I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones
-Albert Einstein (contemplating nuclear devastation)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reflection on recent workshop: "Nuclear Weapons: The Elephant in the Room"

Editor's Note: The following essay about the June 28th nuclear weapons workshop in Tacoma is reprinted from the Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation's Pacific Call newsletter. The author, Noreen Koga, reflected on her attendance at the day-long session at Tacoma First United Methodist Church. I plan to post summaries of the day's workshop breakout sessions soon.


Nuclear Weapons: The Elephant in the Room

by Noreen Koga

The drive to Tacoma was cool and clear that Saturday morning in late June 2014. Not knowing what to expect I was drawn immediately to the event announcement listed in the Fellowship newsletter. The mention of the word “nuclear” always catches my attention. With my Mother’s family from Yamaguchi Prefecture (next door to Hiroshima) and the mention of how my Mother’s cousin had perished that fateful morning on August 6, 1946, I’ve always felt a deep connection with anything “nuclear.” Remembering my Grandparents visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in 1974 and viewing the booklet from the museum displaying the human atrocities, I recalled feeling the shock and awe as I saw the photos. Although the book was all written in Japanese, the photos spoke for themselves. “Unfathomable and unbelievable” was all Grandma could say in her broken Japanese. She tells of how she cried at the sight of the images and how my teenage ears tried to understand all she had felt, living in America, as her nation of birth disintegrated into ashes.

As I entered the Tacoma chapel where the program convened, laminated black and white photos of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb victims hung on the walls, reminiscent of what I saw in Grandma’s museum booklet years ago. I knew at that point that I was meant to come to this workshop.

Dr. David Hall was first to speak. His involvement with the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and the Physicians for Social Responsibility brought to mind Dr. Helen Caldicott’s work, which I greatly admire and respect. Dr. Hall spoke of the American Eagle as a symbol of our Nation and how it’s also used as a symbol for nuclear armament which is “beautiful yet capable of horrible things.” He compared the Hiroshima bomb, referred to as the “peanut bomb,” to today’s Trident missiles, which are 7 times greater and can strike anywhere in the world within 30 minutes. They are located at Bangor Naval Base in Kitsap County, which is about 12 miles away from Tacoma (20 miles from Seattle), thus virtually in our backyard. Dr. Hall stated that decision makers are “immune to mass death and destruction and it’s up to us as citizens to say no more.”

Dr. David Price was the next presenter. As a Cultural Anthropologist, he spoke about the growing pervasiveness of war and militarism as becoming the “new normal” of our American society. As Emile Durkheim had noted, “social facts become part of the background of a culture” and this is what seems to be happening with our American culture. He provided an overview of what some of his peers in the cultural anthropology field are doing in the areas of nuclear atomic energy and social activism. Among these were Hugh Gusterson, who spent time with the scientific community at the Lawrence Livermore Lab, and Joseph Masco, who focused on the Los Alamos Facility in New Mexico during and after the Manhattan Project and documented its effect on all involved. Dr. Price cited the work of Holly M. Barker who has chronicled the lives of the inhabitants of the Marshall Islands in their plight for nuclear advocacy. He also cited the work of Barbara Rose Johnston, who in her book Half Lives & Half Truths reviews the impact of the cold war nuclear culture and its aftermath and continuance. And he too stressed the importance of “breaking the silence.”

Diane Tilstra spoke about our immense military budget for 2015 that was passed in May and noted that 40 cents for every dollar goes into the military defense spending. She mentioned the significance of paying attention to Congress and to support the Washington State politicians who voted against the 2015 budget, Jim McDermott and Adam Smith. Ms. Tilstra stressed the importance of activism in her life and encouraged us to keep that voice going as well. She spoke of her experiences and concerns for the younger generations and their apathy towards the larger problems that they feel they did not create. She suggested that if you can bring the situation down to their level and understanding, then you will have their attention. An example of this is the topic of student loan forgiveness that many young people can relate to.

The day ended well with mini-group discussions and a wrap up. Everyone agreed that there are many ways to activism and every bit counts.

As the afternoon sun warmed the car, I drove back to Seattle with my eyes wide open. I felt a buzz in my head along with a continual hum of “12 miles to Bangor.” There are lots to do in our present time, for this is just the beginning.

This essay was originally published in the September 2014 WWFOR Pacific Call newsletter. Source URL: http://www.wwfor.org/the-pacific-call/nuclear-weapons-the-elephant-in-the-room/

Saturday, August 23, 2014

(Photographic) Memories of Our Dear Friend Lynne Greenwald

Dear Friends,

Here is a brief slideshow celebrating Lynne Greenwald's past few years from the Disarm Now Plowshares onward. It is set to music that was meaningful to Lynne (with thanks to Lynne's family for suggesting the songs).

With thanks for a life lived fully and beautifully,


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lynne Greenwald - Presente!

UPDATE: Please see the Local Events Calendar for information on Saturday's Celebration of Lynne's Life at Ground Zero Center.

Dear Friends,

Our dear fellow nuclear weapons resister, and member of Disarm Now Plowshares, Lynne Greenwald died yesterday. Lynne was very recently diagnosed with cancer. She was surrounded in the loving embrace of family and close friends throughout this time of transition.

Lynne's life is a beautiful testament to the power of servant leadership. Mother, grandmother, social worker, activist and so much more, Lynne was out in the world taking care of those in need and resisting violence and the scourge of nuclear weapons with all of her spiritual and physical strength.

People will be coming together this weekend at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action to commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and say Never Again! Lynne's presence will run deep like a river throughout the weekend. Her life is the lesson...

Here is Lynne interviewed in 2012 by Mike McCormick, speaking about her life in resistance.

Lynne has joined the Cloud of Witnesses.

Lynne Greenwald - Presente!

Links to additional videos:

Click here for Lynne speaking in 2010 about why she participated in the Disarm Now Plowshares action.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Dear Friends,

Last Saturday activists from around Puget Sound came together for a day-long workshop on nuclear weapons.

The workshop theme, NUCLEAR WEAPONS: THE ELEPHANT IN OUR ROOM, was an appropriate theme in as much as we continue to live under the constant threat of nuclear holocaust. There is minimal dialogue and debate surrounding the topic even as our government continues to modernize the nation's nuclear weapons complex, weapons and weapons systems.

When will this madness stop??? Only when enough pressure is brought to bear by a groundswell of citizen-based action.

Saturday's workshop was intended to plant seeds that hopefully will one day bear fruit to help bring about an end to nuclear weapons.

The day began with presentations by three speakers who presented diverse and compelling perspectives.

David Hall, MD presented the essential case against nuclear weapons. A member of Physicians for Social Responsibility (as well as Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action), Hall understands that there is no meaningful medical response to nuclear war; essentially there is no cure, only prevention. Focusing on the Trident nuclear weapons system that exists in the heart of Puget Sound, he stated that the "Trident system is probably the most effective mass murder tool ever devised."

Hall reminded us that policy makers are used to making decisions that result in the slaughter of vast numbers of people (millions), and therefore it requires a citizen-led movement to abolish these horrific weapons. We must "change the mindset that we inherited from a century of extreme mass slaughter."

David Price, PhD is a cultural anthropologist with a deep understanding of the significance and impact of militarism on our lives. Honoring the theme of the day, he got us focused on "thinking about the cultural invisibility of nuclear madness." Price helped us better understand how we are socialized in such a way that we don't even notice the vast reach of militarism into nearly every facet of our lives. He shared some of the work of other anthropologists whose work delves into militarism and nuclear weapons.

Hugh Gusterson, author of "Nuclear Rites"; Joseph Masco, author of "The Nuclear Borderlands"; Holly Barker, who has done extensive field work in the Marshall Islands; and Barbara Rose Johnston, author of "Half Lives & Half Truths" and "Life and Death Matters." As Price explained, the anthropologist's role is one of story telling, and the stories these anthropologists are tell are compelling.

Price reminded us that we need to "focus on the costs of militarization on the worlds we work in", and that we also need to break the silence. "Resistance is not futile." History is full of social movements, and we can (and must) question budget priorities. "Continuing the current rate of military spending is unsustainable."

From his anthropological perspective Price stated that by nature we [as human beings] are neither violent or non-violent; that we have the potential to be one or the other."

Diane Tilstra is a Community Action Advisor at the Center for the Study of Community & Society, UW Tacoma. Tilstra brought a unique perspective to the topic of the American dream with her topic, "Military Spending and the American Dream." Reiterating the previous speakers focus on the unsustainability of military spending, she reminded us of the recent 325-98 vote in the House of Representatives to pass the 600.7 billion FY2015 budget request for military spending.

To restore the dream we must cut war spending, reduce the Pentagon budget by $1 trillion over the next decade, and underwrite a domestic Marshall Plan using the savings. Again, Tilstra echoed the fact that only "we the people" can make this happen; without pressure lawmakers will continue writing blank checks for war (and nuclear weapons).

She also focused on the need to engage young people in these issues. The issues that are affecting young people - student loan costs, cost of living/housing, and jobs - are directly and indirectly affected by military spending.

Following the speaker's presentations we broke out into small working groups to discuss topics for further action - Actions (general), outreach to faith communities, news and publicity, educational needs, planning for upcoming interfaith service at Bangor, and personal response to the speakers presentations.

When we came back together someone from each group summarized that group's results and action items. I will be summarizing those in a future post on this blog.

At the end of the session I summarized progress on the NO To NEW TRIDENT campaign and the need for everyone to get engaged in this important effort.

A short while before we ended three members of the 15 Now Tacoma campaign joined us; they were at the church for a planning meeting. We finished the day hearing from them and learned about the campaign. It was energizing to hear from them, understand their focus and feel their passion for their work.

May we all be so energized in our work.

Thanks to the speakers, thanks to the Micah Project of Tacoma First United Methodist Church, thanks to Fr. Bichsel and all the workshop planners, and thanks to all who participated.

May this be a building block toward a nuclear weapons-free future!

In Peace,


End Notes: Fr. Bichsel is planning an interfaith service at the Bangor Trident base. Originally scheduled for July 26th, it is in the process of being rescheduled to a later date. We will post that information on the Local Events Calendar as soon as we have it.

P.S. - Speaking of ACTION, One of the workshop attendees, Brother Fred Mercy, SJ, just organized a petition at MoveOn.org to release Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli & Greg Boertie-Obed from prison for their acts of Civil Resistance. You can click here to learn more and sign the petition.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


A Workshop on nuclear weapons

Nuclear Weapons are in our backyard…
 What have they done to us and where are they leading us?

Come and consider this peril with us.

When: Saturday, June 28, 2014, 9:00AM to 4:00PM
Where: Tacoma First United Methodist Church, 621 Tacoma Avenue
The event is free and includes a light lunch
Free will offering

Nuclear weapons have been called the taproot of violence in our world. Their continued existence of expropriates precious resources for destruction rather than for sustaining life. What has their continued presence done to us as human beings? How does the nuclear Sword of Damocles hanging over us affect our well-being as individuals and as a society?

Nuclear weapons are truly the elephant (or herd of elephants) in the room; we ignore them at humanity’s peril. We, as human beings and citizens, can and must do something.

Join us on June 28th for a day-long workshop on the presence of nuclear weapons among us, and what we can do to bring about their abolition.

David Hall,MD—psychiatrist, member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and former president of Physicians for Social Responsibility
David Price, PhD—cultural anthropologist and professor of anthropology 
and sociology at St. Martin’s University
Diane Tilstra—Community Action Advisor, Study of Community and Society

The workshop will lead off the Summer of study, prayer and action working toward the abolition of nuclear weapons. Events will include one or more days of further reflection in July, and an interfaith service at the Bangor Trident nuclear ballistic missile submarine base. 

Co-hosted by the Micah Project of Tacoma First United Methodist Church, Pax Christi Tahoma, and Tacoma Catholic Worker

Endorsed by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent action – Tacoma Dominicans - Tacoma Jesuit Volunteers – Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility – Veterans for Peace, Tacoma Chapter – Jewish Voice for Peace - Tacoma Wages … 15 now – Kerry Watrin, MD – Tacoma Peace Prize – Peter Karlin, MD – Anna Colombini, ND -- Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia (Tacoma)

Click here to download the event flier.


9:00 am Coffee and rolls and Sign In

9:20 am Welcome: Bill Bichsel of Catholic Worker – what the day is about
Tom Karlin of Pax Christi
Matt Pattera of First United Methodist Church
Prayer: Sr. Mary Pat Murphy, OP
Song: James Morgan

9:45 am Presentation: Dr. David Hall, MD - psychiatrist, member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and former National Chairperson of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
A penetrating view of nuclear weapons and what they are capable of doing. Questions to follow.

10:30 am Presentation: David Price, PhD - cultural anthropologist and professor of anthropology and sociology at St. Martin’s University
The militarization of our culture and what it has done to us. Questions to follow.

11:30 am Lunch (Share lunch with people you don’t know.)

12:30 pm Presentation: Diane Tilstra - Action Advisor to the Study Group of Community and Society.
Questions to follow.

1:30 pm Leonard Eiger, facilitator for breaking into small, designated groups.
Groups with facilitators:
 Actions to take (Mark Bubenik)
 Outreach to other churches (George Rodkey)
 News and publicity (Leonard Eiger)
 Need for education (Patricia Hoppa)
 Interfaith Service at Bangor July 26 (Bix)
 Overall Personal Responses (James Brecht and Tom Karlin)

2:20 pm Break

2:30 pm Reporting back from each interest group

3:00 pm Panel of 3 speakers will give thoughts and responses to reporting back.
Leonard Eiger will make the connections between responses and upcoming actions.

3:45 pm Closing prayer and song.