Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Last nuclear weapons establishment

The last weapon system base on our itinerary is Burghfield Atomic Weapon Establishment. We conducted a vigil at the main gate yesterday after circling it for hours searching for the gate, escorted in a way by three Ministry of Defense vehicles. There is more here than loading the nuclear warheads to and from Coulport for loading on the Tridents at Faslane. The experience is sinister, even in the warm sun. We had a discussion last night at our Quaker Meeting House, memorable as we shared the learning and impacts of the Walk with those attending.

The day was exhausting because we arose around 5:00 AM to participate in an Aldermaston vigil with the Muriel Lester Affinity Group at 7:00 AM. No arrests this time.

I fantasized earlier a sunny walk into London. It's happening. Three days sunny summer weather! Three and a half more days of walking to London. Then, we speak to those who set the policy and budgets for this nuclear disaster.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Aldermaston arrest

After a week of walking, at times in the flooded Thames River area, we arrived at Aldermaston, nuclear weapons producer, which is also working on new laser facility. We vigiled with a supportive group, then four of us stepped into the gate road to block traffic. Three strong young folks locked hands and feet together, Dan from London at 32, Lianna and Ita from Atlanta at 23 and 19. Ita arrived the day before. What a team! Police needed special pressure point tactics to separate them before arrest. Meanwhile Gandhi was pushed aside. They did not want to arrest him. Gandhi persisted. He was arrested after the others were hauled off. I kept coming back on the road, despite the loving solicitude of the police. We will be charged with a new law, called the By Laws, which are as vague as the US Congress Guantanamo laws which were denied by the courts. We are now released.

Police were the ultimate in courtesy. While the other three were occupying the police with their resistance, I faced a whole line of police between me and the others, most much bigger than I. One by one I entered conversation with them on various subjects related to our present environment. One, a former Trident crew member, who has even been to Bangor, and was a crusty guy to start, said "In other circumstances, I'd take you out for a pint." After arriving at the police station, the other three were still outside awaiting entrance with their arresting officers. The wait was long. This enabled some conversation. My officer was a fine young man, as were the others. It is regarded as an honor to be a policeperson in the UK.

My Gandhi message which I beamed out while on the street before they pushed me aside was: Aldermaston must be closed. Radiation kills. Aldermaston gets its nuclear materials from uranium mines which are killing now. Accidents here allow radiation into the environment, finding its way into humans and animals. The Bombs will kill when used. Radiation will kill even in the disposed wastes.

This message is a result of the walk. Compare it to my action message at Faslane when I quoted Gandhi's comments on the Atom Bomb.

At the vigil before the citizen's action in the road, I read a victim's of the Atom Bomb at Hiroshima account. It was graphic and moving. I hope to create some kind of litany before our August 6th gatherings in London.

We are now resting for two days, real rest! Then, we move out Monday morning after witnessing another action at Aldermaston by the Muriel Lester Affinity Group.

An aside, While on our last rest before entering the Aldermaston Base, I was looking for a toilet at a closed restaurant. An Indian gentleman inside noticed and invited me in with the comment "You look like Gandhi!" After telling him what we were doing and what I am doing, he took my picture alone and with him, read my statement, and gave me a glass of ginger ale. He invited me back with "I love what you are doing." You never know what unexpected person you will meet.

Today is sunny and nice. The flood waters are receding. On Tuesday, July 24th, The Independent of England said that this is the wettest period on record, wetter than the record set in 1947. The article's analysis attributed it to global warming. (A one day walker told me of her recent voyage up the Norway Coast to the Arctic, led by a geologist who laid out the trends in global warming beginning in 1920. No doubt in my mind.)

Well, one more week til August 6th, the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Peace, Bernie

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Through Thick and Thin

From the Milton Keynes Peace Pagota, the Walk has moved into its last two weeks with growing activities and nature's vigorous participation. I have had almost no opportunity to do internet work for over a week. During that time we have been to Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicester, Lutterworth, Northhamptonshire, and others. People are joining in from each location for a day, half day, week, etc. CND'ers, Quakers, Peace Activists, Buddhists, spontaneous folks, constantly change our parade. Events in the afternoon with mayors and community greeters, evening programs, and logistical jumbling keep us going. A few highlights follow.

Last Sunday we had a vigil on our rest day at Rolls Royce where are types of nuclear cores and armaments are produced. This was followed by a dinner at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Welfare Centre in Derby, an Indian Workers Association seeking to overcome racism, facism, and nuclear armaments. They welcomed Gandhi warmly, even though freedom fighter Singh was hanged in 1931 at the age of 23 for terrorism.

In Leicester the Indian Mayor recognized Gandhi among the walkers and headed for him. Leicester is composed of 50 % Asians, most Indians. The textile industry drew them there.

Richard Johnson, a CND leader, accompanied us on the walk for a day. After reading his "Terrible Twins" paper about organizing for abolish nuclear power and nuclear weapons, I wrote the following:
(With Merton's Gandhi and Non-violence in mind, the One Eyed Giant (the West) heading into Asia, Africa, and American with "dominance and no understanding" in mind)

The Two Eyes seem ever farther apart.
One Eyed giant--the west circles the earth in ever expanding swaths. Defending itself with ancient jungle mentality--grab, kill, consume, kill. Devastation left behind, species extinct, water polluted, ground radiated, air angered with heat. Where will it end? When? How?

The one eye of count, measure, invent, and use, no matter the consequences, is jaundiced by its Smart Bomb powers an voracious appetite.

The lost and ignored eye, seemingly dissociated, is a glowing light before the dawn...the second eye. Wisdom, wisdom, wisdom--come forth. You are in our hearts, in our soul. Enlighten our way. Enliven our courage. Transform the jaundiced eye. END

Then the day heading into Loughborough, July 16th, signs for Trinity Park, Trinity Methodist Church, and other trinities reminded me of Trinity Test on August 16th 1945, when the US tested the first atom bomb. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project, thought of the Gita words as he observed the test:

"If a thousand suns were to rise
and stand in the noon sky, blazing
such brilliance of that mighty Self."

As the Bomb lite, "I am death, shatter er of worlds,
annihilating all things."

A few years later Oppenheimer went to President Truman in contrition and repentance. Truman told his secretary to keep him out of there.

So, we litter ally go through it all. The weather has given us a day or so of sunshine summer between storms which at times are harsh. On Thursday headlines said "Two months rain in 24 hours." That day the wind, downpours, and chill kept us moving through route confusions, flooding, and soaking shoes and clothing. Some exciting times!

Next weekend, we go to Aldermaston, producer of nuclear bombs, etc. Probably another direct action. I'll try to keep you "posted."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Entering Derbyshire County

Greetings from Fritchney, a small town on the way to Nottingham where we enter tomorrow for a semi-rest day. We are back in the rain after a few days of sunshine weather. Walked ten miles today in the rain, after what I thought were 20 miles yesterday, a beautiful walk from Chesterfield to Fritchney. Although very tired, we were revived by a musician who came special to play for us after hearing our presentation the night before. We presented in both Sheffield and Chesterfield on successive nights. Gandhi spoke truth and love to the adults first night and stories to children the second night. "Humankind cannot bear very much reality." T.S. Elliott Despite our speaking truth, people respond kindly with hospitality and wonderful food.

Duncan Ball, who joined us at Sellafield, is beginning to share his 19 year experiences with this nuclear power base. He narrates the lies and abuses his bosses allowed, etc. Placing a book of documentation on their desks, he ends up in prison for a year...shades of Karen Kirkwood. I am proud to have the opportunity to walk with him daily sharing stories and views. His credentials are his experiences and his openness to truth, overcoming the common fear and denial.

We now have two women from Japan among the walkers. A third Japanese woman from Hiroshima came to our Sheffield presentation. She greeted my American Gandhi presence with tremendous joy and a paper dragon made by her seven year old student.

My Gandhi frustration is that we have little time to speak all we have to say.

Sheffield is the first city to grant asylum to immigrants and political refugees throughout the world as a policy. (I may not have this worded accurately.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Village

"The Truth of Village Square" Einstein quote
Village, Truth of Village Square
Village, the crossroads of the countryside
Village, the place of exchange,
food, clothing, tools, and necessities
ideas, insights, tools, controversy
dance and song
Village, the place of exchange.
In the ideal--Truth and love shared and embraced
Truth to guide the destinies of all
In a nuclear world, truth abandoned...the nation-state finds its power
in The Bomb. The Bomb holds captive in the name of national security.
Nation-state complex...grasping the power in fear of terrorists
Nation-state complex...fear of villagers rejecting the power of the Bomb.
Nation-state complex...tied and bound by national security.
Can't let go. Can't let go.
Gandhi's ever expanding village circles
moved by power of love and responsibility.
Individuals giving themselves for the village.
Villages giving themselves for the greater good.
Truth is the guide, love is the way, taking on all burdens.
Einstein's observation:
Atoms for war, atoms for peace would be solved only in the "truth of the village spuare."
Or else. Or else by the power of nature, nature abused. Or else.
A momentary village: two Australians, one Englishman, One East Cumbrian, One Japenese, one New Zealander, three U.S. citizens,
walking, walking from theheart, walking from the heart,
seeking express truth in village square.
"Truth in Village Square"
from the heart, The American Gandhi

Monday, July 9, 2007

From Barnsby, we are having a needed rest day after a daunting period of coping with the weather, as well as coping with the earth damaging effects of nuclear armaments and nuclear power. Fellow Walker, Dan, discovered a book in the Quaker Meeting House last night that addresses the two inter-related issues in one and concludes with a chapter on non-violence as the only attitude to save humanity and Mother Earth: From Hiroshima to Three Mile Island, by Jim Garrison, 1980. Dan gave it to me with the comment, "It's your kind of book." Indeed, it is so. Garrison quotes Merton's "Gandhi and Non-violence", which has been my constant companion on this trip, among other favorite authors. The introduction is classic Merton with comments about violence being based upon "irreversible" judgements about human interactions and nonviolence upon reversible perspectives. While I am finding it difficult to get into the depths of insight I would like to with both the Walkers and the people along the way, I am heartened with Dan's remarks.

To conclude with our present string of encounters with nuke sites, we visited the Fylingdales Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station, way up north of Leeds. Gifted and committed activists drove us north to England's National Park where we walked in hard rain, mud and wind for a couple miles. When the clouds opened up, we could observe the beauty of this high country where sheep graze and wilds competed. There on the top rise was a massive three-side structure in characteristic grey, puncturing the horizon with defiance. We walked the trails and circled the site, wet and muddied, angered and concerned. The security police met us in vehicles and on foot, in numbers and with a dog. The barbed fences reinforced their message. One of them said to Marcus, our walk co-leader, "I remember you." Marcus was here before, a year or so ago.

The Station is early warning for missiles on the attack. The USSR was the opponent during the Cold War. Both the Russian and the US maintain its missiles on hair trigger alert, despite the end of the Cold War. My sudden realization: "The Cold War is not over." Now, the site will take on the added load of the Missile Defense System being created by the United States with its "allies". This, despite the fact that the System has failed test after test to stop single missiles, let alone gangs of missiles. There have to be other objectives for MDS. The grey sterility of the massive structure and its related facilities stands as symbol and reality of the emptiness of the consumer-industrial world sapping the strength of the earth. Bring back the thoughts of Garrison, Merton, Arndt, Lifton, etc. And Gandhi, nonviolence is stronger than any weapon of violence.

Our route moves on to other areas of England where we will be treated less in terms of bases, and more, I hope, with interactions with real ordinary peoples.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Confrontation at Menwith Hill

From Leeds, an urban center at the Quaker Meeting House, we are moving into the more populated areas of England. The last few days have been most stimulating and insightful. We left Spikton for Otley by an old Roman road that transverses the crest of a "mountain/hill" trough farm pastures. Rain had deposited water filling the wheel tracks, holes, and rivers overflowing. The adventure left our feet soaked and soft. The beauty was awesome. Later in the day we walked along a canal now used for vacation boats converted from hauling barges. Lo and behold a documentary crew on a boat spotted us. They proceeded to film our muddy crew, focusing on the flag holding crew working for nuclear disarmament and the "costumed" American Gandhi. They filmed him beginning with muddy sandals to hairless head. It will be interesting for those viewing to see if they convey the purpose of the Walk....next January in the Uk and Discovery Channel.

Highlight of the last few days was our trip to Menwith Hill for the demonstration "Independence from America" organized yearly by the Campaign for Accountability for American Bases. We walked the ten miles on July Fourth to be part of the demonstration. Drumming and American flags in distress posture (upside down) greeted our arrival...except for the American flag over the base at its entrance. The base is part of a worldwide intelligence network called Echelon centered in Colorado under a mountain. UK and Australian witnesses say that the bases are also used for economic advantage. Legislative delegations in both countries are unable to learn what is occurring at these bases.

The event was greeted by new rules imposed by the police dressed in their yellow and black uniforms. Citing a 1986 law the demonstration was restricted from the customary walk around the base to a short walk (one mile). We were surrounded the whole way by police on foot and in the presence of horse riding police, motorcycles and paddy wagons. The message was clear, we are going to restrict you.

The climax was the stopping point on the road beyond which we were not allowed to proceed. The two hundred of us needed to turn back or face the consequences. Anni Rainbow was the last to decide. We gathered around her as she struggled to make the decision in her wheel chair, clearly and deeply affected as the police tried to persuade her. The police worked at persuasion, but were ungiving. Anni agreed to return the way she came. I later learned that her son had died in Iraq and that she saw the walk as a way to honor him. The event organizer asked me, "What would we do in the US?" I said, "Sit down in the road." She replied, "The people need to be ready for that." I agreed. This short blog cannot do justice to the drama of the situation.

I did have the opportunity to briefly address the gathering as The American Gandhi, receiving a most warm hug by on organizer at the end.