Nuclear weapons standout calls for US commitment to UN treaty

  • A group gathered on the Greenfield Common on a frigid Saturday morning to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons becoming international law. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • A group gathered on the Greenfield Common on a frigid Saturday morning to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons becoming international law. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • A group gathered on the Greenfield Common on a frigid Saturday morning to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons becoming international law. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/23/2022 11:05:01 AM

GREENFIELD — On the one-year anniversary of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons becoming international law, a group gathered on the Greenfield Common and in Northampton to celebrate the treaty and to raise awareness that the United States has not signed on.

“Fifty nations have signed on. … How can we face the world?” asked Greenfield resident Patricia Greene. “We’re here to say not all of us agree.”

Greene and several other residents called out the United States’ “pugnacious” stance toward many other countries and said America should focus on peace.

“I feel that the main thing our country needs to do is look at peaceful relations,” Greene said. “We’re so divided internally, maybe heal that over, too.”

The anniversary of the treaty comes days before a state Public Safety and Homeland Security hearing Jan. 26 on Bill H.3688, which was filed by Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, and would establish an 11-member commission to investigate and report on what measures may be necessary and appropriate to protect Massachusetts residents from the threat posed by nuclear weapons and to contribute toward the total elimination of these weapons from all countries.

According to the United Nations’ website, 59 countries have ratified the treaty, which recognizes the threat of nuclear weapons and requires their elimination. Among the countries that have yet to even sign the treaty include many world powers, such as the United States, China, Japan and the majority of the European Union and England.

Pat Hynes, who sits on the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice’s board of directors, said the 11-member commission, if it was created, would find many people in Massachusetts with similar sentiments to the group standing on the frozen Greenfield Common.

“They would certainly find a very high majority opposing nuclear weapons,” Hynes said. “I hope the committee and State House have the courage to pass the bill.”

Hynes recalled a quote from World War II Army Gen. Omar Bradley that the world contains “nuclear giants and ethical infants.” She added it’s been disappointing that nuclear weapons continue to be produced, even after the horrors of bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the existential threat of the Cold War.

“I’d say it’s tragic, especially with all the other crises happening,” Hynes said, highlighting climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic as current threats. “We don’t need to add to them.”

Paki Wieland, a Greenfield resident and longtime anti-war activist, said the protest is about letting people know how “trigger-ready” many of the world’s countries are and that the world, particularly the U.S., should focus on peaceful diplomacy.

“It seems we have sane people in charge right now, but mistakes happen,” Wieland said. “We need to reflect on how we demilitarize.”

Members of the group on the common said demilitarization would also allow for more funding to be put into other social or environmental programs.

“The government wants to modernize (these weapons),” said Greenfield resident Suzanne Carlson. “When human needs are so in our faces — housing, health care, food, education, you name it.”

Hynes said it’d be nice if money allocated for researching and developing nuclear weapons was instead “reinvested in good causes like green industries.”

Greenfield resident Paul Jablon said it is “horrendous” the United States has not signed on to the treaty and that it shows the “insanity of government.” He noted he had participated in anti-nuclear weapons protests in the 1980s and he can’t believe this is something the world is still dealing with.

“It’s so insane,” he said. “By now, I thought I’d be talking to my children about this as history.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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