This is an excerpt from my newest book, Walking for Our Lives. In 1986, The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, trooped out of Los Angeles on our way to Washington, DC. It was a nine-month, grass roots saga. Heroic in many ways. These paragraphs are from Chapter 9. We are in Las Vegas.
By now, I loved to walk through a town, raise my hand with the peace sign and shout, “Good Morning to you! Peace!” In Las Vegas, on April 12, 435 of us buoyantly paraded down the Las Vegas strip and I thought about the many times in my life when I had stood on the curb, so to speak, and watched life flow by. I thought I was, by nature, not a strong leader, but an enthusiastic follower. I didn’t carry the flags at the front of The March, but remembered my son Sam’s advice – “Stay in the middle of the pack, Mom. It’s safer there.”
Feeling an integral part of something important, I raised both hands, looked up to the sky and whispered, “Thank you, God. Thank you for sending Connie to tell me about this walk.” I nearly stumbled over a rough patch in the street, came back down to earth, and decided I’d better watch where I was going. In more ways than one. I didn’t want to miss anything or stumble on this long journey to myself.
Local folks and marchers had time to meet each other. Hundreds came to our campsite, just outside of town, to share a potluck dinner, which raised $3,000 in donations. Actor Paul Newman contributed $25,000. Marcher-in-the-Home offered additional opportunities for conversation among marchers and residents. Many of us spoke in churches to explain our mission.
Meanwhile, the Utah State Police announced we were not welcome. They told us, “The March will be barred at the border by the National Guard. You will be bused across the state because I-70, the proposed March route, is narrow, without water, and parts of it are under reconstruction. It’s too dangerous,” the police said. “We’d just have to come rescue you, so you can’t walk across Utah.”
What do you do when an authority says you can’t do something, that you are not allowed or that it is impossible? I used to back off and give up. Now I find that if I back up and come at it again from a different angle, often it turns out to be a win-win agreement.
So, with that in mind, how are we going to stop nuclear arms proliferation?