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Another Shameful "Christening" at Bath Iron Works

We Must Be Out in the Streets

Police arrested 25 protesters who they say were blocking roads outside Bath Iron Works on Saturday morning, April 27, 2019 during the christening ceremony for the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lyndon B. Johnson.

Police arrested 25 protesters who they say were blocking roads outside Bath Iron Works on Saturday morning, April 27, 2019 during the christening ceremony for the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lyndon B. Johnson. They face charges of obstructing a public way, a Class E misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The protesters were primarily members of Maine Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Protesters issued a statement last week that said the Navy and BIW should focus their efforts on the national and global threats posed by climate change and not on building vessels that exacerbate climate change. They said the Pentagon has the largest carbon footprint on the planet. The following were arrested:  Natasha Mayers, 72, of Whitefield,  Virginia Schneider, 60, of South Portland, Lisa Savage, 62, of Solon, James Freeman, 70, of Verona Island, Mark Roman 77, of Solon, Constance Jenkins, 71, of East Blue Hill, Meredith Bruskin, 71, of Swanville, Suzanne Hedrick, 88, of Nobleboro, Roy Pingel, 71, of Queens, N.Y., Dixie Searway, 81, of Parsonsfield, Sophia Ridgely Fuller, 72, of Belfast, Donald Cunning, 72, of Old Brudge, N.J., Dudley Hendrick, 77, of Deer Isle, Daniel Ellis, 71 of Brunswick, Julius Orkin, 80, of Bergenfield, N.J., Carolyn Coe, 52, of Orland, Mary Honan, 71, of Freeport, Ethan Hughes, 48, of Belfast, Russell Wray, 64, of Hancock, Judith Robbins, 70, of Sedgwick, Ellen Barfield, 62, of Baltimore, Md., Robert Shetterly, 72, of Brooksville, Jason Rawn, 45, of Lincolnville, Michael Donnelly, 82, of Brunswick, and Mary Garvey-Donnelly, 80, of Brunswick. (AP)

Three years ago, I was arrested along with 11 others for blocking Washington Street in an act of civil resistance against the “christening” of the USS Michael Mansour, the second Zumwalt destroyer built at Bath Iron Works.  Today the same shameful ceremony will be repeated.

My reasons for taking part in the demonstration in 2016 and risking arrest are the same now as they were then:

  • I’m a Christian peace activist, a member of Pax Christi Maine, and have taken a vow of nonviolence.
  • I’m a mother, grandmother and great grandmother who would take every nonviolent measure to keep those I love from being sacrificed to the horrors of War.
  • I’m a retired nurse practitioner who took an oath to protect life and do no harm.
  • And I’m an American citizen who grieves for her country, for I believe we have truly lost our way.  

I was as sickened in 2016 as I am now by the deception and evil carried out in the name of “democracy” and “freedom” and “security”.  

What’s different for me this time around is a deepened focus on “connecting the dots” of permanent warfare, systemic violence and catastrophic climate change as symptoms of a disease, natural consequences of the unrestrained greed that’s part and parcel of our economic system.  

You may have seen an “Earth Day” message from Public Citizen that says it all about where things stand in Washington these days.  But in case you didn’t, here’s the scorecard:

  • A coal lobbyist runs the Environmental Protection Agency
  • An oil lobbyist runs the Department of the Interior
  • A Monsanto executive runs US Fish & Wildlife
  • A BP oil attorney is the nation’s top environmental lawyer
  • A fossil fuel lobbyist is the EPA’s air pollution chief
  • A big energy insider regulates our power grid

If that isn’t awful enough, the climate crisis is also being directly fueled by U.S. foreign policy.  Even the Pentagon says that climate change poses “immediate risks” to national security, that it’s a “threat multiplier.”  But the Pentagon serves the War Profiteers. And General Dynamics, owner of Bath Iron Works, is right at the top of the heap in raking in profits from our War Economy.

It helps that they have “friends” in Congress.  If you take a look at the website of the Center for Responsive Politics, you’ll see that PACs and individuals associated with General Dynamics contributed close to $2 million to federal candidates last year.  It was pretty disappointing to see Angus King’s name at the top of the list, receiving $62,000. But Angus wasn’t the only one to benefit:  Chellie Pingree got $11,000, Susan Collins, $9000, and Jared Golden $615. This might help explain why I haven’t received a response to the letter I sent each of them on April 8th.  I’d like to share the last 2 paragraphs of that letter with you:

I’m writing to ask you not to honor the naming of another weapon of mass destruction with your presence.  How ironic and yet appropriate that the USS LBJ bears the name of the president responsible for so much death and devastation in Viet Nam.  Unfortunately, we seem to have learned nothing since that time. For we are now living with the consequences of George W. Bush’s global “War on Terror,” another debacle based on lies, poor judgment, and hubris.

I find it impossible to believe you truly think the wreckage caused by the notion of “American Exceptionalism” can ever be justified.  Please reconsider your attendance at this shameful event. I appreciate your attention to my concerns.

It seems we are long past the point where it’s enough just to write letters to our representatives, send emails, and visit congressional offices for scheduled appointments.  Those things are important to do, but we don’t have time for business as usual because climate change is the existential threat to most life on the planet, including humanity.  

I believe we need to follow the lead of the climate youth activists and movements who’ve put world leaders to shame:

  • If we are mothers or fathers who want to save our children, we must be out in the streets.
  • If we are grandparents who want our grandchildren to have a future, we must be out in the streets.
  • If we are people of faith who believe we are called to be peacemakers and stewards of the gift of Creation, we must be out in the streets
  • If we are environmentalists who cherish and have vowed to protect Mother Earth, we must be out in the streets
  • And if we are activists working to end systemic violence in any of its forms, we must be out in the streets.

I’d like to end with part of a prayer from one of my guides on the path to peace and nonviolence, Fr. John Dear.  This is from his book Radical Prayers on Peace, Love, & Nonviolence:

Dear God,

Give us a new will,
a new spirit,
a new heart,
a new grassroots movement to protect creation,
that we might respect and protect creation
and create a new culture of nonviolence for Mother Earth.

We love you for the gift of your creation
For the beauty of Mother Earth.
Thank you for such a gift.
Do not let us destroy it.

Do not let the nations of the world burn it down.,
wage permanent war,
and kill millions of sisters and brothers
along the way.

Give us the wisdom and way forward,
that we might become who you created us to be—
your loving stewards of your beautiful paradise.

Amen

 

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Connie Jenkins

Connie Jenkins

Connie Jenkins became a peace activist during the U.S. War in Vietnam.  She is a member of Pax Christi Maine and Peninsula Peace and Justice.  She lives in East Blue Hill, Maine. 

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