What if this were real?

by Karen Topakian

August 10, 2011

While lying on the warm black pavement this morning. In front of a gate at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Where nuclear weapons are designed. On the 66th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. I thought to myself “What if this were real?”

What if the air raid siren that one of our group had sounded was real? What if this weren’t a die-in? Not a mock death but a real one.

What if the unthinkable had happened? What if the US were being attacked with a nuclear weapon?

What would I do? If the attack were real, I would be dead. Vaporized.As I thought about the unthinkable, members of our group outlined our bodies in chalk. Signifying that I, we, had been there.

A few feet away, three Taiko drummers pounded a beat that mimicked the pumping of the human heart.

An officer from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department interrupted my thoughts. He informed us four times that we would all be arrested if we didn’t move. We were blocking the road. Everyone listened. No one moved.

One by one the police arrested us all. Twenty in number. A nun, a Catholic priest, an attorney and activists from Western States Legal Foundation, Tri-Valley CARES and the Livermore Conversion Project. All charged with blocking the road.

Today wasn’t the first time I have been arrested for opposing nuclear weapons. I’ve been bearing witness for close to 30 years.

Every year I wish it would be the last. Every year I wish that the nuclear nations of the world would stop designing, building, testing and deploying nuclear weapons. And threatening others with their use.

But these governments won’t ever stop on their own. Not unless and until we make them. We, the citizens of the world, who oppose and abhor the spending of our resources and brainpower on weapons of mass destruction, must demand it.

That’s why I support Greenpeace and it’s 40-year history of opposing nuclear weapons.

Karen Topakian is chair of the board of Greenpeace

Photo above is from our archive: In front of the UN building in Geneva, Greenpeace activists climb a crane and unroll a banner reading: ‘Put words into action: STOP NUCLEAR TESTING NOW’. Greenpeace / Bill Johnson

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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