16 April 2004
Common ground
Times Record (Brunswick, ME)

Saturday at 1 p.m. the newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer will be christened in honor of former Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze. A man of remarkable lifetime achievement, Nitze, who is 97, is only the eighth living person to have a Navy vessel named after him. No one denies it is an honored well-deserved.

But outside BIW from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. Saturday, Americans will gather who object to the term "christening" being used at the naming of a war ship. To christen is to take into the life of Jesus Christ by baptism, Maria Holt of Bath and Bruce Gagnon of Brunswick explained to the editorial board Monday. "It's as if to say that killing is blessed by Jesus himself," they said.

But they understand that the shipbuilders need to make a living. "We're not against them as ordinary people," Holt said. "They're just like us. What we're against is the government and corporate policies that lead to preparation for war, war and especially the proliferation of nuclear weapons." Our tax dollars fund Navy shipbuilding, Gagnon points out, and he would rather see them used to build rail cars and sustainable energy technology such as windmills. Holt and Gagnon have found that many workers would rather do other kinds of work.

"Studies by the National Commission for Economic Conversion have long shown that the most effective way to create lots of good jobs is to invest in those things that are socially and environmentally beneficial," says Gagnon, who is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Military spending creates fewer jobs than any other kind of job investments, the commission says.

True, protestors hope for a complete economic conversion at BIW; but even people who disagree with their world vision can recognize the wisdom in diversifying to ensure there always will be work at BIW.

So there is common ground between most of us and the demonstrators who will be there Saturday: the long-term prosperity of BIW's workers.

Global Network