A new NEIS “Know Nukes” program made its debut this August 6th at the Chicago Hiroshima Anniversary Observance, held at the site of the Henry Moore Sculpture to Nuclear Power on the campus of the University of Chicago. The site – memorialized by the world-famous sculpture — is the exact location where the Nuclear Age began on Dec. 2, 1942, with the experiment conducted by scientist Enrico Fermi and his team working on the Manhattan Project that produced the first human initiated and controlled chain reaction.
NEIS Board member Linda Lewison proposed the project early in summer, and envisioned it as an ongoing, monthly educational “tour” of one of the most significant, yet equally ignored historic memorial sites in the Chicago area.
Rather that bombard audiences with facts and figures, Lewison invited listeners to reflect on what thoughts and feeling the sculpture evoked in them. She led them along with three questions to consider:
- What do we see when we look at this sculpture?
- What happened here and what is its relevance today?
- What can we do? What actions can we take to make a difference?
Lewison said, “Millions of tourists in Chicago every year visit the sculpture “Cloud Gate” or “The Bean” as it has been nicknamed in Grant Park. The sculpture behind me, named “Nuclear Energy,” by Henry Moore is one of the greatest sculptures in the world and yet people walk by it every day not knowing its significance….Everyone goes to see the Bean but this is much more important.”
She went on to emphasize the need for immediate and future action, and not just passive memorializing. Plans are in development to conduct the program on a more regular if not monthly basis in the future.
The observance has been held for decades at this location, which was dedicated in 1967, the 25th anniversary of the chain reaction experiment. This year’s event was organized by Hyde Park resident and peace advocates Roberta Siegel and Brad Lyttle (who, it was announced, turned 90 this year).
In addition to Lewison’s presentation, the program consisted of attorney and musician Marian Neudel, lead a number of classic folk songs in between speakers; Bradford Lyttle, the venerable peace
and justice regular participant, who addressed what nuclear madness means to all of us and the future of our planet; Jack Lawlor from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Chicago chapter who read the Buddha’s Discourse on Love; and Charles Strain also from BPF Chicago, who gave a short reading on the dangers of militarism. The event concluded with a short silent meditation
The event was attended by about 35 people, the majority of whom were older and gray haired. Numerous University of Chicago students walked by and through the memorial, but showed little interest in stopping or finding out what was happening.
THE ANNUAL EVENT HAS PURPOSE: On December 2, 1942, the Nuclear Age was born on the very spot this event will occur. Seventy-three years ago on this date, the U.S. ushered in the Age of Nuclear War, with the bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The first atomic bombing in history killed 20,000 Japanese soldiers, and 70,000–126,000 civilians. These were but the first of the world’s nuclear victims, to be followed by tens to hundreds of thousands more Americans, Russians, Chinese, Marshall Islanders, Western Shoshone and numerous other people from around the world who have since died in the process of making and testing nuclear weapons, or just having the enormously bad luck of living down wind of the tests of the thousands of nuclear weapons that followed.
Despite the dire and continued warnings of some of the most brilliant people the Planet has produced – Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Andrei Sakharov, Linus Pauling among them – the world still harbors tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, thousands of which remain on “hair-trigger alert” to this day. Not having learned the lessons of near Armageddon events in 1956, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1995, and 2010, national rulers with small minds but infinite destructive power continue the adolescent but dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship to this day.
This event serves as both a memorial to those lives lost, and a reminder – a warning – that more lives, perhaps all life on Earth remain in jeopardy of extinction as long as nuclear weapons are permitted to exist.
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” ― Albert Einstein
“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” — Albert Einstein, Telegram, 24 May 1946