Politics of the Heart

by Bonnie Urfer

A couple of summers ago I stood on the northern shore of France at Omaha Beach looking down on the broad area where a battle of World War II took place. I tried to imagine what it was like to jump off a boat with little chance of survival, with bombs and bullets flying everywhere and I thought about the injustice of war. Later I visited the nearby U.S. cemetery with endless rows of crosses marking the graves of the dead, and I cried. It was impossible for me not to think of the women - the mothers of those buried so far from home and the further injustice of my government taking these children into slaughter. I looked on the overwhelming number of unidentified markers and felt grief for the families that never knew where to go to mourn the loss of a son. And I knew that war is wrong.
photo by Will Fantle

I received an invitation to speak in Dubuque in April of this year at an event offering balance to the glory given the man in town who piloted the plane that dropped the first Atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Before I spoke, a graphic video was shown to the audience documenting the horror resulting from the dropping of that nuclear bomb. I saw burned bodies on the ground, and the living dead condemned to suffer for hours or days as their skin fell off their bones. I saw the wreckage of what had once been a huge city. I saw shadows on walls where once people stood but were incinerated by the heat of the blast. I saw people in shock walking in search of family, water, help - and I knew again that war is wrong.

After viewing the video I felt overwhelmed with grief at what this country had done and deeper grief at our readiness and willingness to do it again - today, tomorrow and every minute of every day - and then I had to get up to speak. Instead of spewing words denouncing nuclear weapons I stood in front of the audience and in my heartache, cried.

There are politics of war and then there are politics of the heart. I oppose war because my sorrow, compassion, hope and yearning for wisdom is more powerful than the words and rhetoric that attempt to justify the terror of war.

For twenty years I have actively been working to create an environment free of the threat of nuclear war, which has the very real potential to destroy all life. I do this work because no one - anywhere - deserves to be threatened with annihilation. I do it because I'm a citizen of the country most likely to commit, once again, nuclear genocide. I do it because the very existence of the nuclear weapons factories and their radioactive wastes are poisoning lives now and will for the next 1,000 generations. I do it because I believe life is enchanting and sacred. I do it because I should and because I can.

With Hope,

Bonnie Urfer