Nobel Peace Prize: No time to rest on our laurels

Greetings Friends of a Better World,

This is a time of grave danger (to all of humanity). Never has it been more evident how few people have so much control over the fate of humanity. We quite literally live in (as author Elaine Scarry calls it) a “Thermonuclear Monarchy.”

I have felt for many years that the story of the nuclear abolition movement has been something akin to the fable of the Little Dutch Boy who holds his finger in the dike to keep it from flooding the city. However, in our version of the story, the boy (or girl) has had that finger in the dike for what seems an eternity, and the waters behind the dike have risen and fallen many times over the years. All along, most people have walked by and ignored the child. The few who paid attention told the city’s leaders, who always explained that all was well; that they had things well under control. And now, once again the waters are so near the top of the dike that the child feels the water as it splashes over the lip. The pressure on the bulging dike is phenomenal, and the citizens can clearly see the dike bowing bulging as it nears the breaking point. Yet, most they go about their daily routine, and the city leaders continue telling the people that all is well, the dike is doing its job and is designed to hold back all the water that might build up behind it. When asked about the child, the city leaders say that, “The child is just playing a child’s game, pretending to hold back the water. The hole is NOT a real issue. We adults have everything under control. There is no danger. The system that we have developed has worked as intended all these years, and will continue to work. Trust us.”

The people have heard these words over and over. They have been taught to respect the authority of their leaders, to believe whatever they are told by them, that they are here to protect the people from the dangers of the world around them. And indeed, the world is a dangerous place. One might think I am writing just about climate change and its effects. In fact, as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has said in its most recent reset of the famous Doomsday Clock, the two most existential issues of our time are the potential for nuclear war and the effects of climate change.

Earlier in 2017 The Bulletin’s Science and Advisory board set the clock at Two And A Half Minutes To Midnight, the closest it had been since 1953 after the US, and then the Soviet Union, tested their first hydrogen bombs (pushing the clock to 2 Minutes To Midnight). In that announcement they warned: “Only a few more swings of the pendulum, and, from Moscow to Chicago, atomic explosions will strike midnight for Western civilization.” The 2017 announcement came just weeks into the new Trump administration. One can only imagine how close The Doomsday Clock would be to midnight should The Bulletin reset the hands today!

News outlets have continually raised the issue of tensions between the US and North Korea over the past year since Trump came into power. It has been a story of reciprocal (and escalating) taunts between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, two leaders whose egos and hubris get in the way of their responsibility(s) to their people. Trump, the leader of one of two nations possessing roughly 93 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, has initiated not only the taunts, but both direct and indirect threats of (thermonuclear) violence against North Korea, the result of which would be the loss of millions of lives on the entire Korean peninsula, Japan, and Guam, and possibly elsewhere. As many of us have stated time and time again, “There is no acceptable military response to the situation with North Korea!”

It is unconscionable that one person should not only have the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, as does President Trump, but also the power to directly threaten other nations with nuclear devastation. Trump’s current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has strained to apply diplomacy with North Korea, countering Trumps threats of nuclear annihilation. And just last week we learned that the drumbeats of change are afoot once again with Tillerson likely on his way out, and someone on his way in who will likely walk in lockstep the Trump and his inflammatory rhetoric (and increase the drumbeats of war), adding yet more fuel to the pyre Trump is building for millions (if not more) human beings.

One of the greatest problems currently plaguing the US movement to abolish nuclear weapons is the overwhelming plethora of other issues overshadowing this most urgent issue. And there is no end of irony here. Politicians make absolutely ridiculous decisions to gut the Affordable Care Act, dismember regulatory entities (like the EPA) and the regulations associated with them intended to protect the public health and welfare, give yet more tax advantages to those already possessing the vast majority of the nation’s wealth, and pass a $700 billion military spending bill for the (not so) simple reason that they benefit financially from these decisions and retain the perks and power of public office. Yet, they have no clue that the inevitable use of nuclear weapons will be the great equalizer.

No amount of money will ultimately protect them (or the millionaires and billionaires who fund their campaign coffers) from the “fallout” of nuclear war. They will ultimately have to come out of their elaborate bomb shelters to face an unrecognizable and dangerous world, or at least what is left of it. Those they have paid to protect them will be AWOL, doing their best to just survive. All the gold and glitter of Trump Tower, should it still be standing, will be worthless (and likely radioactive) in a post-apocalytic world.

The good news is that civil society has done extraordinary things, culminating in 2017 with 122 nations creating a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Each of these accomplishments represents the collective actions of countless citizens, organizations, diplomats, parliamentarians and others working in concert for the benefit of humanity. And just for the record, the ban treaty is an extraordinary example of the best of the United Nations.

Today’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo, Norway represent a huge achievement. It is a day to celebrate and gather strength for the long struggle ahead. We mustn’t allow ourselves to rest for more than this brief celebratory moment, as we are engaged in a struggle against extraordinarily strong and deeply entrenched forces that worship the bomb and all it represents.

2018 will be a make or break year, a year in which we must maintain and build upon the momentum created in 2017, and use every creative strategy available to engage a massive upwelling of global citizen support for abolition. We will need to build alliances across every movement. We will need to reach deep within people’s hearts and minds to gain their attention and support. We will need to ask the difficult, but necessary, questions, like: “CONGRESS WANTS $1 TRILLION FOR NUKES. What will be left for our children?”, as did Ground Zero Center in our most recent Seattle bus advertisement. We must develop a global citizen-led movement unlike any in the history of the nuclear abolition movement.

I began this letter on a dark note, yet even as I wrote those words I felt (and still feel) a lightness and hope. That hope is is based on the knowledge that each of you reading these words holds a light within you, and that together our light will ultimately drive away the darkness that has persisted throughout the nearly three quarters of a century of the nuclear age.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is honored to be part of this movement working to give humanity a more secure future. We will continue speaking truth to power and helping build a movement that will be impossible for the Thermonuclear Monarchs to ignore. The greater, immediate, challenge will be keeping the dike from bursting. The standoff with North Korea, that seems to be more of a personal feud between the countries’ “leaders,” must be brought under control. Although there is evidently no way to control Trump’s compulsive tweeting, Congress can (and must) reign in his ability to start a war, which, in the case of North Korea, would most certainly go nuclear. 

Click here to write your members of Congress and demand that they support legislation to prevent preemptive and unconstitutional attacks on North Korea.

U.S. peace groups have come together to send an open message to Washington and Pyongyang that we are strongly opposed to any resumption of the horrific Korean War. Click here to add your name to the People’s PeaceTreaty with North Korea before the end of the month!

Click here to read about and support diplomacy with North Korea! I cannot stress enough that there are NO acceptable military solutions. Sustained diplomacy is the only answer!

Finally, here’s an opportunity for Congress to clearly state that, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.” Although I personally have a problem with the idea of using nuclear weapons at all, this bill is an important step, and is establishing an critical dialogue, particularly with such a reckless President in control of nuclear weapons. Click here to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor.

When you’re done with the action alerts, since most of us couldn’t attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, click here to view a video of the entire ceremony, including speeches by ICAN’s Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlo, a Hibakusha of Hiroshima. Congratulations to all who have brought us this far, and here’s to the work yet to be done! 

On behalf of Ground Zero Center,

Leonard Eiger

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