If you are a Tennessean, you are probably very familiar with Oak Ridge, TN. When we say “Oak Ridge” around here, we are probably referring to the nuclear plant, which is a famous or infamous, depending on your stance, national laboratory which essentially was established in 1942 to develop the atomic bomb. It continues to be a site of scientific nuclear research and a housing facility for uranium; one particular lab at Oak Ridge is the Y-12 National Security Complex. This complex was originally used for electromagnetic separation of uranium and continues to presently be used for nuclear weapon production. Even as a scientist, I am slightly unnerved to be sharing the same state with such a facility.
On July 28, 2012, an 83 year old nun, Sister Megan Rice, and two other members of Transform Now Plowshares, a movement which promotes active nonviolence and references the Biblical text of Isaiah which calls us to hammer swords into plowshares, broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex, creating the biggest security breach of this complex to date. The 83 year old nun and her two colleagues cut the wire fence and proceeded to spray paint verses and statements on the complex, spread blood on several surfaces, and read verses from the Bible. Hours later, they were discovered and arrested. This is not the first arrest for Sister Rice, in fact, it’s speculated that she’s been arrested over 30 times for acts of civil disobedience. Rice holds a BS and MS in cellular biology and spent the greater part of her life teaching children in Nigeria and Ghana.
Last week, on May 9th, 2013, Rice and company were convicted of sabotage and depredation of government property, which could result in up to a 20 year prison sentence; the sentencing is set to occur in September of this year.
What a brave woman…a humanitarian nun who called herself in the trial “a citizen of the world” and who said: “I believe we are all equally responsible to stop a known crime.” I can just imagine this frail, petite woman quoting scriptures over the voices of her arresters. I am in awe of a woman who has continued to sacrifice her freedom for the freedom of others. A woman who realizes that violence begets violence and who calls evil what is evil: nuclear weaponry.
I wish I could sit in her company and hear the stories of the devastation she’s seen throughout her 83 years that was brought by nuclear weaponry. I wish I could ask her what it is that drives her to give up her life for peace. But I suspect I already know.
Her faith. Her God. The Christ.
I suspect that she cannot reconcile the development and use of nuclear weaponry with her faith. I suspect she understands that peacemaking is the work of legends; that peacemaking is much, much more difficult that making war, than dropping bombs, than releasing drones. I suspect that she believes, with all of her heart, that the peacemakers will be blessed, and that these people will be called the children of God.
I suspect she cannot accept the billions of federal tax dollars which are doled out to sustain this nuclear arsenal; I suspect she believes we are violating international law.
This woman may receive a sentence that would keep her in bondage till she dies; she accepts it because she knows this cause for peace is greater than her life. Her equals are Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa. She engages in civil disobedience because she believes by not acting to create peace and reduce nuclear weaponry, she is equally responsible for its violence.
This woman, whether you agree with her or not, is an inamorata. A woman of valor. And if I was suffering from the health and economic repercussions of nuclear weaponry or drones, I think she would be my hero. It is my hope that a judge in September will agree.
Do you share my opinion that these acts of civil disobedience were warranted?