By Mary Hladky
On Jan. 22, a beautiful but cold day, 50-60 peace activists gathered near the fountain at Mill Creek Parkway and 47th Street in Kansas City, Mo., to celebrate the “entry into force” of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). To date, 52 countries had ratified this treaty, making nuclear weapons in these countries illegal. The vote for the TPNW in 2017 was 122-1, with one abstention and with many countries boycotting the vote—namely, the nine that have nuclear weapons and their allies. About 35 other countries have signed onto the treaty, indicating they will begin the ratification process.
Our celebration featured several outstanding speakers, poet Ron Faust, and Sunny Hamrick leading the crowd in song. Here’s a summary of the messages of three of our speakers.
Dr. David E. Drake, D.O., is the new president for the national Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), whose mission is to prevent what we cannot cure—nuclear war. Drake lives in Des Moines and shared the day with us, driving to Kansas City in the morning and returning home in the evening.
Drake has been involved in activism around abolishing nuclear weapons most of his life. He said that while he was bicycling through Japan as a young man, he visited both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He was very moved by his visit to the Hiroshima Peace Museum, and it was then that he decided he wanted to be a doctor. In 2016, he and his wife were proud PSR representatives at the United Nations, asking country representatives to take a stand on working to outlaw nuclear weapons and to support the TPNW.
Drake said that PSR supports the Green New Deal, the abolition of nuclear weapons, and the 5-point plan of Back from the Brink:
—no first use of nuclear weapons;
—end unchecked presidential authority to launch a nuclear attack;
—end hair-trigger alert (relating to ICBMs, land-based missiles, located mostly in the Midwest);
—end the program to build enhanced nuclear weapons; and
—pursue worldwide agreement to abolish nuclear weapons.
Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, M.D., director of Argentine Family Health, was a founder of the Kansas City Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR-KC) in 1982. Huet-Vaughn, a woman of moral courage, served an 8-month military prison term as a conscientious objector to the 1991 Gulf War. Huet-Vaughn told us the government spends billions on nuclear weapons every year while millions of people have no health insurance, or extremely poor coverage. We have a chaotic medical system, she charged, that must be fixed by moving the money from life-extinguishing nuclear weapons to meeting human needs. Nuclear weapons produce tons of nuclear waste, she added, which is transported throughout the country, endangering our communities. Nuclear weapons don’t keep us safe and they are not just, she said, adding that she believes in truth, beauty, kindness, and science to bring about a better world. Simply put, she insisted, nuclear weapons threaten all life and must be eliminated.
Henry Stoever, one of our fearless PeaceWorks leaders, reminded us that everyone has an inalienable right to live in a nuclear-weapon-free world. Inalienable rights are those natural rights referring to life, liberty, happiness, property, due process, and equal protection under the law. After World War II, member nations of the United Nations created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948, to enshrine those inalienable rights internationally. “The TPNW we celebrate today restores those inalienable rights to life itself,” said Stoever.
—Mary Hladky is vice chair of the PeaceWorks-KC Board of Directors.