Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sharpening Our Resolution – From Trident to Tuskegee

Every New Years Eve, for 33 years, there has been a uniquely Southern  peace, social justice, and anti-war gathering at one of the Gates of Hell--the Kings Bay Trident Nuclear Submarine Base--in St. Mary's, Georgia, about 30 minutes north of Jacksonville, Florida, and arguably the third most powerful nuclear state on the planet (if it were to secede and go it alone). Kings Bay is the Atlantic home port for these nuclear submarines - a Cold War relic and still functional First Strike Thermo-Nuclear Weapons Platform.
In the days before our hair turned silver. 
 
Each submarine, if fully locked and loaded, has the capacity to deliver 24 Trident II missiles;each missile launched can independently target 8 hydrogen bombs; each bomb powerful enough to incinerate a city of 100,000. That’s 192 cities if you’re counting.

Still at it after all these years!
The Alternative New Year gathering is the longest continual annual anti-war/ disarmament event in the South. 



This year a group of early arrivals held signs and handed out literature at the two main gates as workers left for the holiday. John Linnehan, of the Metanoia Peace Community, and one of the founders
John Linnehan nabs an infiltrator
of the gathering, composed an excellent one-page flyer. He assured the Sailors, Marines, and other base workers that we respected them and their right to gainful employment and that we did not come in judgment of them personally.

It’s not about you, it’s the weapons,” became our refrain as we stood at the traffic median and had brief encounters with workers waiting for the light to turn. Our messaging was clear:  “…we do condemn a system of weaponry that has the very real potential to so affect the ecological systems of the Earth as to make human life and, perhaps, all life on this planet, unlivable."


Submarine surfaces behind Geri at Trident Gates

 The general  response from the base employees was accepting and polite – as if they already knew the risk of operating this thermo-nuclear nightmare– that Trident “… is not a fail-safe system, and the intentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons has ultimate consequences for us all. One failure could be the last one.”  

   
As is always the case in this kind of direct action, we were occasionally reminded by a handful of passing motorists where to stick our flyers, with whom to have sex, and how easy it is for some to ignore others from barely three feet away. 


Wendy, Ann & Robert Feasting in the New Year!
During the rest of our time at the Crooked River State Park, we filled our Celebration of Life with food, spirits, social networking and community building. We shared workshops and reports from the year of Peace Work, and plans for the next.

Our late night New Years' Eve Vigil back at the main gate is held next to a full-scale concrete replica of a submarine surfacing from underground. The vigil is a time of expressing the many reasons that bring us together year after year, with reverence and contemplation, among a community of long-haul activists, faith-based and dissidents, and all fierce peace warriors  juxtaposed against the heavily-guarded base of operations for a fleet of continually deployed, lethally armed, hidden and hair-triggered killing machines--evidence of humanity's inhumanity to itself and to the Earth.


Our eclectic literature at Auburn UU Congregation
As the New South Network of War Resisters, we helped to coordinate the gathering, working with others with decades of presence at the gates.

In our ongoing communications with friends, other war resisters and community activists across the Deep South, many have offered to host our power point presentation: War On Earth! Atomic Appalachia & the Militarized  Southeast US: Environmental  Impact!
Judy Collins & Jim Allen of Vine & Fig Tree with Clare & Coleman




Thanks to our friends at the Vine and Fig Tree Community in Fredonia, Alabama, we were able to speak of our Southern Organizing initiatives and present War On Earth! in several Alabama venues in January, including the Auburn Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, and in Tuskegee where we presented to a group of Tuskegee University students, faculty, and community members on Martin Luther King Day. We also visited Montgomery with anti-death penalty activist Esther Brown who was speaking before the legislature to object to a fast-tracking of state killing by shortening the appeal process.


Tuskegee Students, Faculty and Community members gather for presentation and  discussion on Military Environmental impact in Southeast
Tuskegee's Historic Campus
These experiences in Alabama have opened new doors for future, ongoing collaboration in what can only be termed the New South. The richness of the conversations and dialogue coming out of this bridge- building exchange can be partially summed by the comments of Tuskegee Alumna Norma Jackson, our new friend and contact with the Alabama NewSouth Coalition and the Black Belt Deliberative Dialogue Group -

The work that you are doing is truly sacred work and I am grateful for it. The young people were profoundly changed by (your) presentation. I look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration with you…”     

Stay connected with our travels and story as we write more about our Tuskegee experience in our next ACTION South post.

Report by Coleman Smith; Photos: Clare Hanrahan & Coleman Smith

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