While the nation seemed transfixed in election day madness four dedicated peacemakers, who just one year before on the Feast of All Souls had travelled deep into the belly of the Beast, vigiled in celebration and thanksgiving on the anniversary of their Plowshares action.
Four members of the Disarm Now Plowshares five stood in vigil at the main gate to the Trident nuclear submarine base, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington State on Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Bill “Bix” Bichsel, S.J., Susan Crane, Lynne Greenwald, and Anne Montgomery, RSCJ, held banners as they stood by the side of the road, waving and flashing peace signs to those driving in and out of the base. Drivers’ responses varied from supportive waves or peace signs to an occasional rude gesture; the vast majority were supportive.
Crane’s and Montgomery’s banner read, “DISARM NOW PLOWSHARES, TRIDENT: ILLEGAL & IMMORAL.” The banner held by Bichsel and Greenwald read, “LARGEST STOCKPILE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN THE U.S. AT NAVAL BASE KITSAP-BANGOR, DISARM NOW PLOWSHARES.”
After the previous day of record rainfall around the Puget Sound region, the sun shone in glorious splendor as the Plowshares activists celebrated the first anniversary of their Plowshares action. When I arrived at the gate I saw them standing on the other side of the roadway; each of their faces also shone bright with the deep, spiritual, conviction that led them to engage in their Plowshares action one year ago, and now gives them strength to challenge Trident in court.
Bill “Bix” Bichsel, S.J., Susan Crane, Lynne Greenwald, Steve Kelly, S.J., Anne Montgomery RSCJ, entered Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in the early morning hours of November 2, 2009, All Souls Day, with the intention of calling attention to the illegality and immorality of the existence of the Trident weapons system. During the action they held a banner saying…“Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident: Illegal + Immoral”, left a trail of blood, hammered on the roadway and fences around Strategic Weapons Facility – Pacific (SWFPAC) and scattered sunflower seeds throughout the base. They entered SWFPAC where they were detained, and after extensive questioning by base security, FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), were cited for trespass and destruction of government property, given ban and bar letters and released.
Ten months after their action a Federal grand jury handed down indictments for all five. The charges include Conspiracy, Trespass, Destruction of Property on a Naval Installation and Depredation of Government Property. The major consequences for the various individual charges range between 5 and 10 years in prison, and from $50,000 to $250,000 in fines, as well as up to 3 years of supervised release, and/or up to 5 years probation.
One might well ask, “who should be on trial – those who cut some fences to expose the illegal and immoral nuclear weapons that lay hidden behind them or the government that continues to build up its nuclear weapons infrastructure and maintain its nuclear “posture” in preparation for nuclear holocaust?”
After vigiling the participants circled for prayer and thanksgiving. Before leaving the main gate Crane and Bichsel attempted to share leaflets explaining the Disarm Now Plowshares action with members of the Marine security detail that was standing ready near the entrance gate guard-house, up the road from where we had been vigiling. After waiting a few minutes for a response (the Marines did not budge) we packed up and headed back to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (just up the road from the main gate) where we all shared a simple meal and fellowship.
In the closing circle at the gate Tom Shea read a prophetic passage from James Douglass’ book, “Lightening East to West”, published thirty years ago:
Given the presence already at Bangor of Polaris/Poseidon nuclear warheads, and the coming in 1981 of Trident, the base fence seems humble: seven feet in height with three strands of barbed wire at the top. I reminds us again, with the government’s show of deer, fox, and pheasants roaming around the base, that official crimes have a psychological preparation. The care at not alarming citizens is evident also in the public relations security force visible around Bangor, where Pan American has the contract for base perimeter security. In the course of our civil disobedience actions, we became friends with these Pan Am guards and learned the nature of the real security system. While the Pan Am guards patrol with their pick-up trucks on the roads just inside Bangor’s perimeter fence, there is a second civilian security force stationed farther in the base, and finally, at the center of Bangor lost to sight behind dense trees and higher fences, a third security force of Marines. The Marines are assigned to nuclear weapons areas. They drill with rifles and machine guns under standing orders “to use deadly force” (a phrase dropped by the base commander in a meeting with resisters).
If we can go to the heart of the Bangor base, in a gentle enough way, and in growing numbers, nuclear war preparations will be obstructed. The life-force of persons in community, willing to give their lives nonviolently, is more powerful than any nuclear weapon. Through such a life-giving process, a moral crisis can be realized which would be the beginning of a transformed consciousness and politics.
The Trident campaign as an experiment in life-force is meant to connect with the lives of all people, all threatened with nuclear death. If we were so graced as to feel the most distant life at its center, we would know from within its pain and compassion, its loneliness and its love – the human feelings of Jesus and Hitler, as different as they were in acting those out and failing to do so. There is no one who doesn’t feel at the deepest levels something of our living unity. An experiment in life-force is meant to touch that level in everyone.
Trident with its thousands of Hiroshimas is the end of the world. The Trident campaign is meant to re-discover a new world, one world, the only world remaining. The campaign can be seen as both spirit and body: Seeking first the kingdom of a deepening, widening community… in and through tactics of nonviolent direct action. Renouncing any fixation on the fruits of action… while trying to choose actions which in themselves carry the seeds of a moral and political crisis. Discovering life… through resistance.
The Disarm Now Plowshares five travelled (both figuratively and literally) “to the heart of the Bangor base”, unequivocally prepared “to give their lives nonviolently” in their own Plowshares “experiment in life-force.”
May the nonviolent heart of the Disarm Now Plowshares deeply touch (and transform) us all, and may we all “discover life… through resistance.”
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: | abolish nuclear weapons, active nonviolence, Anne Montgomery, Bill Bichsel, Civil Resistance, court, Disarm Now Plowshares, illegal nuclear weapons, Lynne Greenwald, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Steve Kelly, Susan Crane, SWFPAC, Trident Submarines