Teach-in and Peacefest in Mendocino, California

October 7 2000

By Carol Wolman [cwolman@mcn.org]

Our October 7th teach-in and peacefest in Mendocino, California was highly successful. About 40 people attended, and were receptive to our message-that National Missile Defense poses an immediate threat to the future of the planet, and must be stopped. The discussion was heated, as the audience learned, understood, became alarmed and angry. We probably recruited 5-10 new activists.

The teach-in was hosted by the Mendocino Community High School, an alternative public school. Lead speaker was Derek Hutchinson, head of the school and teacher of American history and civics. He stressed the role of education in helping young people understand living in the nuclear age, and the restrictions and opportunities that teachers have. His observation that his students believe that the threat of nuclear war is not current, but old history, stuff that happened 10 years ago, and not relevant today, was most enlightening. He showed a clip from The Atomic Cafe, a propaganda piece from the 50's Civil Defense program, which urged people to "duck and cover" when they see the flash of an atomic explosion, done with cartoons and upbeat music.

This led nicely into the next talk: "Nuclear Terror and Psychic Numbing" by Carol Wolman, MD, psychiatrist and peace activist, which traced the history of consciousness about nuclear weapons in America from 1945 to the present. She looked at the waxing, waning and reemergence of the nuclear arms race juggernaut, and success of the peace movement in fighting it. She ended with:

"Today we are here to understand the threat of the resurgent military industrial complex, and raise the alarm.

We are here to break through our psychic numbing and discuss the threat.

We are here to plan our course.

If the people of Yugoslavia can use the tools of democracy to take back their country, so can we. Let's Stop! National Missile Defense."

The complete text is being issued separately.

The final speech, by John Lewallen, author and activist, was on Nuclear Strategy. First he explained what a nuclear weapon is, how fission and fusion work, and the difference between high and low altitude explosions. High altitude explosions can cause an electromagnetic pulse that would knock out all electronic-dependent devices, such as cars, computers, telephones, electric grids- in the line of sight. Thus such an explosion, easily launched these days by any one of a dozen countries, set off 250 miles above Omaha, Nebraska, would destroy our information civilization.

John explained that while this type of weapon is fully operational, the sci fi National Missile Defense scheme is impossible, and would trigger such an electomagnetic pulse anyway, so would defeat the purpose for which it is intended. He stressed that NMD is a boondoggle, and drastically increases the chance of nuclear war.

The day ended with a dance, as a local rock band, World Freedom Organization, played rebel music.

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