Thursday, August 13, 2009
Arizona, despite the crippling heat (108 after dark!), was an amazing experience.
In Phoenix on August 6th we met with some folks at the Fair Trade Café, thanks to the efforts of Liz Hourican of Code Pink, who also kindly hosted us for two nights, and took us on a tour of Phoenix highlights. Especially impressive was a statue created from melted-down weapons, pictured here.
On August 7th we stopped by Senator John McCain's office building, and later presented to a fine crew of uber-dedicated anti-nuke folks at the Quaker Meeting House, where we stayed one night thanks to the kindness of Jason and his wife.
We also had three excellent days in Tucson, where we stayed at the Pima Friends’ (Quaker) Meeting House, managed by Jeanmarie Simpson, a playwright and actress, and by Pat Birnie, both members of WILPF Disarm Committee.
The sun was setting on the 8th as we pulled into the Cancer Survivor’s Pavilion at Reid Park, where the Tucson Raging Grannies presented a colorful collection of great songs and a moving memorial to the Nagasaki bombing.
The next day we showed the film “The Strangest Dream,” about the life and work of Joseph Rotblat, the only nuclear physicist to leave the Manhattan Project before its “success” in 1945. He later won a Nobel Prize for his work in nuclear medicine, and later still won another Nobel – the Peace Prize – for helping organize the international Pugwash Peace Conferences. It is a beautiful and inspiring story, and was appreciated by the audience of 30+ in the basement of the downtown Tucson Library. We particularly appreciate this film because it shows that great minds 50 years ago were saying the same things Proposition One says...
Afterwards, WILPF gave a sensational pot luck back at the Quaker house and we spent two delicious hours eating, talking and planning with some of Tucson’s finest activists.
Monday, August 10, we spent organizing, planning ahead and following up, taking advantage of the road respite that the Pima Friends House provided. The highlight of the day was meeting with Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa, longtime editors of the Nuclear Resister newsletter, and their friend John Hyde, another spectacularly dedicated Quaker anti-nuclear activist who has endured several jail stints over the course of his decades of peace work.
We talked at length about their history, major moments in the movement, and what the future may hold. We were lucky to capture part of the interview on video, but as always seems to be the case, some of the gems were missed, like the fact that, though Tucson has no nuclear industries per se, the nearby Air Base houses the “Warthog” planes that are primarily used in dropping depleted uranium (DU) munitions, and Felice has a “Permanent Ban and Bar” order for her repeated anti-DU demonstrations there. (Jack has received a similar order for passing out pro-peace literature at air shows.) Next summer on the 4th of July, they will celebrate 30 years of the Nuclear Resister (and their sister paper in Wisconsin, Nukewatch Quarterly) with a demonstration at the Oak Ridge plant in Tennessee.
Great colorful murals all over Tucson. Next time we’re back, we'll do a photo safari of Tucson murals… That, and a trip to the Atlas Missile museum, which displays the control room, silo, and missile (decommissioned like all Atlas missiles since 1965). Considering the welcome we had here, and the enthusiasm of the people we met, who knows if it might not be soon ... to help put Proposition One on the ballot in 2010!
On Tuesday, August 11th, we regretfully said goodbye to Tucson and headed east towards New Mexico, on our way to Think Outside the Bomb in Albuquerque. We were at White Sands as the sun set, a strange and beautiful sacred land, which has been bombarded for decades by toxic ammunition and missiles.
We spent the night at 9,000+ feet in Sierra Blanca high above Ruidoso, NM, seeking cool weather. It was a joy, after so much hot desert, to awake at dawn among tall pines and grass at a scenic overlook, chilly enough for a sweater, cuddling up to Sophia the peace dog, who had been avoiding contact because of the heat ever since Los Angeles. We wound down the mountain to get as close as possible to the Trinity Test Site near Alamogordo. We were stopped by a gate and mountain at Stallion Range Camp, a small military town, and photographed some strangely shaped clouds rising from beyond the mountain. At first we thought they must be testing weapons, later wondered if they were making artificial clouds for weather purposes, probably we’ll never know….
Unfortunately, our geiger counter isn’t working, so we weren’t able to gauge the radioactivity near the Trinity test site, 64+ years after the world’s first atomic explosion, but we do intend to get satisfaction on our $80 investment from the owner of The Black Hole, where we purchased it, when we return to Los Alamos with the TOTB crew on Saturday night.
Now we’re back in New Mexico at the first morning of the Think Outside The Bomb conference, surrounded by eager young minds, where we'll be until Sunday. More about this next posting….
Ellen and Jay, Steve and Troy