Curtain Raiser

When Peace Comes to Town, Colltalers

Friday’s announcement that the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, is this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the kind of good news we haven’t had much lately. It helps refocus attention on the threat of nukes, and may boost the global peace movement.
It helps that ICAN, a 10-year old coalition of non-governmental groups, is also a worthy recipient. It’s been praised on its efforts by other peace organizations and, in July, played an important role getting 122 nations to sign a United Nations Treaty for banning nuclear weapons.
The news are timely, given the Trump administration’s confrontation stance towards North Korea, and reported intention to decertify the Iran Agreement. ICAN deserves the honor, even as the nine U.S.-led, non-signing countries are exactly the ones that own such weapons.
Times have been such that even a mostly symbolic award, as prestigious as the Nobel may be, can bring us some measured relief. It’s been the year when climate change has rendered all excuses not to act into just that, excuses, even as mostly the poor and the dispossessed are the ones charged with the bill. Apart from staggering hurricane-related destruction, Americans have also to contend with the fruits of their own sins.
For the land where the archaic myths of the gunslinger and the hunter are alive, despite their senselessness, is bound to periodically produce an exterminator, a mad vulture with an automatic gun. So often it happens, we’re used to be momentarily jolted, and then to forget it all.
The Las Vegas tragedy is as much about the massacre

of innocents as it is a promise of its repetition. Despite yet another grim record broken, prospects for something to be done about it may be as stillborn as the lives of the fallen. Sadly, we may be repeating ourselves again soon.
The counterpoint provided by groups such as ICAN, however, is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s an organization, like many others dating from the dawn of the nuclear age, fighting with no fears of confronting incredible odds in order to persevere and win.
We’re still far from getting there, as there’s no credible evidence that the U.S., China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the U.K. are even remotely considering destroying their arsenals. But if they haven’t resorted to using them yet is because of pressure applied by anti-nuke groups such as ICAN. May it remain that way. Namely, just a stop towards the ultimate goal, but enough to keep us all alive.
Let’s not get into that nihilistic, and pointless, discussion as to whether civilization at this point, or mankind for that matter, are worth saving. We’re entitled to waste time as we see fit, but those who don’t care one way or another, have no business getting in the way of those who do.
Take the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, formed in the U.K. exactly 60 years ago, which has had a number of no small victories in the fight to rid the world from nukes. It’s rarely in the news, and yet, its official symbol is one of the most recognizable icons of modern times. The Gerald Holtom-designed Peace Symbol has since been adopted all over the world, by pacifists, hippies, anti-war activists, you name it.
In fact, the power of idealistic organizations is that they transcend the merely quixotic to set the foundations for any changes to come. Even when the need for changes is not yet apparent, or are hard to fathom. For when the speeches end, and the spotlight moves on, they’re still at it.
The Swedish and Norwegian institutions that award the Nobels are not always praised for their choices. But this time, they seem to have got it right. By awarding ICAN, a respected but relatively unknown organization, they refocus attention on the mission, away from the recipient.
So it happens that the Peace Nobel is arguably the most political among all others. All the awards have been known to poke and to irk powers that be, being rulers, dictators, or entire regimes. But this category has direct resonance with the overall fate of the world. For while it still has a long way to stop wars or mitigate conflicts, it’s been effective supporting, and even protecting, those engaged in the cause for peace.
Officially, Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean islands that he called Hispaniola on Oct. 12, 1492, but today is (still) Columbus Day in the U.S. and other countries, an 80-year movable holiday now. The date may not remain that way for much longer, though.
There’s a growing movement to call it Indigenous People’s Day, instead, considering what is now known about the nature of Columbus’ enterprise, and the widespread genocide and slavery of natives it caused. More than revisionism, is another step for civilization – yes, that again – to come to terms with its vile past. Painful as it may be, there’s no other way to move forward and build a new, more just world.
What today is, or would have been, is John Lennon’s 77th birthday. You know, the man who once sang, Give Peace a Chance, a message so powerful to neutralize the brutality of his own assassination. So it seems just fitting to end this post with a very Happy Birthday, John. WC

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