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!
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.