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We try to be still as we still yearn for an end to nuclear madness and the kindness of peace for the universe.
Breanna Crawford, left, reminds us on Memorial Day 2023 that we are on Native land.--Photo by Cody Boston

By Jim Hannah

(A 2024 Memorial Day reflection at KC’s nuclear bomb factory)

On this Memorial Day, here at the entrance of this Edifice of Apocalypse, we choose life, even as we did more than a decade ago when this was a productive bean field, and we stood before the earth movers to halt their unnatural despoilment and destruction. More than 160 arrests have since been made as PeaceWorks and its peacemaker allies have nonviolently “crossed the line” to witness of Life and Love, insisting that the crime of trespass was not theirs. The ones who truly “cross the line,” threatening humanity, they said, are those who manufacture weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction.

Still, the drumbeat of nuclear war continues. For 75 years, Kansas City, in the very heart of America, has been the very heart of the US nuclear arsenal, now crafting 80 percent of the components needed for weapons of global destruction. Millions may die, ending life as we know it, with the use of even a few hundred of the some 12,000 weapons in the world’s nuclear arsenals. Hundreds of Kansas Citians have already been sickened or have died from contaminants at the old Bannister plant—now abandoned, yet “polluted into perpetuity,” paved over like a scab that will never heal. “Downwinders” directly subjected to radiation from the thousands of nuclear tests globally add to the untold tally of death and disease, as well as each person alive today, impacted in ways yet unknown.

Administration Building of the National Security Campus, the KC MO nuclear weapon factory soon to double in size–to make parts for a new generation of nuclear weapons.–Photo by Brian Terrell

Still, some 7,000 employees with an annual budget of a billion dollars are busy “modernizing and refurbishing” the US nuclear arsenal, devising yet more enhanced means of annihilation. And the earthmovers are once again on the move, more than doubling the current 192-acre behemoth with an additional 245 acres—a $3-billion-dollar project planned to add 2.5 million square feet and 1,000 new employees in the next decade. It defies imagination, but make no mistake: it’s very real. 

Still, some of even the most staunch advocates of “nuclear deterrence” have awakened to the futility of a “you wouldn’t dare” game of escalating bluff and bluster. In 2007 four elder U.S. statesmen went public in the Wall Street Journal to recant their early devotion to nuclear deterrence, saying that this article of faith is no longer valid. Those were architects of deterrence—Kissinger and Schultz, Perry and Nunn, (secretaries of state, secretary of defense, and a senator), once known as The Four Horsemen of Nuclear Apocalypse. But today, their legacy is the Nuclear Security Project ( Working with partners around the world, the NSP “seeks to galvanize global action to reduce urgent nuclear dangers and build support for reducing reliance on nuclear weapons, ultimately ending them as a threat to the world.”

Still, the Biblical vision of John the Revelator remains a grim warning—the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—conquest and war, pestilence and death—each of which would be the grim outcome of a major nuclear exchange. John’s vision became the closing chapter in that “Good Book” of Christian scripture, now so twisted that many pray for tribulation and destruction to usher in their personal salvation, raptured joyously into the arms of a loving Jesus as millions “left behind” writhe in torment.

Still, the Spirit of Jesus, the peaceful one, lifts up an alternative kin-dom of One-ness where each person, and other kind, and the Good Earth itself, are cherished as sacred manifestations of Life and of Love. This vision of the Beloved Community, a term popularized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., echoes the nonviolent message of Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Malala Yousafzai, and many other prophetic voices arising worldwide. The biblical author of Deuteronomy said it clearly centuries ago: “I have set before you this day life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life.” (Deuteronomy)

Still, on this day of remembrance, we struggle to remain hopeful in our desire to choose life, as division sunders our global community, and threatens our beautiful planet. “May you live in interesting times,” some say. Is that a blessing, or a curse?…Or maybe both, as we try to live into that creative tension where we are stretched daily, yet not broken?

So we have spoken up, and we have acted up, believing with Brother Martin that ultimately “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Can we, in hope, believe that this bean field may one day be turned from death-dealing, and restored to life-giving? Can we yet dare believe that we can intervene in this world’s suicidal embrace of nuclear weapons? Will it be said of us that we stood on the right side of history?

Whatever those answers may be, let us meanwhile celebrate our partnership as we, individually and collectively, lend our small weight toward the tipping point of a world free of war and its weapons.

And in this moment, may we, in faith believing, simply be still

—Jim Hannah, who has been arrested for crossing the property line at the KC MO nuclear weapon factory five times, is a retired Community of Mass minister in Independence, MO. (c) 2024, Jim Hannah, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

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