The Golden Rule at Ground Zero: A Meditation Interrupted

By Gerry Condon

I am sitting in the middle of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action on the Hood Canal near Poulsbo, Washington. It is a large and beautiful piece of property, partly forested. There is a beautiful, ample house, with a sprawling lawn and garden space, protected by tall pine and cedar trees. At the far end of the lawn is a large stone marker engraved with a Buddhist prayer for peace. As I scan this idyllic scene, small bunny rabbits come into focus on the lawn. Enjoying this space all by myself for a few hours restores a sense of inner peace.

But any utopian fantasies are interrupted regularly by the sound of high powered rifles from the nearby rifle range. While breaking my peaceful spell, the rifle shots also remind me where I am. It is one thing that some people are spending time practicing their killing skills at the rifle range. On the other side of the fence, however, is a much more disturbing reality – the largest concentration of nuclear weapons in the United States.

The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is located, by design, right next to the Bangor Trident Submarine Base, one of only two such bases operated by the U.S. Navy (the other is at Kings Bay, Georgia). Nearby is Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC), where missiles are stored and maintained.

One Trident ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) at Bangor is estimated to carry about 108 nuclear warheads.  The W76 and W88 warheads at Bangor are equal respectively to 100 kilotons and 455 kilotons of TNT in destructive force.  One submarine deployed at Bangor is equal to about 1,400 Hiroshima sized nuclear bombs. There are XX submarines.

At the far end of this peaceful lawn with the grazing bunnies and the Buddhist prayer memorial, I can see a cyclone fence topped with concertina wire. On the other side of that fence is enough nuclear firepower to destroy all life on earth. That thought is just too much for me to comprehend. The booming rifle shots have jolted me back to the real world.

Don’t get me wrong. This peaceful space called “Ground Zero” is also the real world. It is all about taking responsibility for the future of our world. It is about breaking through denial, bearing moral witness, educating the community about alternatives to violence, and putting our lives on the line. Ground Zero activists are regularly arrested at the gates of the Bangor base. They are dedicated to nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons and war.

This is also the mission of the historic Golden Rule peace boat, now a national project of Veterans For Peace. We are sailing for a nuclear-free world, and a peaceful, sustainable future. The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is one of main sponsors of the Golden Rule’s 4-1/2 month voyage throughout the Pacific Northwest. We are making stops at over 30 ports in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. We are networking with peace and climate justice activists, while educating the public about the continuing threat of nuclear war.

On Tuesday, August 9, Nagasaki Day, the Golden Rule and Ground Zero, will lead a “peace flotilla,” to sail near the perimeter of the Bangor Trident Submarine Base. We will point out to the world that these weapons of truly mass destruction are here, and that they are holding the entire world hostage to nuclear terror. This obscene cache of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to all life on earth. It is therefore immoral and must be resisted by all people of conscience. As Veterans For Peace says in its mission statement, war itself must be abolished.

I am again gazing at this beautiful green space of contemplation and resistance. Why is it that such idyllic spots are so often occupied by those who are preparing for war? What will it take to put an end to militarism once and for all? Activists working together, as are Veterans For Peace and the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. When many peoples and many struggles come together as one, we will begin to achieve real peace and real justice.

Until then, we can do unto others as we would have them to unto us. Follow the Golden Rule.

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