By Ann Suellentrop
Today, as we honor Martin Luther King Jr., I recall one of his many inspiring quotes:
“…we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. … A nation ,that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” —“Beyond Vietnam” (April 1967)
Children, in their innocence and loving natures, often remind us of spiritual truths. I recently rediscovered some very moving writings in a booklet published without copyright in 1985, “Peace is Something Speshl — A collection of art and writings on PEACE by Kansas City Area Children.” It was written and illustrated by grade school children during the time of the Nuclear Freeze Movement.
Here is one child’s verse in the booklet that speaks of the earth’s beauty (spelling kept as is):
Nuclear Arms Race
I think America should stop making Nuclear bombs and give the money to the poor and disabled.
If we keep on making them, so will the Russians. If we stop the Russians will probably stop too.
If there is a war almost everybody will die.
The world is to beautiful too destroy.
By Michael F. of St. Charles School
–Art by Connie B., Atchison Catholic Elementary School
This past Tuesday, I was deeply moved by a press conference from the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM. Archbishop John C. Wester announced his 52-page pastoral letter, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace.” In this powerful and prophetic work, Archbishop Wester calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons arsenals around the world, speaking from the very area where the first nuclear bomb was developed and detonated. In his letter, Archbishop Wester says, “To love our enemies means we have to begin the process of ending our preparations to kill them … and doing everything we can not to harm them, but to actively love them, including the people of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and others.” He urges us to follow Jesus’ teachings and example of nonviolent love for all. The Archbishop also urges us to convert jobs from nuclear weapons manufacture to the dismantlement of all nuclear weapons, to clean up the massive amount of toxic waste that has been produced, and to develop world-wide technological surveillance needed to ensure nuclear weapons are never made again. He details the long history of the Catholic Church speaking out against nuclear weapons and points out that the Vatican was the first nation-state to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, often called the Ban Treaty.
A book club I’ve been participating in recently has further inspired me. Our discussions are enlarging my consciousness to include concern not just for humans, but for all life on earth. The book club was convened by Kristin Scheer, a PeaceWorks-KC board member, former volunteer for Greenpeace and protester at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. The wonderful book we are reading, “Braiding Sweetgrass – Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants,” was written by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is a decorated professor of botany and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She writes about rules for citizenship and relationships, with a view to a reciprocal relationship with the Earth, of regeneration and mutual flourishing. The idea which has touched me the most is that we would not hurt someone we love. And the Earth is a living being, our Mother. She gives us so much and wants our love and care in return. We need to become aware that we are living in the Garden, in Paradise. I think if we all developed this mindset, we could save the earth.
One of the members of our book club, June Holte, an environmental activist, said that in order to get rid of nuclear weapons and war and to solve the climate crisis, Holding Actions are needed. These include civil disobedience, the passing of laws such as the Nuclear Ban Treaty, and divestment campaigns from fossil fuels and nuclear weapons. But also needed is Restructuring, changing our hearts and minds and the way we live. For this we need discussions such as our book club, teaching seminars and classes to raise our awareness, writing letters to the editor, and using social media and websites to expand our consciousness, as well as planting trees and gardens, saving seeds, and living simply and sustainably. June is developing an upcoming seminar on some of her ideas.
Several great resources have been recommended during our book club discussion. The first was presentations by Joanna Macy, an eco-philosopher and scholar of Buddhism, who has done extensive work on Nuclear Guardianship and the Work That Reconnects (see www.joannamacy.net and www.workthatreconnects.org). Other resources recommended were “The Great Turning,” a book by David Korten, and a movie, “The Biggest Little Farm,” which June described as the greatest movie she has ever seen!
I find hope in all these teachings and resources and in new projects being developed. One other book club member, Geoffrey Hennies, is developing a website with resources on the Nuclear Ban Treaty, which is approaching its first anniversary on January 22 (see nuclearbantreaty.org). Some of these resources can currently be found at www.orepa.org. This site has lots of relevant quotes, posters, and banner ideas, such as this example:
In closing, let us again be inspired by the wisdom of the children:
Glory of Death–
In a world bursting with life, why do we strive for death? In a world of loving, why do we thirst (for) the blood and hunger (for) the flesh of our brothers? Why do we need to inflict the eternal darkness of death upon the people we known nothing of Just to fulfill the glory and greed of our own lives.
-By Mike K., 7th-grader, Notre Dame de Sion
–Art by John A. of St. Charles School
–Ann Suellentrop works for a nuclear-weapon-free world with PeaceWorks-KC, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. ©2022 Ann Suellentrop, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.