Viewpoint: Clergy warns of dangerous times today

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Karen Rubin

It’s all connected: nuclear weapons, climate change, gun violence, racism. Because at the heart is a violence born of self-righteousness, a selfish greed, a zero-sum philosophy and a rejection of humanism and globalism. Indeed, this current corrupt and morally bankrupt Trump administration sees “globalism” as bad and has based its domestic and foreign policy around nationalism (America First!) and the dehumanization of “others.”

These themes resounded during the commemoration of the 74th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (this year dedicated to Stan and Shirley Romaine, who as founders of Great Neck SANE, were inspirational in the anti-nuclear peace movement).

Rev. Ned Wight of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, said, “It has been 74 years since this country made the fateful decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forever changing the scope and scale for human capacity for self- destruction. We seem to inhabit an us-vs.-them world – but those who think bombs make us strong, powerful and, them, our enemies, vulnerable and weak deceive themselves.

“In the nuclear era, destructive power has obliterated the line between “us” and “them.” In the nuclear era, there is only us, all of us, together. Now we have added a new threat to human survival – climate change. Those who think they will be spared (like the ultra-rich) or not responsible, deceive themselves. In an era of climate change spiraling out of control..There is no us or them, only all of us together.”

Wight said it is up to all of us: “How each consumes resources, how cities, states, nations spend tax dollars (for example, nearly $1 trillion on defense and a new Space Force), corporations spend consumer dollars, the urgency to reduce gun violence and end mass shootings, the urgency to confront, dismantle racist systems, to eliminate the gap between ultra rich and the rest, the urgency to protect vanishing species.”

Rev. Mark Lukens, of Bethany Congregational Church in East Rockaway, said: “These are very unsettled, dangerous times – so many things happening I never thought I would see in this country that I love so much, a country that is justly proud of aspirations of liberty, equality on which its built, but which too long has seen itself as an exception to rules of history, embracing Exceptionalism as a kind of national religion – a belief that we in the United States are immune to the consequences of our actions, such as ones here to commemorate…. a nation that understands as history demonstrated that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions… War itself, even for the noblest of causes, is always a blood bath, always a crime against innocents who pay with their lives and always sow seeds for conflicts yet to come.

“A nation that thinks it can do no wrong has already laid the groundwork for its own destruction, as it [heaps] destruction on others.

“It is so important especially now, when those who have no sense for history, let alone critical thought, have seized the reins of government, control courts, seeded bigotry, xenophobia …Led by a man with uncanny resemblance in style, substance to some of the worst despots in history and a Congress that lacks courage or will other than to stand in approval of dismantling of the republic.

“Let us remember and bear witness, remind those with ears to hear that on this day in 1945 in what was no doubt the most noble of causes – the freeing of fellow human beings from genocide that began in a manner very much like this nation today – this nation dropped atomic bombs, vaporizing in an instant 250,000 fellow human beings- this nation opened up the very gates of hell  – hanging upon the human race the very Sword of Damocles that threatens us today.

“We have failed to learn the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was a crime against humanity – opening up avenues for new wars, new atrocities, genocides yet to come.

“Let us bear witness to what is going on today – institutions we once thought rock solid invincible protectors of democracy and human rights are systematically (being torn down by the same methods as those of the) despots who created wars of past generations.”

A total of 122 nations have signed onto to a United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The nations that actually possess nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – refused.

The theory behind nuclear armament was the notion that “mutually assured destruction” would dissuade any rational leader from initiating a nuclear attack. But we now must live with the terror that too many despots with the ability to launch attack are not rationale, and have little interest in preserving life, the planet, let alone humanity. Just this week, the Trump administration decided that profits were more important that saving endangered species like the Bald Eagle or whales and to impose new obstacles to legal immigration, while unleashing unimaginable terror on those for whom legal immigration was long ago cut off. Instead, Trump has gleefully launched a new arms race, reversed course intended to mitigate climate change, exacerbated the forces driving migration, and fanned the flames of racism, bigotry and gun violence.

“We are running out of time as we face catastrophe with the dual threats of nuclear weapons use and the global climate crisis,” said LI Alliance Director Margaret Melkonian. “The time is now to make peace with people and to make peace with the planet. The fate of the Earth and humanity hangs in the balance and depends on our taking bold and immediate action. The time is now to ban nuclear weapons and to ban fossil fuels.”

To which I would add: and ban the weapons of war from our neighborhoods.

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