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Fog of Fear or Fruit of Hope?

The mushroom cloud from the 1954 Castle Romeo hydrogen bomb test.

“Hope is not faith, not wait-and-see, not compromise, not merely the opposite of despair. Hope is an essential element in patient, energetic, effective activism and persistent principled resistance to injustice and other evils. Dissatisfaction mobilizes, hope stabilizes in struggle. Hope helps our ideas grow and bear fruit. Hope is not a dream, it is a force that gives our life meaning.”

Many of us have been very concerned and even depressed this past year over most of the actions and words coming from the current Federal Administration, but we cannot succumb to fear and must strengthen our resolve to protest and take actions to avert the unthinkable – nuclear war.

With the bellicose confrontation between the Trump administration and North Korea escalated, the real threat of nuclear war is again on our minds. In a December 19, 2017 interview General McMasters remarked that “the choice is binary: either Pyongyang gives up nuclear weapons, or we forcibly eliminate them.” This clearly implies a preemptive nuclear strike by United States, assuming North Korea will not back down. As the Washington Post noted on December 19, 2017 “the best-case scenario is that Trump has made a red-line blunder far worse than President Barack Obama’s about-face.”

Now it is reported that a defected North Korean soldier has been found to have anthrax antibodies in his bloodstream and North Korea is testing biological weapons with the aim of loading anthrax-laded warheads on its missiles!

I waited until after Christmas to post this, not wanting to spoil your holiday, but a recent NPR program was a reminder that we need to hope and work for the best, but be prepared for the worst. The U.S. Government’s Ready.gov site still claims “The danger of a massive strategic nuclear attack on the United States is predicted by experts to be less likely today.”  Our elected leaders would like us to believe it is less likely than terrorism, but a nuclear attack is much more devastating.

Some of us grew up in the era of civil defense drills and citizens building private bomb shelters. “During the Cold War, the federal Civil Defense Administration produced films with specific advice on how to survive nuclear attack. Although they’re often mocked today, the films did contain useful information that could save lives.”

Today, one has to dig to find information on preparing for the unthinkable, but here is what the National Academies and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends:

People outside when a nuclear blast occurs should:

  1. Lie face down on the ground and protect exposed skin (i.e., place hands under the body), and remain flat until the heat and shock waves have passed.
  2. Cover the mouth and nose with a cloth to filter particulates from the inhaled air.
  3. Evacuate or find shelter – If a cloud of debris is moving toward you, leave the area by a route perpendicular to the path of the fallout. If a cloud is not visible or the direction of the fallout is unknown, seek shelter. A basement or center of a high-rise building away from windows or doors would be best.
  4. If possibly exposed to contaminated dust and debris, remove outer clothing as soon as is reasonable; if possible, shower, wash hair, and change clothes before entering a shelter. Do not scrub harshly or scratch skin.
  5. Listen for information from emergency responders and authorities.

People sheltering-in-place should:

  1. Go as far below ground as possible. Shut off ventilation systems and seal doors or windows until the fallout cloud has passed, generally a matter of hours.
  2. Stay inside until authorities say it is safe to come out.
  3. Use stored food and drinking water.
  4. Listen to the local radio or television for official information. Broadcasts may be disrupted for some time as a result of power outages.

Here’s more information from the EPA on Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation.

So as we approach 2018 we must choose not to live in fear and find a way to embrace the new year and find hope!

Please don’t stop reading yet – there’s hope ahead…

Matthew Fox has said “Since 9/11 the United States has been living in a ‘fog of fear.’ Fear and a feeling of powerlessness can lead to inaction and despair. With fear, people can become cowardly and are susceptible to demagogues who offer false promises of taking control and making everything okay again.”

The opposite of despair is hope, but it takes courage and bravery for people have great hope. Hope is the ability to stand in difficult circumstances, not turn and run.

But what if you don’t have a hope that “places its trust in something outside or external, a force beyond our personal control” as Philip Yancey claims in a recent Washington Post article?

What if you don’t believe that the President will abide by the War Powers Resolution or that Congress has the political will to enact greater Presidential sanctions or even adopt a resolution such as H. R. 4415 that affirms “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first?”

Hope requires awakening and action. David Korten in an article entitled Ecological Civilization and the New Enlightenment says: “Our hope for a viable human future depends on a deep system transformation supportive of an Ecological Civilization that brings people and planet into balance, nurtures innovation and creative expression, and provides all people an opportunity for material sufficiency and spiritual abundance… Hope for our human future lies in our now accelerating human awakening to the consequences of recklessness and its source in flawed assumptions and dysfunctional situations.”

Matthew Fox suggests we must become spiritual warriorsspiritual in the sense that we are motivated by an overwhelming sense of cosmic awe, wonder and the sacredness of all creation; warrior, meaning one who is both inwardly strengthened/balanced and outwardly acting with wisdom and resolve.

We can find hope through exercising our creativity, embracing youthful daring, being “hunters and gathers” seeking out the good, strong, courageous and retelling their stories.

Meister Eckhart was asked one day, “Who is a good person?” His answer was “A good person is one who praises good people.”

Vaclav Havel calls hope an orientation of the spirit. This intrinsic hope does not depend on achieving a particular outcome or result. Rather, it derives from a deep, abiding faith in whatever happens and in the human capacity to respond to it. As Susan Murphy and John Stanley said: “Love is the connection that makes a future possible.” We act because it is the loving and caring thing to do, rather than because we expect to succeed. We can be hopeful without expecting victory.

Kate Davies, in an online Tikkun article*, offers Four Strategies for Cultivating Hope:

  1. Facing our Feelings
  2. Living in Gratitude
  3. Taking Action
  4. Persevering

Rebecca Solnit writes, in the forward to Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, “Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons…”

If you’re looking for more inspiration and hope in 2018 you might consider Carolina Robertis’ collection of over 30 personal essays: Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times. Aura Bogado, in reviewing Robertis’ book says, “What makes the letters in Radical Hope powerful is the way they’re rooted in reality. The writers don’t turn from the moment, but instead accept it and it’s infinite challenges.”

The Editors of Yes! Magazine call us to strive for “a persistent and collective joy… economic joy emerges from the knowledge that generosity is a shared responsibility.”

Here’s hoping we all experience the fruits of hope and not the fog of fear in 2018!

“Joy is an act of resistance.” Jen Butler

*Note: This is from a web-only article in Tikkun Magazine online. Subscribe now to read their subscriber-only articles online, and sign up for their free email newsletter to receive links to future web-only articles.

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