PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus

Desert Awe and Shock by peaceprobe
April 12, 2009, 7:44 pm
Filed under: Getting on the Way to Peacemaking

Indian Springs, NV: The wind blew from the North this morning as the MQ-1 Predator took off early for its practice run. It flew over the mountains towards Frenchmen’s Flats, a practice bombing range in one corner of the vast Nevada Test Site where nuclear weapons have been tested since 1945, the dawn of the nuclear era.  Our vigil support room here is located in a facility once called Atomic View Hotel where ordinary citizens could stay as they waited to watch the atmosphere  light up and clouds form as nuclear tests unfolded.  Until now the desert retains its eerie beauty.

MQ-9 Reaper on practice run over vigilers during Holy Week at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, NV.

MQ-9 Reaper on practice run over vigilers during Holy Week at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, NV..

This morning I stand with my colleague, Father Louis Vitali, a devoted Franciscan, and former air force officer. Louis has spent the last 25 years both listening to his former military colleagues and speaking out on the dangers of modern warfare and praying at sites like Creech Air Force Base, headquarters of the unfolding digital age of warfare. Louis and I watch together as the Predators disappear over the mountain where their laser guided dumb bombs are released with precision on the desert beyond, aimed at targets that simulate hard to reach villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With Predator engine sounds in the distance we wave to base personnel as they come and go.  Father Vitali teaches me how to give warm greetings to soldiers and workers without being too patronizing or communicating mushy niceness. As we vigil,  a caravan of seven buses with soldiers depart Creech. 

 I learn that the buses are on their way to Nellis Air Force Base located on the edge of Las Vegas. Nellis reaches through the vast desert territory and occasional mountains for 45 miles to our vigil site. Nellis AFB may have more nuclear bombs within its boundaries than any other site in the world. The troops are headed to and from exercises, training, recreation and study. Beyond the massive test site, 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas is Yucca Mountain where billions have been used in an apparent empty quest to find a safe place for spent nuclear fuel. The current US administration has rejected the use of this site for nuclear waste, but the problem of what humanity will do with this dangerous matter persists.

Holy Week Vigil at Creech Air Force Base

Holy Week Vigil at Creech Air Force Base

As the sun warms the cool dry morning desert air I realize I am standing in the midst of 65 years of military history that determines an inappropriately large part of my future. Forty-five miles away the world’s gathering place for gambling, Las Vegas, has lost 20% of its business but the gamble on life here continues. Casinos and nuclear energy interconnect with each other as civilization persists to defend a way of life and enjoy it.  Almost unnoticed here on the edge of Nellis AFB, beside the nuclear test site and Yucca mountain beyond and as lavish casinos light up the night sky in the distance, the robotic edge of the newest era of defence unfolds.

A Navaho man joins Louis and I and tells us that the local Shoshone Nation has declared the entire area as a nuclear free zone.  Across highway 95 from our vigil site there is a sign for Echos of Faith Christian Church.  Our native visitor’s words and the church sign reminds me that faith and spirit that was present at the creation of this magnificent canopy of beauty continues to hover even though we insist on finding ways to undermine the Creator’s security intentions.


4 Comments so far
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Thanks to people like Stolzfus, Vitali, and so many but too few others at the cutting edge of civil disobedience, we can still maintain a ray of hope that there may be life on the planet somewhat as we know it for future generations. And we can be inspired to take similar or less dramatic actions in places nearer to where we live that are just as much in need of such conscientious witness.

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