I remembered this man when, last week, I watched some footage of the G20 demonstrators in Hamburg. The protesters were mocking the resignation, and apathy, of the worlds’ peoples, pinned between the deadly paws of nuclear war and climate change. Hundreds of people, young and old, had painted themselves zombie-gray from head to foot, and walked slowly and rigidly, staring straight ahead, toward their fate. There were no signs, but the message was clear: although the Doomsday clock of the Atomic Scientists shows two minutes to the midnight of nuclear catastrophe, though the the heat-index in Iran reads a scorching 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and entire populations are disappearing into the wilderness or the sea, hounded by war and starvation, the people around the world whose votes and actions could change the direction of our planet’s history continue to move, as if transfixed, into the lion’s mouth.
“What can we do?” is the eternal, lugubrious response of a paralysed citizenry.
It was with pleasure therefore that I noticed a resolution, passed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, at their annual meeting late last month. The 85-year-old USCM is an influential bipartisan organization representing the interests of cities of 30,000 or more (there are about 1,500 of them), but smaller cities can join. They meet twice a year. The current president is Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans. He succeeds Republican Mayor Ron Corbett, famous for persuading his “Most Obese” city in the nation, Oklahoma City, to lose a million pounds.
In their resolution, the mayors invoke Martin Luther King Jr.’s warning: that a nation which spends more on weapons than on its people is “approaching spiritual death.” They then call upon the government to “reverse its federal spending priorities, and to redirect funds currently allocated to nuclear weapons and unwarranted military spending….. to creating jobs, by rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and ensuring basic services for all, including education, environmental protection, food assistance, housing and health care.”
Local governments such as cities have a responsibility to engage with the national and global issues threatening their citizens. As a health care professional who has worked in Eureka for 35 years I am persuaded that the two looming specters, climate catastrophe, and pervasive, metastasizing, never-ending war have a profound effect on the health of the people of our city.
It is well-known that denial, passivity and a sense of powerlessness are risk factors for poor health. I have intense personal experience of what can happen to children when their countries’ governments run violently amok. New York City’s mayor ordered the classrooms of my childhood, in the early ‘50s, to rehearse daily drills in which we children cowered under our desks, with visions of bombs dancing in our heads. For identification,we were all issued dog tags, should our faces be burned away.
This was not good for us. Far better would it have been if the mayor had initiated a Sister City relationship with a city in the USSR (such as the 2017 USCM Resolution recommends US cities initiate with cities in other nuclear nations), and had encouraged some more U.S. cities to follow suit.
The Cold War might have been avoided.
Mayor of Eureka Frank Jäger must join the United States Conference of Mayors. Such inspirational leadership would break the zombie-like spell of self-destructive passivity, thus restoring us to healthy citizenship.
He must also join Mayors for Peace (urged by the USCM as well).
This international organization was founded by a former mayor of Hiroshima, and has a membership of 7,392 cities around the world. Membership costs $17. It has as its vision the complete abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020. Its mayor members “take action at the municipal level to raise public awareness of the humanitarian and financial costs of nuclear weapons, the growing dangers of wars among nuclear-armed states, and the urgent need for good faith US participation in negotiating the global elimination of nuclear weapons”.
It meets every four years. Luckily, the next meeting is this year, in Nagasaki City, from Aug. 7 to Aug. 10.
Let us send our mayor to Nagasaki!
Ellen Taylor resides in Petrolia.