Happy Earth Day
It was 21 years ago today I awoke in the middle of the night, got my co-actor up, then roused the others and we all got into two vehicles, drove to a deserted part of the Chequamegon National Forest in the boreal forest of northern Wisconsin, and unloaded our tools, statements, and general gear. My father, in his 70s then, hugged me goodbye and drove off on slushy roads. It was still predawn. We were operating by moonlight.
We had come to a place where the gravel road passed under an antenna that carried command signals to all US thermonuclear submarines, as well as fast attack and hunter killer submarines, and this command facility, for a number of technical reasons, had one and only one mission, to issue the command to launch a preemptive nuclear war.
So we hiked in about a quarter-mile to where we had done our reconnaissance and hung signs, sprayed painted the wooden poles on which the antenna was strung (one pole every few hundred feet), and, with swede saws, notched three poles. By then the media arrived, including a reporter from the Progressive magazine, a tribal station radio reporter, and a reporter from Wisconsin Public radio, along with a television crew from a Duluth, Minnesota station (the only ones I didn’t know nor invite, but the WPR man did).
I had sent media packets to everyone beforehand, explaining our action and the difference between what we were doing to prevent bombing and the property destruction we sometimes see, unfortunately, in mass actions (broken windows, vandalized mailboxes, etc.). We were the 58th Plowshare action, a tradition begun by Phil and Dan Berrigan and others by “hammering swords into a plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4).
We administered the coup d’grace and three poles, all about 40 feet tall with the antenna strung between them, crashed to the Earth. Happy Earth Day. We knew we had shut it down; I took my metal saw and tossed it to hit the antenna to make sure the 125 million watts weren’t still running through it, and sure enough, we had shut it down. We chatted with the media folks and waited for the sheriff. The Navy crew showed up and the first one out of the snow machine said to me, “You’re going to prison for this.” I said, “Yup. It’s worth it.”
We did. We had a very interesting trial with a world-class defense, and we were acquitted of sabotage but convicted of destruction of property, three-year sentences. We each served about a year, and then released wearing electronic ankle bracelets. That’s when I applied to teach peace at a local college (I had been doing so before our Earth Day action through the U of Wisconsin) and was hired. I taught there until coming to Portland.
So that’s my Happy Earth Day story. We stopped any first-strike nuclear war, even if only for a few days until they could repair it. But we kept fighting it, alongside the Lake Superior Ojibwe, and we eventually succeeded. It is now shut down, dismantled, removed, and the forest has been coming back since then, since 2004.
Earth Day was our way to use robust nonviolence to participate in democracy that day. Dr. King said the purpose of direct action is to get to the negotiating table. We did.
Stop the mad bombers
Bombing is dumb. The Age of Destruction is a foolish logic. Mother Nature is offended and is showing us that annoyance—and this will worsen as we fail to correct our conduct. Simply put, anyone anywhere from the top of the command chain to the frustrated lone fertilizer bomber is acting foolishly. We are looking at you, Kim. And you, Donald. Our Era of Strategic Patience is wearing thin.
The solution to bombs is not more bombs—or rather it is the worst and most costly “solution” that usually leads, eventually, to even more bombs exploding and destroying even more innocent noncombatants. Idiot’s Delight.
And so, even as impulsively cathartic as Trump’s bombing the Syrian airbase might have been, it was Wag the Dog gratuitous. As dime store tough-talking as Mike Pence is in Asia, his braggadocio is simply annoying to anyone with a shred of humanity and coherence.
Can we, at some point very soon, move to thinking critically and in our national/transnational enlightened self interest? Simply put, Trump is threatening Life on Earth and it’s intolerable.
This guy can’t even show us his taxes. Dearest Trump supporters, it is time. Time to join the rest of us who want to survive, who want to salvage democracy, who want to have a President we can trust—even if we disagree with some of his decisions. You must know by now, if you have been paying attention even a wee tiny little bit, that Donald Trump is stone incompetent, a buck naked liar, a flipper and flopper who will betray you in a New York second, and someone who tosses his “promises” overboard when the first whitecap appears in the sea of public policy questions.
Let him go. Help us impeach this Tweeting Nuclear Option—and for Trump the nuclear option is not REPEAT NOT a metaphor. For your daughter, for your granddaughter, for all the daughters to come, stop this. End this aberrant administration. Yes, US presidents have been bad. But this one is an existential threat who must be turned out to pasture. Now. Before he turns Pyongyang into vitrified kimchi and Kim Jong-un transmogrifies Seoul, San Francisco, Tokyo and Seattle into seas of fire. We have two testosterone-addled rulers with pudgy fingers on nuclear code launchers. The Humankind Era of Strategic Patience is ended. Impeach one, impeach both—but stop this dummy dance to death now.
Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.