The Maine Walk for Peace & A Sustainable Future is underway and winding its way along the glorious autumn roads of central Maine. It began Saturday, Oct. 11, in Rangeley, and the group will pass through Phillips, Farmington, Livermore Falls, Lewiston, Gray, Portland, and Saco before the scheduled arrival in North Berwick on Monday, Oct. 20.
It is the goal of the walk, sponsored by Maine Veterans for Peace, to connect various communities that have become reliant on military production for jobs. “We hope to accelerate a statewide discussion about the need to diversify Maine’s growing dependence on military production,” explained lead organizer, Bruce Gagnon, at the introductory meeting.
The 15 walkers would begin the trek to Phillips, 22 miles to the south, Sunday morning. In Rangeley on Saturday evening, they were guests at a community dinner hosted by the Congregational Church and had an opportunity to share their hopes and motivations for the walk with local residents. Much of the conversation revolved around the possibility that Rangeley will be selected as the site of a “missile defense” interceptor base. Walker Mary Beth Sullivan, a social worker from Bath expressed a common sentiment. Referencing a study conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute at UMASS-Amherst which showed that military spending creates the fewest jobs—while spending on solar, rail, education, health care, or fixing roads and bridges creates more jobs with the same amount of money, Sullivan said, “Disadvantaged people in our society are paying the price for our reliance on military production. We should be looking at society’s real needs.”
One participant, Mike Gibson, a student from Augusta, who will be walking the distance, when asked what motivated him to make this commitment, simply stated, “I have a conscience, that says I don’t want to be a part of an economy that is building weapons.”
The walkers will be distributing flyers and sharing information along the roads and in the hosting communities each evening. The core group though small, 15-20, will be joined by scores more for a day or two, including students and residents of Farmington. They urge others to join and refer them to http://vfpmaine.org/Peace Walk Route Maps for Maine2014.pdf for schedule and contact information.
Gagnon closed his inaugural meeting with a rhetorical question. “America and Maine’s economies are increasingly addicted to the military. What does that say about the soul of our nation and state?”
The walk will conclude with a demonstration at the Pratt-Whitney plant in North Berwick, which has a $2 billion contract to build F-35 fighter engines.