Today nine nations possess nuclear weapons. At least two heads of state are unpredictable and have sole authority over the use of these weapons.
I believe ordinary citizens, you, Dear Reader, have powerful influence on the world stage and can change this reality.
The US accuses Russia of breaking a treaty that bans Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, INF, and our president decides to trash the treaty. He hints that he may not authorize talks for a new START treaty when the terms of the old one expire.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
As the NATO-USSR deployed intermediate range nuclear SS-20 missile facing off between East and West Europe in the 1970s, thousands of citizens in England and Europe protested and marched. In Central Park, New York City, throngs of people created the largest anti-arms race peace rally in the history of the modern world. Within a few years—1987—the INF treaty was signed ending this madness. By 1989, the borders between East and West opened.
We can do this again.
My husband, Don Bell, led a group of people in Seattle who challenge the government’s Peace Through Strength approach. Forty-five thousand people in the Puget Sound area educated themselves about less dangerous ways of preventing conflict.
The first Trident submarine steamed into Puget Sound in 1982. Now there are eight nuclear subs just twenty miles from downtown Seattle. They have the fire power to destroy the Earth and life as we know it. Nothing can survive a nuclear war.
Open Borders, the newly published memoir about my small role in the Seattle based movement tells the story of delivering a love letter to people in the USSR, in particular to people in our sister city, Tashkent in Uzbekistan. Thirty-three ordinary people from Seattle handed out the letters, three-thousand copies of them, each with ten signatures, to people on the streets asking them to join us in preventing nuclear war.
Our government wasn’t happy with the people in Seattle or our friendship with our “enemies”. Edward Rowney, Reagan’s ambassador to the START treaty negotiations, came out to speak at one of our educational events. Afterward, he and Don’s co-chair, Virginia, were in conversation at a private dinner party. Rowney said,
“The reason I agreed to come here was to find out what you people are thinking.”
She told him she appreciated that. After a pause, he asked expansively,
“What shall I tell the President when I return to Washington?”
“Tell the President that there are thousands of people here who are enraged by the threat of nuclear war.”
The General literally jumped in his chair and responded, “I couldn’t possibly tell the President that!”
“Why not?” Virginia remembers asking.
“Look, you don’t have to worry about that. I am working very hard on all this. I will save you!”
“What if I don’t believe you?”
“Then you aren’t worth saving.”
That comment was so outrageous—as much to Rowney as to Virginia—that they both just laughed. p. 47 Open Borders
When we are all done laughing at the absurdity of our situation—then and now—we mostly sink into denial convincing ourselves that no person would ever fire a nuclear weapon. “It won’t happen,” we tell ourselves, flooded with emotion.
Instead of nightmares, how about waking up with a commitment to change our present situation?
Our trip to the USSR was followed by dozens of friendship trips, back and forth, doctors, chefs, dancers, singers, artists, musicians (Pink Cadillac played Moscow), teachers, professor exchanges.
Want to travel to Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, China, Russian? Organize a tour with a company that specializes in this sort of trip. Let those people meet ordinary Americans. Get with others who are crafting legislation to limit presidential powers, to prevent new Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from being built by cutting the budget, to incite a massive public outcry against this threat.
We were terrified in 1983. Our children were practicing “duck and cover” in our schools. Our buildings downtown sported large yellow bomb shelter signs. We were terrified.
We bought airplane tickets and went to meet the enemy as friends. Open Borders tells our story. Read it and be inspired to find one little thing to do to change the future.
Did we make a difference? Who knows. But, coincidentally, after our trip the Berlin Wall came down. The INF treaty got signed. As a result of that Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty’s implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.
To find out who is doing what in the Puget Sound area (or wherever you are), go to PSR.org and find the chapter nearest you. Together we can turn this around.