By Mary Hladky
On a glorious Memorial Day, May 30, 65 persons took time from their holiday weekend to walk, rally and support a line-crossing at the National Security Campus. At this facility in Kansas City, MO, 85% of the mechanical and electronic parts for US nuclear weapons are made or procured.
The day’s events began with a one-mile walk to the plant. Activists carried flags from 60 countries that have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Along the way, they began a die-in, mourning lives lost to war as well as lives cut short by toxins from the former nuclear parts plant at Bannister Federal Complex; workers made parts there for nuclear weapons from 1949 to 2014. Once the marchers reached the National Security Campus entry road, they completed the die-in, with Taps played by Ben Anderson. Then the annual rally for a nuclear-free world began.
The crowd listened to many outstanding speakers, some from our co-sponsors: Cherith Brook Catholic Worker House, Green Party (KC area), Mid-MO Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace & Social Justice Center of South-Central Kansas, and Veterans for Peace. These organizations, with wonderful people, toil with us to do the necessary work, step by step, to eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. With these partners, we join hands in the struggle for peace and justice for all.
Frank Lawrence, of the Green Party, spoke about his son’s war experience as an Army MP and a dog handler in Afghanistan. Frank’s son and his bomb sniffer walked the point trying to save his comrades from roadside bombs.
“Like my uncles who fought in historic battles,” Frank said about his son, “he doesn’t want to talk about it. Their memories rob them of sleep. Some sounds may trigger physical and mental reactions. They may wake up with cold sweats from some reoccurring nightmare.” Frank continued, “I suggested that my son join the military. I wish that I had not done that. It changed him. Now I pray that he doesn’t commit suicide. His mother and myself call him just to check in, just to hear his voice. If things get bad, ‘you can come home, anytime.’” For Frank’s talk, go to https://peaceworkskc.org/nonviolence/introduction-to-war-and-peace.
Lois Swimmer, a member of the Elder Circle at Cherith Brook, spoke about her uncle’s experience of war—how it damaged his soul, as all wars do. Lois reflected on how changed her uncle was when he came home from Vietnam, and how difficult his years afterward have been. Lois and her relatives will soon gather with this elderly uncle, perhaps for the last time, at the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in Eagle Butte, SD.
Brian Terrell, a civil resister of war, nuclear weapons, and war drones (he’s been arrested about 200 times), said the KC National Security Campus recently celebrated its completion of the B61-12 bomb’s Life Extension Program’s first production unit. The KC plant is responsible for producing 39 major non-nuclear component assemblies of the B61-12, which is an air-launched thermonuclear gravity bomb, a weapon of mass destruction. Brian stated, “In the nine years since the B61-12 Life Extension Program was put into action, the life expectancy of humans in this country has plummeted. Undaunted, the NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) boasts that it has extended the life expectancy of the B61-12 by at least 20 years!”
Brian insisted, “The growing delusion among war planners that a nuclear war can be won places the world in unprecedented peril. In this time of climate catastrophe, famine and pandemic, the waste of resources to build nuclear weapons is an unspeakable crime.”
In closing, Brian shared these words of mystic Thomas Merton from 1949: “When I pray for peace, I pray not only that the enemies of my country may cease to want war, but above all that my own country will cease to do the things that make war inevitable. … I am praying that both we and the Russians may somehow be restored to sanity and learn how to work out our problems, as best we can, together, instead of preparing for global suicide.” Read Brian’s talk at: https://peaceworkskc.org/nuclear-weapons/unprecedented-peril-to-think-nuclear-war-is-winnable
Steve Kellogg, of the Independence, MO, Friends Committee on National Legislation, spoke about FCNL, the strongest organization on Capitol Hill supporting an end to war and nuclear weapons, and calling for moving the money from defense spending to meeting human needs to create a more equitable world. Steve invited PeaceWorks members to join the Independence FCNL in lobbying national legislators.
Jeff Humfeld, of Veterans for Peace, read us VFP’s 76th anniversary statement of the US nuclear bombings on civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. VFP calls on the president to implement a “No First Use Policy” taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert AND to take leadership for the US to sign onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Nuclear weapons are morally unacceptable, threatening all life on earth.
Sonja Griffith, pastor of the First Central Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, KS, spoke to us about hope—building a peaceful world and seeking oneness with all people. She had us envision a world based on nonviolence, taking care of each other and making service the watchword for all countries and all people. Her talk is posted at https://peaceworkskc.org/nonviolence/hope-for-our-world.
Rachel MacNair, a Quaker and longtime activist, spoke to the group about getting Ranked Choice Voting onto the KCMO ballot. She explained the huge advantages of having more options and of being able to vote for your first choice, not having to once again vote for the lesser of two evils.
Kristin Scheer, a PeaceWorks Board member, spoke of the book club she is leading on Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants. Kristin read passages from the chapter “Allegiance to Gratitude,” discussing a culture in which gratitude is the first priority; and a duty to live in harmony with each other and all living things. Click here to read Kristin’s beautiful article.
Line-crossing with ‘peace and compassion’
Over a 12-year span of time, PeaceWorks KC has been instrumental in over 150 crossings of the property line at the first and now the second KC MO plant making parts for nukes. This Memorial Day, five persons crossed the National Security Campus property line: Maurice Copeland, Ron Faust, Tom Fox and his wife Kim Hoa Fox, and Kimmy Igla (former staff member at Cherith Brook). The police used no handcuffs, choosing not to arrest the five line-crossers, simply reserving the right to issue a ticket for any later trespass within a year. Retired attorney Henry Stoever, a PeaceWorks co-chair, said later, “Peace and compassion prevailed.”
KSHB Channel 41 was there to film the crossing and spoke with Tom Fox, past editor and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter.
We ended the day with Ron Faust’s Poem “Arrested Development,” which you can read here.
To see the full day’s events, view this livestream https://fb.watch/dlWWLpI7Wc/ by Andrei Stoica of Independent Media Association.
We extended our gratitude to Charles Carney, Cris Mann, and Kristin Scheer for all their hard work to make this event powerful.
Mary Hladky is vice chair of PeaceWorks.
© 2022, Mary Hladky, Kriss Avery, Bennette Dibben, Frank Lawrence, Lois Swimmer, Brian Terrell, Steve Kellogg, Jeff Humfeld, Sonja Griffith, Rachel MacNair, Kristin Scheer, Cris Mann, Charles Carney, Henry Stoever, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.