High Time To Change The World’s Course

Garrett Connelly of Greenfield and Nan Davies of Amherst held a sign in remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August on the Greenfield Commons, calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. Greenfield Recorder/ Ella Adams photo
Garrett Connelly of Greenfield and Nan Davies of Amherst held a sign in remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 2021 on the Greenfield Commons, calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. Greenfield Recorder/ Ella Adams photo

by Rev. Peter Kakos

Originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Among the most endearing aspects of the story of Christmas- and a favorite image on holiday-cards- is the appearance of an angel to shepherds on the lower plains of Bethlehem, “watching their sheep by night” (most likely in springtime). This luminous messenger tells them to go to the village above to celebrate the birth of a child divine (aren’t they all?). “Suddenly” the sky fills with a heavenly chorus, in unison proclaiming “peace and good will to all.”

Written in the ancient everyday Greek of the day, the word for this blessed gift is (phonetically) AYE-REE-NAY from which the rarely used descriptive term “irenic” is derived (later coming to us in the name, Irene!). It refers not to a cessation of battle or even war, nor to a stalemate brought on by mutual attrition. Instead, it connotes a state of reconciliation of opposing Parties (!), or nations, wherein each side recognizes the benefit of no longer engaging destructively, of regarding one another with dignity and comradeship. Furthermore, given that an angel brings this from above, it also conveys a spirit of universal holiness: God’s heartfelt desire, if you will.

As the pandemic approaches its third year among virtually all nations, and presently shows no signs of abating, mutating at alarming speed, is it not high time that world powers face the dire need to collaborate if we are ever to subdue an enemy ravaging not just every major country, but especially those without adequate resources to cope, let alone cure? The stark reality is that no one can ever hope to win alone. Borders, no matter how tight,  will never be able to keep Covid at  arm’s length.

Added to this looming crisis is the disturbing truth  that coordination on a global scale will not happen overnight. Costly steps, however, must be taken immediately to fund necessary research, production, and implementation. When major nations look for funding, they need to see that they can no longer afford the luxury of multi-billion layouts for defensive nuclear warheads, which they assure us are deterrents, preventative measures to thwart another power’s ambitions. What makes this line of reasoning even more ludicrous, is that, according to the Physicians For Social Responsibility (PSR),were even one percent (roughly 150) launched by any of the nine nations, a lethal radioactive cloud would in weeks cover the planet, wiping out civilization faster than any virus, no matter how potent..

This month Congress passed a defense budget of over 700 billion, earmarking, over the next decade, 264 billion for “missile modernization.” To bring this home, the Mass. branch of PSR calculates that in  2020 alone, every citizen of the Commonwealth paid $290.00 each for nuclear-related defense, and statewide, a staggering $2,021,700,000. Before the House on Beacon Hill is P.S.R’s S.1556 Bill which resolves to support their Back from the Brink”s No First Use national policy, presently receiving widespread approval, including the major cities of Boston and New York,, as well as here in Northampton, in 2019.

How are we going to stop this unrelenting arms race from bringing us closer to the finish-line? First, every nation on earth must ratify the 2017, U.N. Treaty For the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, now adopted by no less than fifty seven countries. Of course, none of the nine possessor-states will formally do so at this time, but then a  reasonable alternative would be to have them agree to a verifiable plan to reduce present arsenals by ten percent each year. (Who knows, it might be that after three years, they’ll raise the annual percentage!). If this seems far fetched, a recent report by World Without War claims that over the past two years, worldwide investments in nuclear missile production have decreased by nearly 10%, or roughly over sixty billion. You can be sure that the financial world is paying close attention to this promising trend.

Let us keep before us that our country and world’s common cause is nothing less than immediate survival. Left unchecked, Covid could very well rule the day. Indeed heavenly irenic peace may as last come, but who would be left to celebrate?

— Rev. Peter Kakos lives in Northampton, Mass.