70 Years After Hiroshima: Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothin’ Left to Lose

by Karen Topakian

August 7, 2015

On August 6, 2015, I willingly gave up my personal freedom for a greater cause. Nuclear abolition.

Photo credit: Jake DeMarco

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, I joined more than 50 activists who lay down in the road in front of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to say NO. No to “modernizing” the nuclear arsenal. No to threatening other countries with nuclear weapons. No to ever deploying nuclear weapons again.

We all live under the threat of nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons — 94% held by the U.S. and Russia. The cost associated with the production and threatened use is immeasurable — to our health, environment, ethics and democracy, to our prospects for global peace and to our confidence in human survival.

We chose Livermore Lab because it proposes to spend $998,616,000, 85% of its $1,170,239,000 budget, on nuclear weapons activities. Tax dollars that the U.S. government could spend on such life-affirming activities as health care, education, arts, environmental protection…

Plus the Lab lives in our own backyard.

Before I lay down, I pinned to my chest a piece of white paper bearing the name of a hibakusha, Katsuko Horibe. I learned later she was an 18-year-old Japanese school teacher who survived the blast and helped her students find safety.

As we lay on the hot black asphalt, waiting for the police to tell us to move or be arrested, a group of activists outlined our bodies in chalk to show where we lay. To remind us of the human shadows left on buildings and steps in Hiroshima caused by their incinerated flesh.


Karen and other activists lay down on the asphalt in protest of nuclear weapons at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Photo credit: Karen Topakian

These physical reminders of the nuclear bombs devastating effects reinforced my choice to risk arrest and potential incarceration because my commitment to nuclear abolition trumped my love of freedom.

Katsuko Horibe didn’t have a choice when she experienced the nuclear blast. And saw her students and fellow teachers die a horrible painful death.

Today, I had a choice. I gave up my freedom for a higher cause. Nuclear abolition.

Karen Topakian

By Karen Topakian

Karen Topakian, owner of Topakian Communications, is a writer, speaker, communications consultant and activist. Karen worked for more than 40 years in the nonprofit world, including 16 years, as the executive director at the Agape Foundation-Fund for Nonviolent Social Change. She served as board chair for Greenpeace, Inc from 2010-2018.

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