As North Korea dug tunnels at its nuclear test site last fall, watched by American spy satellites, the Obama administration was preparing a test of its own in the Nevada desert. A fighter jet took off with a mock version of the nation’s first precision-guided atom bomb. Adapted from an older weapon, it was designed with problems like North Korea in mind: Its computer brain and four maneuverable fins let it zero in on deeply buried targets like testing tunnels and weapon sites. And its yield, the bomb’s explosive force, can be dialed up or down depending on the target, to minimize collateral damage.
—The New York Times, January 10, 2016
Is there no bottom to the depth of our hypocrisy, we masters of war and merchants of death? We whited sepulchers who grind the faces of the poor, who tax them to pay for world-destroying weapons to “pacify” millions across the waters who are more desperate than our own poor? Who would “make the desert glow,” forgetting that it is our own small planet we would irradiate?
The New Yorker cover this week showed an infantile Kim Jong-un at play in a sandbox with nuclear toys. Talk about mote and beam! By what logic do we assume we are one jot or tittle different from or better than the North Koreans? What makes our own arrogant and pompous leaders one wit less adolescent than theirs? We are subject like the North Koreans to the same self-perpetuating paranoia, the same lack of moral imagination, the same suppression of truth-telling, the same wildly unnecessary secrets and lies, the same demagogic rationalizations of the status quo, the same folly of an endless arms race, the same nuclear dictatorship that leaves citizens without a voice when world-ending decisions are made. It’s my planet too!
Pontius Pilate, confronted by one mute, disheveled, apparently revolutionary Jew, knowing not what he had before him, washed his hands of him. We have the death of the whole planet clearly before us; how much more reprehensible is our own smug hand washing!
How long will the nations and the generals and those who call themselves statesmen stall and stall again, grossly abrogating their obligations to live up to signed treaties committing them to the abolition of these weapons? How long will they passively acquiesce to the march of doom quickened by the mindless greed of the arms makers? Who will throw these moneychangers out of the temple of our one irreplaceable planet and restore it to life-reverence?
We partake in a cult of death as nihilistic as ISIS, disguised like a thin layer of rose petals on a pile of horse manure, by our obtuse pretensions to exceptionalism—we assume our thousands of nuclear weapons are a force for good, while those of North Korea or Iran are a force for evil.
Who will speak for the right of mothers and children not to be irradiated and poisoned even by the atomic tests—any nation’s atomic tests—let alone annihilated by a war into which we could slip so much more easily than we can possibly imagine? We adults ourselves are children, in the worst, not the best sense. We are active and complicit deniers of the real. Even the missile crisis of October 1962, behind us by a half-century, failed utterly to wake us up. How much closer do we want to come to ending everything that we love?
How long will we call ourselves Christians, setting aside an hour a week to worship Christ, or a day a year to remember King, our own living embodiment of the teachings of Jesus, at the same time that we deploy submarines that can wreak destruction on a scale unimaginable by ISIS terrorists. We never come within a country mile of considering what the Christian message of creative non-violence might do to help us, all of us on the planet, to survive in the context of realistic international diplomacy—help the West reconcile with the “Muslim world” and not reduce it to fearful stereotypes.
The fundamental illusion that confronts us, whether trying to act upon the challenge of domestic gun violence, or radical Islamic terrorism, or the prevention of nuclear war, or global climate change, is the illusion of “us-and-them.” By paying only lip-service to figures like Gandhi and Jesus and Martin Luther King, we deny ourselves the practical usefulness of wanting our “enemy’s” security as much as we want our own, wanting it because we see our life-and-death interdependency with our “enemy”—this is irrefutable on the level of climate change and nuclear war. We have met the enemy and he is us. If it is irrefutable on that level, the logic works at any level of conflict: we need police and a military trained to de-escalate and resolve conflict, not perpetuate it by the constant use of overwhelming force.
Will we all be secure if more and more nations have nuclear weapons or if none do? Any general worth his stars in any military on earth ought to be calling for the negotiated abolition of these weapons down to zero—and not after they retire and it becomes safe to speak out. Redirecting the vast sums sucked up by nuclear weapons to a global Marshall Plan addressing real human needs would enhance the survival of our own nation and all nations.