Do Not Tread on Y-12's Peaceful Green Lawn


Originally published Aug. 5, 2013

Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1945

Sixty seven years ago, the U.S. dropped the world's first atomic bomb, so innocuously nicknamed 'Little Boy' on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  It is estimated that in the initial firestorm, 80,000 persons instantly perished,vaporized or burned alive.  Many thousands more perished slowly over the ensuing weeks, months and years, from radiation sickness, various cancers and other maladies.

The uranium fuel for Little Boy was enriched in the calutrons of the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  Through the 1940s, 50s and 60s, during the Cold War, nuclear weapons production continued at break neck industrial speed in Oak Ridge.

To commemorate Hiroshima, I wrote and recorded a song a few years back.  This afternoon, I set my song to some historical photographs of Hiroshima.  I offer you the resulting video now. 


67 Years Later, August 6, 2013, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 

On September 30, 2009, the Pentagon revealed the actual size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile: 5,113 nuclear warheads.  Thankfully, both the U.S. and the Russians are reducing the size of their respective nuclear stockpiles, but not nearly enough.  

The U.S. and Russia, co-signers to the START treaty, have mutually agreed to reduce their respective stockpiles to no more than 1,550 warheads each.  And as an aside, the relatively primitive bomb named Little Boy that leveled Hiroshima packed a yield of 12 kilotons.  Our modern warheads carry yields of some 340 kilotons.  

Last summer, Sister Megan Rice, an 82 year old Catholic nun and peace activist, along with Greg Boertie-Obed, 57 and Michael Walli, 63, cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons plant.  Armed with wire cutters, flashlights, bread, and baby bottles of human blood to symbolically splash on the weapons plant, these three brave souls reached the most secret inner sanctum of the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex. Sister Megan Rice also carried a worn Bible and a letter which read:

“We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war.  Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based on war-making and empire-building.”

All three of the elder peace activists expected to die that night.  As their progress continued across the Y-12 campus, undiscovered and unimpeded, they prayed and sang hymns: Peace Like a River and Down by the Riverside.  They hung their peace banners and splashed blood on the walls of the so called "Fort Knox of the Nuclear Weapons Industry" where hundreds of metric tons of enriched, bomb grade uranium are stored and through whose gates every nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal must pass. 

Apparently, unbeknownst to most of us, a few other things have been passing through those same gates.   Of late, there have been a number of breaches at the Y-12 facility, much to the embarrassment of the federal contractors and both the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense.  

Sister Megan Rice and Misters Obed and Walli were initially charged with simple criminal trespass, but as the incident gathered international attention, federal charges continued to expand and eventually included sabotage and a number of other felony indictments.  Prevented from speaking on their feelings about the dangers of nuclear weapons in federal court, all three peace activists were convicted.

After the break in, Congress held investigations (in which one Congressman thanked Sister Rice for demonstrating how porous the security at Y-12 actually was!)  Y-12 was closed for a period of two weeks.  And, perhaps most impressively,  Y-12 officials erected many miles of another flimsy chain link fence, this one to protect the site from the dastardly peace activists that descend on the lawn in front of the Y-12 Gates from time to time, most especially, to commemorate Hiroshima Day.

In past years, I've been to some of those Hiroshima Day demonstrations.  Oh, indeed, the activities of the peace activists were shocking, dangerous and alarming!  They actually rang a bell and read the names of victims who died at Hiroshima.  What is worse, they hung paper cranes on the fence along Y-12!  

Tomorrow, they won't be doing any of those things, at least not on the grass, for the NEW fence does not allow any trespassers on the green.  No, the new fence goes right up to the edge of the road, with bright yellow and black no trespassing signs displayed every few feet, effectively outlawing any sort of demonstration.  

Thank God!  I feel safer already.  After all, the existential threat to the survival of Planet Earth is not INSIDE those gates!  I'm so relieved that our all knowing government officials and their corporate flacks have, in their superior wisdom, criminalized free thinkers who might have the audacity to appear with paper cranes, banners and bells at the gates of Y-12 with the intention of treading on that peaceful green lawn.

Be Well and Good Luck,
Martha Maria
August 5, 2013  

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