by C.R. Spicer
In twenty-one days, a chick hatches able to walk. Movement capacity is not a chicken or the egg scenario, and yet movements are run by people who can hit the ground running.
Relationships are built in small acts. Peter Metz reached out to Ira Helfand for a coffee; and soon they co-authored LTEs (scroll down the NYT opinion page here) and even rallied a shift in the NDWG policy: adopting a goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons within the decade. It was a cup of coffee with my city of Somerville councilor Mark Niedergang that flipped his mind–and subsequently led to his ardent support for the Back from the Brink resolution in 2018.
Around the same time, MAPA member, former Rotary Peace Fellow Frances Jeffries jumped at a call from Joseph Gerson for an intern. “All I wanted to do was work for peace.” Finding herself entering data “skunkwork,” she called it, all the while gaining expertise by osmosis. Colleagues gushed she was working with Joseph Gerson! Then she was appointed to attend the prep committee NPT Review Conference–with eleven days’ notice. Realizing she could crash on a couch at her daughter’s NY apartment, she said yes. “Suddenly I am catapulted into this arena. You don’t know the acronyms, the pecking order, and I’m doing this fast catch up.”
The peace community is not a shell, any longer. Massachusetts Peace Action members and other activists have burst out and can be seen, increasingly….everywhere. Craig Simpson, a MAPA member who attended Line 3 camps in Minnesota last summer, in April gifted his .95 acre of land to the Mashpee tribe via the Native Land Conservancy. After decades as a war tax resister, he found his act affirming, feeling vulnerable after signing the NWTRCC statement. During the Coalition of War Industry Resisters April 20, he told me he felt “relieved.” If only the big banks and financial institutions would take such relief.
MAPA member Paul Shannon, dressed as a referee, called a penalty on Black Rock for investing 260B in the worst climate destroyers. “Invest in life, not fossil fuels!!” Dr. Jill Stein, former presidential candidate for the Green Party, said “including 30 billion in new coal–we don’t need new coal. We are the ones who will take our government, our future, our society, because it’s going down in the flames of war. Black Rock holds 10 trillion in investment, which we could use to end hunger around the world, universal health care.” We stood in front of State Street Global Advisors to learn from Hyatt Imamm it was the single largest investor in Raytheon technologies, reaping profits after the latest 650 million contract of arms to Saudi Arabia. A Dorchester resident and grandmother of four, Hyatt said she was back from a visit to Bangladesh where coastal wells are already over-salinated due to rising sea-levels.
My working relationship with Rev. Savina Martin of the Poor People’s Campaign made possible the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. observance for the City of Somerville, MA. A stockpile of Witness Against Torture t-shirts and a group of friends made our 10 degree stand out in Boston Common that much stronger. Waging Nonviolence published an article I wrote about the Kings Bay Plowshare Seven walk in New York for Peace and Nuclear Abolition. Back to Peter, whom I joined for dinner on the evening of his 80th birthday to resolve an internal tension (on my part). We worked together assembling 200 participants for a May 15 webinar with Archbishop of Santa Fe John Wester and Ira Helfand.. Last week, we celebrated as S.1555/H.3688 was voted favorably out of committee. In support of the bill, which will form a Citizens Commission to do research on the impact of the TPNW and recommend state actions, we’re calling for LTE written to Aaron Michlewicz, Chair of House Ways and Means to bring the bill to the floor.
As a stay-at-home Dad I could have simply agreed with Kyutae Lee, who wrote in “The Island” for New York Times Magazine, “Most people live cosseted in the vague belief that their existence and the work they do are essentially nondestructive, but hardly anyone in our era could really say that about themselves. These days, the very condition of being alive represents an act of extortion.” Recently I saw the word “Crook” left by chalktivists on the Somerville Community path. Massachusetts Peace Action has effected a change in my life, in great and small ways, like when Susan Mirsky connected to the Bread and Puppet Library—“Whoa, this place is awesome,” I remember thinking as I saw the fantastic collection of ghouls, gremlins and goblins, humanoid spirits, peace doves and dragons.
The TPNW did not initially mobilize me, but it did arouse me to recognize the change in the narrative. The Doomsday clock did breakthrough with its historical and scientific calls to action. The Ukraine Crisis entered into US mainstream with a nuclear peril subplot that has enabled a previously-unthinkable public outcry against nuclear weapons. The US $813 billion discretionary budget request, (largest ever) includes $51 billion for nuclear weapons funding. On April 28, H.J. Res 83, Authorizing the Use of Military Force–this spring loaded “AUMF” calibrates on the bad-faith of aggression. If Russia uses a chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon, it’s open season for war. The supposition embeds a NATO-like nuclear weapon payback at worst, and certainly is cranking on a jack-in-the-box of U.S. armed force to release at the next shrug by the President. De-escalation, Now, We must use every symbol in our cannon of people power.
June 12 symbolizes the people-powered change that would take many forms, from long marches and women’s encampments, from the fringe plowshares to the freeze campaign, successful in achieving popular support at a mass level. It makes sense. We can do this.
—C.R. Spicer is a member of MAPA, the Pastoral Council of the Paulist Center, and the Somerville Human RIghts Commission.