by Peter Kakos
The Synod Selection Committee has accepted our resolution “Calling for the U.S. to pull ‘Back From the Brink’ and Prevent Nuclear War.” It all began in the fall of 2017, after I attended an address at our church, First, Northampton, by the co-founder of the Physicians For Social Responsibility, Dr. Ira Helfand, of Northampton. His analysis proved that even a limited conflict of 100, or so, modern warheads, could put into motion a radioactive cloud encircling our latitude so toxic that two to three billion would be immediately killed, and the rest put at risk of starvation as our already stressed eco-system collapses.
His thoughtful and passionate presentation inspired me to create a resolution on nuclear disarmament for our local church. After months of careful deliberation, it was unanimously passed in the fall of 2018. Then under the guidance of the Rev. Kelly Gallagher, I formed a task team in Hampshire Association in order to bring this to the attention of our Mass, Conference, hoping to advance our resolution at the Conference level. Come to find out that the new configuration brought about by the formation of a new conference has not yet established a protocol for resolutions to be voted upon. That being the case, our task team set out to prepare a resolution for the upcoming 2019 General Synod. If we did not try for 2019, we would have to wait until 2021. This January, we were notified that the resolution would brought to a vote in Milwaukee. As we worked on shaping it, I received the invaluable guidance of our U.C.C. Justice and Peace advocate in Washington, D.C., Michael Neuroth.
Now if this vision of a world without nuclear arms sounds unattainable, if not far-fetched, consider the fact that nine nations possess roughly 15,000 warheads, meaning that it would only take the deployment of a mere one percent to cause the virtual annihilation of the planet. Dr. Helfand uses this very possible scenario: after over a half century of bitter rivalry, Pakistan and India launch their arsenals, as each have 150 warheads available. Regardless the outcome, the global medical community could never meet the enormous needs of the immediate casualties, let alone the massive collateral damage.
To compound this real crisis, our present Administration proposes a $1.2 trillion expenditure over the next 30 years. To put this staggering amount into perspective, my friend, Dr. Henry Rosenberg, a PSR member, also of Northampton, calculates that it would be enough to enroll six million students into MIT!
Whenever I am asked to speak about this ominous subject, I first ask for a show of hands to respond to this question: How many would rather live in a world without nuclear arms (assuming necessary global oversight existed), than the present stand-off? I have yet to see even one hand unraised. Deep down inside, we all agree with the position articulated by President Ronald Reagan: “A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought.” He was responding to a national initiative of the early 1980’s called The Nuclear Freeze Movement, which resulted in the dismantling of no less than 45,000 warheads worldwide. Permit me to add that it began, yes, here in Northampton, led by longtime Quaker activist, Frances Crowe, my mentor, who turned 100, this year.
Today we face a risk far worse than 40 years ago. North Korea annually maintains a production of four to seven warheads, according to James Clapper (former Director of National Security), despite high profile talks with the current President. Both Saudi Arabia and also Iran actively seek to start production, as our U.S. sanctions over Iran resume at full strength, after we abandoned recent agreements to deter manufacture.
This worldwide trend toward proliferation of missiles exponentially more devastating than Hiroshima must be interrupted asap. Former Secretary of State, William Perry, likened having a nuclear arsenal to “strapping on a suicide belt.”
The good news is that in Northampton, a second awakening is in the air: The rise of the Nuclear Abolitionist Movement. I am thoroughly thankful to our national UCC leadership for their unwavering support of a world free of the imminent threat of annihilation. Friends, if you share this vision, realize that you too are an Abolitionist.
Whenever I, asked why I am doing this, I am quick to reply: “I have seven billion reasons.”
The Rev. Peter Kakos is a member of the First Churches of Northampton, MA
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