From July 24 to September 5, 2015, I made a filming expedition to the Pacific Islands. The Journey began in Kyoto, Japan where I attended the annual meeting of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. From Kyoto I travelled to Okinawa where I spent six days filming and interviewing dozens of activists protesting the planned construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko.
On August 7th, I flew to Hiroshima and participated in the 70th annual memorial ceremony of the atomic bombing. I was among 30,000 people attending the very moving ceremony and thousands more visiting the Memorial Peace Park. The following day I flew to Seoul, S. Korea where Fr. Pat Cunningham helped me get through a 7 hour layover before flying down to Jeju. It was great visiting my dear friend and having a couple of pints and lunch. Arriving at the Jeju International Airport, I was met by Sung-Hee Choi, Gilchun Koh, and Joyakgol before driving down to Gangjeong Village where I spent the next eight days filming and protesting at the gate to the naval base. This was the first time I took off my filmmaker hat and put on my activist hat. I sat with the others blocking the gate and being removed by the police. Just had to do it!
On August 16, I returned to Seoul and stayed at the Columban Fathers Center for two days before departing for the Majuro in Marshall Islands, crossing the international dateline and arriving “the next day,” August 19. I had to see for myself what life was like in the Marshall Islands after the U.S. tested 67 atomic bombs there from 1946 to 1958. Once a ancient people living sustainably, the Marshallese are now living in poverty and suffering from the devastating effects of radiation from all of those tests. Most of the gentle people who do not have a word in the language for “enemy,” are not angry with the Americans., but are still seeking compensation and cleanup from the U.S..
On August 26, I flew direct to Hawaii where I stayed at the Honolulu Friends Meeting. Kyle Kajihiro was my guide showing me Pearl Harbor and several other bases in and around Honolulu. I then spent two days with Jim Albertini, a 45 year resident of the Big Island and an activist for all of that time. He built and maintains a farm in the Catholic Worker tradition where he houses people and grows food for the poor. When I returned to Oahu and Honolulu, Col. Ann Wright (ret) offered to show me the sights on Oahu which included several U.S. bases.
It was time to leave Hawaii on September 2 for Seattle where I spent three days with my sister before flying home to Maine on September 5. It took a full week before my body adjusted, another several days to decompress.
Work on 11:57 – Three Minutes to Midnight will begin after I finish reading a half dozen books and many more articles about nuclear issues, environmental issues, and U.S. militarism throughout the Pacific. I love the research part of filmmaking, but can’t wait to begin the real work of putting the story together.
Several thoughts were reinforced along the way that will stay with me. First, people everywhere are good, kind, peace loving and beautiful! They all love their kids and only want to provide for them and secure their future. Once again, my faith and hope in the people of the world was confirmed…in spades.
People in these places know that Capitalism is evil and that the American empire is at fault. I saw evidence of America’s wars and militarism everywhere I travelled, and I saw people everywhere protesting and speaking truth to power. They risk arrest, imprisonment, unpayable fines and hospitalization for putting their lives on the line.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the only two issues that matter are 1) nuclear power and militarism and 2) unmitigated climate change….one or the other will end the human experiment on Earth.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are reminders of what evil men can do. Fukushima (Chernobyl, Three Mile Islands, and others) are present-day warnings about what nuclear power and what the evils of Capitalism can do. And, the legacy of nuclear bomb tests in the Marshall Islands, Nevada and French Polynesia are proof that the evil bastards behind it all do not care about life or the environment.
People in the islands of the Pacific know that sea level rise is real. They are making strategic plans to relocate their people.
If I learned anything from this trip, it is that people are taking to the streets in the tens of thousands to stand up to the evil empire and Capitalism and they are saying NO MORE!
Viva la revolucion mondial!