A General Meeting for USC4P&J was held at Gene's apartment on November 20. Attending were: Anna, Gene, Ilona, Maria V., Maria Chiara, Gretchen, Michelle, Peter and Stephanie.
We first addressed the news that Michael had moved away and had therefore decided to resign from the CCom. In accordance with USC4P&J guidelines (OSOM), another member – in this case, Anna – was appointed to fill the vacancy. This news was met with approval from everyone present.
The meeting then largely followed the pre-posted agenda:
1. On the subject of the 3-day mobilization in Vicenza (Dec 14-16), five members present (Anna, Maria V, Maria Chiara, Michelle, & Stephanie) said they would go for at least 1-2 of the three days of events. Options were discussed and it was generally agreed that an announcement should be sent out to the members' mailing list to get a better idea of who else might be interested. It was also agreed that there should be an offer – as an extra incentive – of the possibility of travelling by van (the rental of which would be subsidized by USC4P&J), so that those interested could pay as little as 20 euro on travel. Michelle volunteered to look into transportation possibilities. If actual numbers failed to make renting a van feasible, we could also have the option of members of our group travelling by car with Maria V. Low cost air flights also remained another option. Gene suggested that we should all, as individuals, do our best to encourage members to join the group going to Vicenza, and also create a working group that will help increase our visibility and impact there.
2. Discussion of our support of an Italian campaign for a law by citizen initiative on military bases and military servitude concluded that, although it will be an uphill battle to get parliament to even take up the law much less pass it, we endorse its aims and values and the more talk there is of these issues, the better. Supporting the campaign will mean helping in signature collection, dissemination of information, presence at events, etc.)
3. The “crisis of representation” and the failure of Congress to bring about policy change were raised by Gene. All agreed that no real change had taken place despite the clear mandate given by voters in the last elections. Peter noted that Congress' ratings were as low as the president's (it was also pointed out that this was not unusual). Aside from political motivation to hold off from cutting funding and bringing an end to the war closer, the Democrats had also failed to do more on the issue of immigration. Stephanie summed up the situation in Congress as one characterized by Democrats playing politically-motivated games. In response, it was agreed (and strongly urged by both Gene and Stephanie) that we must all encourage other members and friends to make their dissatisfaction heard. It was pointed out that aside from simply ‘clicking' on online pre-written letters and petitions, we need to promote more individual or personalized messages (such as hand-written letters or phone calls) to US Representatives, as well as for the continued call for impeachment. It was agreed that USC4P&J announcements, that clearly list ways how we can contact our Congressmen/women, should be sent out to members and friends.
4. On the subject of proposals of support for military dissent in Italy, the idea of setting up a GI rights hotline as proposed by Phil and Martina (in Naples) was discussed. It was agreed that the running of such a hotline would not be feasible or even sensible for us in Rome. On the other hand, the idea of handing out cards that provide information on GI rights and useful contacts (as was done before in Vicenza and Livorno by Maria V, Stephanie and Nancy from the Florence group) directly to soldiers was accepted as the best way we could help on this issue. Those interested and living near bases, such as in Naples, could reach more soldiers and would be encouraged to produce these (downloadable) cards and hand them out. It was generally agreed that it would be in soldiers' best interests to be directed to contacts and help lines in the US.
5. Stephanie announced that she was working on a new version of the USC4P&J website, so that others could update or add to it more easily. As soon as a stable version is ready, a message will be sent to the list to form a working group to decide on the look and feel.
6. The loan vs. rental of USC4P&J DVDs was discussed. It was agreed that no rental fees would be charged, but that an optional contribution would be suggested to those borrowing. It was announced that Anna had volunteered to be the DVD librarian.
The meeting ended with Gene saying (and with all agreeing) that we should tell as many people as we can – particularly in the US – to check our website regularly!
Thanks to Gene for his hospitality and yummy snacks and to Maria Chiara for the apple cake with Tajikistani raisins!