harbor" for this year. Discussion will continue at the next chapter meeting on how or if our chapter will participate in this year's parade (last year members joined with Peace Works members).
- Richard informed us that the Changing Maine Gathering will take place on March 19th in Augusta. ROSC is organizing the event.
- Bill McKibben from 350.org will be speaking at USM's Talbot Hall on March 3rd at 7:00pm. Bruce Gagnon and others will be speaking as well. Please read Naomi Klein's book THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.
- Dan Ellis informed us about the upcoming Peace Walk this fall and encouraged our chapter to provide some financial support. Although we tabled discussion of the amount of that support until next meeting, Peter moved (and Bud seconded) that we agree to sponsor the action. The motion passed.
- Richard passed around his annual VFP Tom Sturtevant Chapter report on last year's actions just as our meeting was wrapping up. We encourage him to bring the report to the next meeting so that we can look at it in more detail. It is quite impressive.
- Bud's planned interview about violence on WMPG radio did not take place as planned. It has been re-scheduled to March 2nd at 1:00pm. A CD and perhaps a DVD might be made of the talk. The host of the show, Maureen Topa, would like to attend a future VFP meeting. We all thanked Bud for representing us on her show.
- The meeting adjourned at 9:14pm.
NEXT MEETING WILL BE ON MARCH 31st AT THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF BRUNSWICK IN THE MAY SARTON ROOM, 7:00 PM
Veterans For Peace
Tom Sturtevant Chapter
P.O. Box 927
Brunswick, ME 04011