September 1

I sit alone in my home office in the wee morning hours of the anniversary of the crime that led to blood on the tracks twenty-six years ago, when I was 46 years old, more than eighteen years after my entire life perspective started changing radically while “serving” in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta at the age of 27. My learning curve has always been slow ever since I was in grade school, seemingly always the last kid in my small, rural class to learn handwriting, to learn reading (always in remedial reading), to read music (still cannot read music), to learn basic arithmetic, etc., tho I was a good speller by 6th grade. The pattern began to significantly shift in 7th grade when I started to excel even tho I remained a slow reader, which is true to this day. By 8th grade which was as high a grade as my small, rural village’s school went in those days in the 1950s, I was the valedictorian. Then I took a bus to high school ten miles away which in those days seemed like a long ways. My lower-working-class religious parents were proud that I might get a high school diploma.

I did not begin to see any of the Grand Lie of the US mythology from the Puritans to the Founding Fathers to the Constitution to Manifest Destiny, etc., until spring 1969 during my first few weeks in Viet Nam at an old age of 27. (I was drafted at age 25 out of graduate school, dumbed down to the hilt.) It seemed, however, that as I began to see the first glimpses of the lie in the lives and bodies of Vietnamese villagers, its various and multiple layers began to rapidly unravel, over a period of four months. It was as if a guillotine suddenly had chopped off my ideological head. I was no longer able to walk the line, even as I initially really wanted to continue walking the path of American bliss. Just couldn’t put the lie back into the bottle as you all know in your own life experiences. My once proud parents were now embarrassed, resentful, and ashamed of their “lost” son. They were angry with my “bad attitude.”

But, still, it has taken many years to fully grasp the diabolical nature of Western industrial civilization, of nation-state-ism, of USA Disney, and it leaves me with grave questions as to how to recover my humanity while waking up each day in a culture of make believe and pretend, and bombings over and over and over.

On September 1, 1987, many of my family and friends (nearly fifty of whom were present as witnesses near the tracks at Concord) fully expected routine arrests of us three vets involved in the blocking action that day; we were fully aware we were risking a year in prison and $5,000 fine for interfering with movement of federal munitions trains. The lie of America, and all the moaning and suffering in its wake had been searing in my soul for 18 years by that time. I knew when that munitions train got by our block — the last obstacle to this death train being able to move lethal weapons to Central America with only one purpose, that of maiming and murdering impoverished people — real human beings worth no less than us would be maimed, murdered, displaced, and only a few people in my own country cared or gave a shit. The three train crew members, civilian employees of the US Navy, it turned out were also Viet Nam veterans, but they were still following orders of the Man which, on that day, said NOT to stop for us veterans. (This is literally true.) Unbeknownst to us at the time, Duncan Murphy and I were both on the FBI’s domestic terrorist suspect list due to our participation in the Veterans Fast For Life one year earlier.

And as I witness with all of you the United States’ continued historical pattern of barbaric war-making (well over 560 military interventions with troops since 1798; 28 countries bombed since 1945, Syria will be 29), I feel sickness in my stomach as I hear Obomber’s lead cheerleader, John Forbes Kerry (who was in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta as a Navy Lt at the same time I was in the Delta as a USAF Lt) declare that the US must take the “moral high ground” to directly respond to Syrian “moral obscenity.” Kerry and I first met in 1971 at VVAW’s anti-war actions in DC in response to the moral obscenities being committed by the US in Southeast Asia. From 1982-1987 I associated with Kerry: first when he was Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, then worked on his first campaign to become a US Senator in 1984, then served on his veteran’s advisory council once elected. Once in office, I soon became so disgruntled with Kerry that by 1987 I resigned from his advisory council. Though he sent condolence balloons to my hospital bed after I was nearly killed by the train (this is true), we have never seen each other since. Nevertheless, his campaign staff asked if I would work on his 2004 presidential campaign to defeat Bush II, hinting that if Kerry won I would be appointed to some position with the VA. Geez, these folks just don’t get it.

Kerry and I followed such different paths though both of us were anti-war when first out of that war in Viet Nam. But here is a case where power and ego can so smoothly lead to one’s adherence to diabolical behavior equivalent or exceeding the behavior we once renounced with vigor. And, isn’t it interesting that both our Secretary of State (a Delta Swift Boat commander) and Secretary of War (a Sergeant in the 9th Infantry Division, also in the Delta), are Viet Nam veterans who have said at various times that the US needs to learn from our “mistakes” in Viet Nam.

The diabolical pattern continues, and in some ways we are all complicit unless and until we collectively amass in the streets making governing/business-as-usual impossible, or in the alternative, totally withdraw our support by transitioning to local self-reliant communities possessing some autonomy—or some combination of each. Our country is unreformable and irredeemable, founded on the forceful dispossession of hundreds of Indigenous nations of real human beings in order to steal land, killing millions with total impunity; the forceful kidnapping of hundreds of tribes of Africans comprised of real human beings in order to steal labor, killing millions with total impunity; the forceful theft of raw materials and resources from around the world, killing and impoverishing millions with total impunity. These three holocausts have enabled us to believe we are an “exceptional” society. Rather, we are like spoiled adolescents who have never been held to account for our systematic criminality. The wool has not been pulled over our eyes. The wool IS our eyes.

The consequent pain and suffering caused by this historical pattern of US wealth built on massive exploitation has been outsourced out of our feeling field, out of our view, and still remains unspeakable. Yet the facade is cracking, as evidenced by the Occupy movement, and the repressive crackdown of that movement revealed how terrified the system is of people power emerging outside the claustrophobic box of acceptable reality. The official responses to the revelatory acts of people such as Bradley (Chelsea) Manning and Edward Snowden, show how really unbearable the truth is to the system; not surprising, since it has always operated on the lie, on pretend. Pretty incredible to watch how it runs for cover when faced with such dreaded transparency.

Brian in rearview mirrorI celebrate 26 years of surviving a murder attempt that has left me walking upright on two prostheses, a plate in my skull protecting my damaged frontal lobe, with the grand opportunity of now having arm-powered myself more than 65,000 miles on handcycle. Today, Becky and I cycled to the rally against bombing Syria where we were inspired as we met many Syrians and other young people who totally get the lie. Yahoo!

Find your tracks, define your train, find others, and make your stand. Dignity trumps longevity.

— Brian, walking and handcycling in my 73rd year. Hard to believe.

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Close Gitmo Now!

Brian with "Hunger for Justice" banner
ABOVE: Portland, Oregon, June 11, 2013—Canadian playwright Sean Devine joins S. Brian Willson and other Portland vigilers calling for the release of illegally held detainees and closure of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Detention Center. Sean is the author of a play about Norman Morrison titled Re:Union; the published version will include a foreword by Brian. Sean blogged about meeting Brian in a 6/12 post on the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades Theatre blog.

As of Sunday evening, June 9th, S. Brian Willson has announced the end of the 300-calorie-a-day fast he managed to maintain for 28 days straight, but promises to continue to find other expressions of solidarity with the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Over 100 of those being held at “Gitmo” have been on a hunger strike since early 2013 to protest their continued detention without charge or trial or prospect of release.

Brian intended to carry on his solidarity fast for a much longer stretch of time, but on the 22nd day of his fast he was struck head-on by an SUV while sitting at a stop on his handcycle, and the trauma sustained in that accident greatly speeded up the demise of his mental and physical capacity to maintain the fast.

A regular vigil in downtown Portland, Oregon (so far held in front of City Hall, at the corner of SW 4th and SW Jefferson), launched in tandem with Brian’s fasting action, continues indefinitely. Similar actions are being organized in communities nationwide to help raise awareness, keep the issue in the public eye, and keep the pressure on the Obama Administration to close the detention center sooner rather than later. To learn more, follow the nationwide campaign at Other good online resources include the Witness Against Torture website and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Another action with ties to Portland is today’s release of the illustrated story of one woman Navy veteran who was based at Guantanamo at the time the first detainees were brought there in 2002. Though told in a spare, abbreviated, comic-style format, the beautifully illustrated story packs a punch by depicting the actual gut-wrenching experiences and emotional struggles of a real person. It is featured in the “Heroines” edition (#3) of the new Symbolia Magazine for tablet. You can download the magazine in iPad, PDF and Kindle formats for a mere $2.99.

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Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You…

…with your help!

Video clip from Paying the Price for Peace videoBo Boudart Productions is seeking sponsors to fund the final production phase of a new documentary film about nonviolent peace activism featuring none other than S. Brian Willson. The working title is Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson and the Peace Movement. A nine-minute trailer of the film is viewable on YouTube. Please help us spread the word about this exciting project!

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My Country is the World

My Country is the World cover imageBrian recently put together a companion volume to Blood on the Tracks, which he self-published early in 2013 under the title, My Country is the World: Photo Journey of a Stumbling Western Satyagrahi. The 6″x9″ softcover numbers 280 pages and contains over 400 images from Brian’s personal archives, presented in chronological order, which together tell the story of his amazing life.

The book contains detailed captions in addition to the images. A less intimidating read than Blood on the Tracks, it is a great choice for the classroom. My Country is the World is available online at CreateSpace. The purchase price is $34.09, not including shipping.

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Recommended reading

The moving September 1st commemoration of Nuremberg Actions’ stand on the train tracks at the Concord (California) Naval Weapons Station 25 years ago in protest of arms shipments to Central America, and the ensuing tragic maiming of Brian Willson, continues to reverberate. While the story published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on SFGate was very brief (accompanied by a photo by Mathew Sumner taken from Brian’s-Legs’ view), in-depth articles inspired by the anniversary have been published in Street Spirit (by Terry Messman with contributions by Ariel Messman-Rucker) and on the Waging Nonviolence blog (by peace activist extraordinaire Ken Butigan, one of the original members of Nuremberg Actions).

Here are a few more visuals of the 2012 event captured by my own camera:

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Bay Area News Group video captures spirit of the day

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September 1st marks 25 years…

Nuremberg Actions 25th Anniversary Flyer


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Thank You Frank!

Frank wearing his "No War" t-shirtWe want to take a moment to express our gratitude to Frank Dorrel, one of the hardest working people we know—working for peace, that is. Frank has been one of Brian Willson’s most ardent supporters ever since he heard Brian speak in the late 1980s. A clip of Brian is featured at the conclusion of Frank’s best-selling DVD compilation, What I’ve Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy. Frank is also responsible for publishing and distributing thousands of copies of the comic book penned by Joel Andreas, Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism, including a Spanish-language version. Frank is Brian’s biggest fan and the promotion he has done in the past two decades to get Brian’s message out comes straight from his heart. We are so grateful to Frank for arranging a second Southern California book tour for Brian, five events taking place August 16-19, 2012, and for doing it with his usual dedication and flair. We are also grateful to all the fine organizations that are cosponsoring the southland events.* Brian will be accompanied on this tour by Mike Hastie, a fellow Veteran For Peace who specializes in antiwar-themed photographic essays. Thanks to Frank Dorrel, they are both looking forward to a warm reception and a great round of events in So Cal.

*The Aug. 2012 Southern California tour cosponsors include: Addicted to War, International Action Center, KPFK Freedom Now Radio Show Host Dedon Kamathi, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, Citizen’s Action For Peace, Military Families Speak Out – Orange County, Office of the Americas, Paying the Price for Peace Film Project, Puerto Rican Alliance, School of the Americas Watch Los Angeles, Union of Progressive Iranians, Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach Social Justice Committee, and Veterans For Peace Los Angeles Chapter.
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Wordstock 2012!

Brian received an email this week inviting him to be a featured author with his Blood on the Tracks memoir at this year’s Wordstock Festival in Portland, Oregon. We mailed in a book and an application months ago and had pretty much forgotten about it, so this is a wonderful surprise! Wordstock is an annual event, a fantastic four-day book fair featuring book talks and panels, workshop for writers and teachers, and other special events. This year’s festival is scheduled for October 11-14. Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more details…

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Cold Rain and Warm Hearts

We’ve landed in Vancouver, BC where Brian enjoyed a warm and lively reception to his first talk at Langara College last evening. Today we are enjoying the downfall of almost-snowy rain outside while we relax with friends inside their cozy little house. The mountains to the north are shrouded by clouds at the moment, but with their sprinkling of snow the view was magnificent yesterday afternoon as we made our way into the city.

Tonight is the first public event of our first mini Northwest Tour, which on this trip will include just this city and then Bellingham, Washington on March 1 and 2. Yes, we want to come back and hit more cities, including Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle in Washington and Victoria and Nanaimo in B.C. That will either happen this coming spring or in the fall, or possibly both!

To see the details of the talks lined up this week, beginning with the People’s Co-op Bookstore appearance at 7pm tonight in Vancouver (on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver), click on the “Tour Dates” tab above. Please help spread the word…

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