How did you spend your Fourth of July?
Father Carl Kabat, an 80 year old priest who has spent some 17 years in prison for protesting against war and weapons, spent the Fourth of July spattering red paint across a sign at a Kansas City plant just opened. He is spending this weekend in jail as the officials ruin their holiday weekend figuring out how to charge him. The plant was built for the National Nuclear Security Administration to make and procure non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons. In a phone call to friends at 10:03 a.m., Carl said, “This damned plant has got to be closed somehow, some way.” The complete report on the action is here. Kabat used red paint to remind people of the potential bloodshed should the weapons parts being built in Kansas City ever be used in anger.
I’ve written about Father Carl Kabat a number of times here. Father Carl is a longtime member of the Plowshares movement and was one of the original ‘Plowshares Eight’. The Plowshares take literally the Biblical order in Isaiah to ‘Turn swords into plowshares’ and disable weapons, especially nuclear weapons. In 1980, Kabat and seven others broke into the King of Prussia GE plant and damaged MX missile parts on the assembly line. The number of actions has ebbed and flowed over the years, but we had another Plowshares action in 2012 called the Transform Now plowshares. Sister Megan Rice, an 85 year old nun, is in prison right now for breaking into the HEUMF facility in Oak Ridge. Once inside, Sister Megan and her co-conspirators Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed hammered on the building, poured blood in front of the doors, sang hymns and hung up signs for peace.
Beyond what you think about civil disobedience and symbolic disarmament, the US has some 1,950 strategic weapons ready to fire at a moment’s notice; the Russians have 1,800. It wouldn’t take much in the way of misunderstandings for those missiles to fly and start splitting atoms. But instead of whittling down those numbers, the US is embarking on a modernization program that will cost us over $1 trillion over the next few decades. This despite the fact that in 1996 the ICJ declared virtually all use of nuclear weapons contrary to international law.
Meanwhile, there are petition drives to get Sister Megan (and now Father Carl) out of prison. I agree they should be released, but I don’t think that serves them. What they want is for the rest of us to get off our couches and do something about the weapons. We owe it to them to take a stand.
PS: I do a touring play about Father Carl’s most famous protest action.Information here.