6/9/2022 – Sofia Rose Wolman, presentation for Massachusetts Peace Action program on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Ban the Bomb: A Stop along the Way to Abolition
For this portion, all views expressed are my own, and I’ll offer some reflections on Banning the
Bomb as a Stop along the Way to Abolition.
In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 2013, I learned the world Abolition in a new way.
Before, describing those fighting for their lives free from bondage, liberated of chattel slavery, a
business of profit over everything it means to be human, the common sense of family ties.
Then, there in Japan in the context of a world reeling from colonization, neoliberal capitalism,
nuclear-age militarism, and anthropocentrism – Abolition calling us beyond these profit-seeking institutions of domination and exploitation and violence.
Before I had not integrated the meaning of nuclear weapons – The cruelty they cause, threaten, and perpetuate, Financial and great power political interests that punish those colonized and exploited with un-ending toil, starvation, proxy wars, the sickness of bodies and minds burned by corrupt ethical frameworks, borne of perverted spiritual teachings.
Pondering their indiscriminate killing, I wondered just when a civilian becomes a combatant, any way. [I lost a friend soon after, that grief of death, then found Jesus who showed me the errors of Just War theory, killing in the name of the Prince of Peace who loved forgiveness and everyone, but hated domination, exploitation, and condemnation.]
In Hiroshima and Nagasaki I encountered thousands of people who worked for what I had before
assumed was impossible, and met hibakusha who experienced hell on Earth, who had seen babies born without bones, calling loudly for abolition. Ban the Bomb! No More Hiroshimas! No
More Nagasakis! No More Bikinis! But not only that,
Just 2 years before, the devastating nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was forcing demands at the World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs further; once a division within the movement, I heard calls to Abolish nuclear power too. No more Fukushimas! But not only that,
Calls to shut down U.S. military bases from Guam to the Philippines to Okinawa, with stories
ranging from horrific sexual and gender violence to widespread environmental contamination;
calls to preserve Article 9 – the part of Japan’s constitution that rejects war as a legitimate means to resolve international disputes – the “peace article,” a part of the constitution the U.S. had drafted even as it imposed a media blackout of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and callously tested but did not treat hibakusha – a reminder that no thing is pure. No more Okinawas! No military bases! No more war! No more war!
Demands for self-determination, for peace.
I realized: For a world without nuclear weapons, everything needs to change.
And for us, in the U.S., in the so-called imperial core, there is so much to be dismantled and
created. Since 2013 I have encountered strong movements to abolish the police; to abolish prisons; to abolish borders; to abolish ICE – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
All this work to abolish institutions that undermine the preciousness and dignity of life. The
people present here offer so many traditions within this work.
The institution of nuclear weapons is in and of so many other institutions – violent economic,
political, and ethical frameworks and structures – that are all being caught in webs of abolition
movements across space and time, within our communities, all over the world.
Abolition requires imagination, preparing ground for life-giving and -honoring alternative ways
of being, the change we want to see,” really deeply different ways of being with and on this
The Nuclear Ban Treaty is a stop along the way to the elimination of nuclear weapons. But not
Let us not mistake tools, tactics, or strategies, as the goal itself. If we make the Ban Treaty, or the elimination of nuclear weapons the end goal, I fear that we may never achieve it, too divided and dispersed, too infighting, rigid, narrow. The elimination of nuclear weapons and the Ban Treaty are necessary but not sufficient to liberating the world and ourselves from our fears and sorrows for the coming generations.
When we hold the demands, the needs, the crises, and the visions we have for this moment – to
live with respect for Mother Earth and in right relationship with all beings, The Nuclear Ban Treaty is a stop along the way, necessary but not sufficient - an extraordinary achievement and a part of a much larger story. Let us recognize that we are co-weaving these webs of abolition along with those who work to abolish borders and the military-style police that enforce them, who call on the Ban Treaty to include the elimination of nuclear energy and power as inseparable from nuclear weapons and the perils of nuclear weapons.
With all our determination and contradictions, may we find not stumbling blocks and division,
but fortification if these webs of abolition as we critique and collaborate in friendship and shared purpose. While the powers that be push ever-forward with the "logic of the dinosaur," claiming more destructive power, let us spin webs of miraculous transformation and find power in common cause, in upending, comforting, and mutually supportive forms of partnership,
coordination, and courage.
As 86 countries express that they neither want nor accept power based on nuclear weapons,
Let us hold the vision ever higher – rejecting war and state violence itself.
When I played softball, I learned to always run through first base; because if one aims for the
base itself they’ll slow down before they get there.
The 1MSP in Vienna will no doubt deeply challenge the power dynamics and dominant systems
in profound and sweeping ways – nuclear weapons are so instrumental in upholding the violent
status quo. The connections of struggles represented there by UN member states and civil society members – regular people and organized groups, high-level diplomats and grassroots delegations – for peace, justice, right relationship with Mother Earth, will push far beyond the bounds of what the Nuclear Ban Treaty or the elimination of nuclear weapons itself will do.
The TPNW is a necessary but not sufficient element of nuclear abolition – which fully expressed
is a necessary but not sufficient element of the eradication of the root cause of oppression (that is, domination and exploitation) through community self-care and self-determination.
My all working for peace, justice, disarmament, truth-telling, and right relationships work to
promote the Ban Treaty not as the goal itself but as a stop along the way.
For those going to Vienna, Godspeed. May we all be fortified by spinning ever larger and more
resilient and interconnected webs of abolition that catch and dismantle institutions of violence,
domination, exploitation, and oppression; fortified by nurturing the alternatives to which our
hearts, spirits, and deep moral imagination are called.