Transform Now Plowshares three: put US nuclearism on trial

IssueJune 2013
Feature by TNP Support Group
Mike Walli (63), Megan Rice (82), and Greg Bortje-Obed (57), from left to right,
carry symbols of life and truth (see box). Photo: Transform Now Ploughshares

On 7 May, the first day of the Ploughshares trial, giant blindfolded puppets walked towards the crowd, carrying a huge cardboard nuclear weapon.

Sue, dressed as a jester, announced: ‘Our first citizen believes that what she is carrying is… a bicycle! (Cool!) Our second believes that what he is carrying around the country to be admired and used is… a toaster! (YUM!)’

In the end, the citizens removed their blindfolds, and the nuclear weapon was transformed by household hammers into beautiful trees and rivers, mountains and towns full of life and joy.

With that, the crowd danced in the square, and continued dancing in procession all the way to the courthouse.

Love and healing

Sister Megan Rice took the stand on the second day of the trial, after 5pm. She spoke for almost an hour, and yet she commanded the attention of every last juror.

The whole room listened in rapt attention as she responded to Francis Lloyd’s questions, describing her early childhood realisation of the horrors of nuclear weapons, her education in radiation biology in her master’s programme at Boston College, and her missionary work in Africa, teaching science and building schools.

She spoke of taking action in the sacredness of the Nevada desert, taken from the Shoshone people (‘illegally, breaking a treaty’) and desecrated by the effects of nuclear testing; she spoke of the suffering of downwinders, the cancer caused in people and animals, and the $6 million apiece spent on each test.

As Megan, Greg, and Michael approached Y-12 on 28 July 2012, Megan says they ‘prayed together, we were filled with love and compassion’ for the people who had to work in such a dangerous facility. ‘We wanted to bring love and healing.’

She felt led by the Holy Spirit, and was more and more surprised to find herself reaching the heart of Y-12.

In response to questions about the extent of the damage she did, she said lightly: ‘I could have repaired it!’

‘Who Is My Neighbour?’

Greg’s testimony came after the afternoon break on the third day. He called to our attention the story of the Good Samaritan stopping to help an injured man on the road to Jericho.

Greg outlined the violence that we are obligated to stop in our world today: the United States is the only country to have over 700 military bases all over the world; we are the only nation that uses drones to kill people around the world; and we use nuclear weapons to threaten people around the world, weapons whose very manufacturing causes sickness and death.

Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan because someone has asked him: ‘Who is my neighbour?’ The answer to this question is a major point of disagreement between the defence and the prosecution.

‘Do you consider yourself an American?’ the government prosecutor asked sister Megan Rice. ‘I believe I am a citizen of the world,’ answered sister Megan. ‘Boundaries are arbitrary.’

Greg, Megan, and Michael were found guilty on 9 May of both counts brought against them — sabotage and depredation of government property — and they were remanded from the courtroom as we sang them rounds of ‘Rejoice in the Lord Always’, and ‘Vine and Fig Tree’.

‘The teachings of Jesus are practical, do-able, worthy of emulation,’ Michael said from the witness stand.


‘Come let us go up to the mountain of God to the house where God lives. That God may teach us God’s ways. That we may walk in God’s paths….

For God will bring justice among the nations and bring peace between many peoples. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not lift swords against nations. No longer will they learn to make war. Come, let us walk in the light of God.’ (Isaiah 2)

Brothers and sisters, powers that be, we come to you today as friends, in love. We, like many of you, are people of faith, inspired by many who have gone before us, people like the prophets, Isaiah and Micah, Jesus as well as Gandhi, and the countless who call us ‘to beat swords into ploughshares’. May we now transform weapons into real, life-giving alternatives, to build true peace....

Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building.

A loving and compassionate Creator invites us to take the urgent and decisive steps to transform the US empire, and this facility, into life-giving alternatives which resolve real problems of poverty and environmental degradation for all....

We bring our life-symbols: blood, for healing and pouring out our lives in service and love. Our very humanity depends on lives given, not taken. But blood also reminds us of the horrific spilling of blood by nuclear weapons. Our hammers, to begin the transforming work of deconstructing war machines, creating new jobs which address real problems, eliminate poverty, heal and foster the fullness of life for all.

We bring our truth-symbols: candles, for light transforms fear and secrecy into authentic security; flowers, the White Rose of forgiveness, acceptance of friendship and genuine reconciliation; the crime tape and an Indictment, which point out truth and end lies which have blinded and dulled the very conscience of nations, and serve the interests of justice for healing global relationships; a Bible, to remind ourselves to become sources of wisdom and to inspire our acts of conscience as we carry on.

Lastly we bring food, symbolised by this bread, strengthening us as we build this new world where people do not feel compelled to build nuclear weapons in order to feed their families.

So may we break and share this bread together in joy and genuine friendship as we work together, empowered by our Creating God TO TRANSFORM NOW!

Michael Walli, Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice shcj,
Transform Now Plowshares
28 July 2012