Is Anyone Paying Attention?

a reflection by Sr. Anne Montgomery, RSCJ

Is anyone paying attention?

A few realities this holiday season of shopping, feasting, football, but also of the jobless, homeless, hungry of the world; of melting glaciers, disappearing species, drought and flood.

20 miles west of Seattle,  between the Olympic Mountains and the waters of Puget Sound, lies Naval Submarine Base Kitsap Bangor.  At its heart, beneath rows of concrete bunkers, Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) houses more than 1,000 nuclear warheads, approximately 24% of the entire U.S. arsenal, more than the total of England, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea combined.

Facts can be overwhelming, so let a few suffice:

Number of kilotons on the Hiroshima bomb: 14

Total number of kilotons on deployed on Trident fleet: 345,600

Price of ONE Trident II D5 missile: $66,000,000 (24 on each sub)

Cost of health insurance for 60,000 children:  $60,000,000

Annual cost of providing sanitary water to 2.4 billion people worldwide who now lack it: 10,000,000,000

Total estimated cost of the entire Trident program through the year 2042: $170,200,000,000

Is anyone paying attention?

For over 30 years, small and large groups of peace activists have vigiled, blocked the tracks of trains carrying missiles from Pantex in Amarillo, Texas to Bangor, leafleted the workers there and at  the shipyards in Groton, Connecticut, written letters to congress, and have joined in mutual support with nonviolent resisters campaigning in other nuclear-armed nations. All this while “the military-industrial complex”, identified long ago by Eisenhower, subverts our democracy “of the people, by the people, and for the people”, supposedly the responsibility of its citizens.

In the tradition of the antislavery and civil rights nonviolent civil disobedience to change unjust laws, Plowshares activists have attempted symbolic disarmament of nuclear weapons components, not as civil disobedience, but as civil resistance, since these weapons of mass destruction are condemned as illegal and immoral by international law, under our own constitution the highest law in the land and binding on domestic courts.

Is anyone paying attention?

On November 2, 2009, five people, the Disarm Now Plowshares, entered SWFPAC, marked the desecrated earth with their own blood in solidarity with the victims of war, scattered sunflower seeds, and hammered on the fence, supposedly guarding the bunkers from the view of the endangered residents around Puget Sound. This was the latest nonviolent action in which Plowshares activists have walked, canoed, and even swum to unmask the real purpose of Trident and its useless but dangerous weapons: to threaten the highest level of violence possible in our nation’s drive to control the earth, sea, and space and their resources.

Is anyone paying attention?

The courts? Yes, but only to silence the activists; the courts that typically deny testimony from nuclear engineers, health professionals, international lawyers, and religious leaders. The manipulation of both international and domestic law is a mockery of justice, truth, and the real purpose of law: to protect life and all that is necessary for its development.

Is anyone paying attention?

Not the mainstream media, with occasional exceptions, thanks to local reporters.  The only hope is that we can all wake up from the dream of a secure “way of life” at whatever cost to others who call out to us to be faithful to our best selves and to  listen to our hearts, not our fears. Judge Weeramantry, the former vice president of the International Court of Justice sums up this call:  “The deployment and display of such weapons is part of the practice of deterrence and as such completely offends all principles which civilization has built up over the centuries in the context of humanitarian law.  To openly maintain vessels carrying up to 24 weapons, each of which is in a state of readiness for instant delivery of several multiples of the suffering caused in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is surely a blatant violation of the rule prohibiting the threat or use of nuclear weapons”

Is anyone paying attention?

Yes, the dedicated and selfless peacemakers of all ages who speak for and walk in solidarity with the victims of war worldwide and those at home, deprived by our military budget of food, shelter, and health care.  They, too, cry out and find eyes to see and ears to hear and hope in the common struggle.

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