Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is Peace Day is Justice Day is Nonviolence Day. They are all inextricably intertwined.

Eighteen Earth Days ago, on Earth Day 1996, my ReSister partner, Donna Howard, and I went to a thermonuclear command facility and, using hand tools, shut it down.

We drove out in Donna's little gray Toyota, with my 71-year-old father, a US Navy veteran of the Pacific theater (Philippines) in World War II. He was totally opposed to this navy base, known as Project ELF (extremely low frequency). It was late April in northern Wisconsin, so there was still lots of snow and ice everywhere. My father, Dr. Thomas Avram John Hastings, was along to be the getaway driver--that is, to drive the car away, leaving us behind. Our intention was to catch a ride with the local sheriff's deputies back to jail.

We had hand tools and banners and printed signs advising that we were acting in accord with solemn treaties governing war, weapons, and protection of humankind. We chose Earth Day to accent the connections between war and the environment.

So we hiked in a ways and began our work of cutting down support poles for the legally unsupportable cables strung through the Chequamegon National Forest, cables that carried command signals to be pumped into the Earth and re-radiated into huge waves that bounced between the ionosphere and the Earth. These signals were modulated to a 2,400-mile length, a standing wave of only ten peaks and troughs encircling the globe, tilting down into pelagic depths to be read by ELF receivers on board US nuclear submarines of all classes (ballistic missile-carrying, hunter-killers, fast-attack, etc.). Analysts had determined that this band of command messaging was the one necessary to launch a decapitating first strike against the Soviets, since it was the only command signal receivable globally, simultaneously, and at depth.

We cut down three poles. That was sort of spectacular if you like that sort of thing. The poles were about 60 feet tall and it set up a real zing in the taut cable. One of the media folks with us (hey, if you cut down a nuclear command facility in the woods and there is no media there, does it make any sound?) said, "OK, now you did it. They are coming out." Yes, we knew they were on the way.

I tossed my metal saw on the metal cable, some three-inches thick, to see if the 1.25 million watts were still electrifying it. Nope. So I did my own decapitating first strike, cutting off the top of one of the poles. I cut off just about 18 inches of the top, picked it up, and we started to walk toward the fenced base. At that moment a snow machine with two Navy employees crested the small hill and we waved. When they got to us I smiled and said, "Happy Earth Day!" One of them shook his head and said, "You're going to prison." "Yup!" I said and we walked the mile to the military base, where we were denied entry, so we waited and our ride finally showed up.

We each got a three-year prison sentence. I just think of it as a stint in the Wisconsin Natural Guard, our active duty years. Shortly after we got out of prison, the Anishinabe tribes joined the battle and the Navy caved and shut down the facility that they said they would need for another three decades.

Happy Earth Day!

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