Sunday 14 February 2010
(Photo: Vince Alongi)
The Golden Rule is in danger. No, not the famed ethical code - though proponents of selfishness certainly have ignored it - but a thirty-foot sailing ship of the same name that rose to prominence about half a century ago.
The remarkable story of the Golden Rule began in the late 1950's, as the world public grew increasingly concerned about preparations for nuclear war. In the
Although SANE quickly became the largest peace organization in the
In January 1958, Bigelow and three other pacifists wrote to President Dwight Eisenhower of their plan to sail the Golden Rule into the
Of course, this was just what the
Meanwhile, captained across a stormy Pacific by Bigelow, the Golden Rule arrived in
But their example proved contagious. An American anthropologist, Earle Reynolds, his wife Barbara, and their two children attended the final trial in Honolulu, and concluded not only that the US government was lying about the dangers of radioactive fallout, but lacked the constitutional authority to explode nuclear weapons in the Pacific. As a result, determined to complete the voyage of the Golden Rule, they set sail for Eniwetok aboard their own ship, the
These events, which received considerable publicity, triggered a surge of activism. Picket lines sprang up around federal buildings and AEC offices all across the
Not surprisingly, US government officials were horrified. Appearing on CBS television, AEC Chair Lewis Strauss implied - as he often did when discussing critics of nuclear weapons - that the whole thing was part of a Communist conspiracy. "At the bottom of the disturbance there is a kernel of very intelligent, deliberate propaganda," he insisted.
Subsequent events went badly from Strauss's standpoint. Within a short time, he was ousted from office and the Eisenhower administration - barraged by public protests against nuclear testing - felt obliged to halt it and begin negotiations on a test ban treaty. In 1963, these negotiations culminated in the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear tests by the great powers. SANE and other peace groups were delighted with this first nuclear arms control treaty, as was Bigelow, who only two years before had challenged authority once more, this time as a Freedom Rider.
As for the aging Golden Rule, it has now drifted into obscurity, and is currently housed in a small shipyard in
Dr. Wittner is professor of history at the
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs