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“Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us,” said President John Kennedy on Sept. 25, 1961 before the U.N. General Assembly.

This quote was used by Christopher Hormel in his book “Doom With A View, Historical and Cultural Contexts of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant,” which was edited by Kristen Iversen with E. Warren Perry and Shannon Perry.

As the country reels from the tornado devastation in Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee, I am reminded of Kennedy’s quote. The swords of Damocles exist for us all, daily.

The suffering in Kentucky is probably traceable to man-made climate change, as is sea-level rise, the drought that Colorado is experiencing and the gradual shrinking of glaciers and icebergs.

The devastation and tearful faces we are all witnessing on our screens — with demolished houses, big buildings in piles of rubble, cars and trucks strewn here
and there — are tragic reminders for me of the devastation and death that would occur from even a “small” directed use of nuclear weapons or the slow deaths from nuclear radiation happening near any one of the world’s 440 nuclear power plants.

And just think of the tragedies of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima — if you try to think of the whole nuclear picture at once, you would
become an anti-nuclear activist. Another way to visualize the bigger nuclear weapons picture at once is by examining Bob del Tredici’s “All the Warheads in the United States Arsenal” photograph. The photo captures Barbara Donachy’s installation of “Amber Waves of Grain” that includes 35,000 cone-shaped miniature nuclear warheads.

You read that right: 35,000.

The nuclear core for each one is a Nagasaki-sized bomb, according to activist
Kathleen Sullivan in “Doom With A View,” and one of the 70,000 plutonium pits that were manufactured at Rocky Flats.

“There is no safe dose of radiation, yet governments around the world have allowed safety limits to be more relaxed, instead of making them more
protective,” according to Christopher Hormel in “Doom With A View .”

Jeff Gipe is a artist, sculptor and author whose father worked at Rocky Flats and he grew up near the active plant. After he reasoned about the meanings represented by the plant, he eventually sculpted a larger-than-life sized horse in a red hazmat suit with a respirator. It stands well-protected from those who would damage it, near Rocky Flats, with a stone explanatory marker. It is a quite beautiful and lonely reminder of all that went on there.

On Dec. 12, many of us in the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center celebrated the 90th birthday of one of the beloved founders of the Boulder-based center, Dr. LeRoy Moore. According to Moore, he arrived in Colorado in 1974 to teach at the University Of Denver. He had been teaching for a decade that “the human presence on this planet could end soon due to three threats of our own making: 1) nuclear holocaust, 2) ecological disaster and 3) authoritarian governance.”

He told his students, “this is your homework — for the rest of your life. If the human race is to survive, we’ll have to change our ways. You can help this happen.”