Why I’ve fasted for three months leading up to the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima

By Jerry Rubin

The atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945 Nagasaki photo by Charles Levy

The atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945
Nagasaki photo by Charles Levy

I’m sitting at my computer feeling sad and worried. Worried that I won’t be able to adequately convey to readers why I’ve been on an extended personal protest fast against nuclear weapons for the past three months. And truly sad about the nuclear weapons mess our precious planet is still in a full seven decades after the atomic genie was let out of the bottle.

The first atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, Japan, at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945. (It was 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 5 in Los Angeles.) A second atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki at noon on Aug. 9 (Japan time). The atomic blasts and the fallout killed hundreds of thousands of men, women and children — many who were vaporized instantly.

There are many people who say the atomic bombings were necessary to end the war. Many others disagreed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in his memoir, “The White House Years,” that as a World War II general he had opposed use of the bomb as “no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”

Luckily, nuclear weapons have not been deployed since. But the threat is always with us, and there have been near accidents.

And now there are nine countries that have a combined arsenal of 15,695 of them — Russia accounting for 7,500 and the USA 7,100, according to the Ploughshares Fund’s “World Nuclear Stockpile Report.” It doesn’t take a scientist to do the math: that’s enough to kill us all.

What would happen if a terrorist group got control of one?

Instead of advancing timely efforts to achieve global nuclear disarmament, the United States aims to spend up to a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” our nuclear weapons capabilities, according to an article in The New York Times last year.

Earlier this year, the Union of Atomic Scientists moved their iconic Doomsday Clock ahead to three minutes before midnight.

As Albert Einstein, who recognized the global threat of nuclear weapons escalation, said: “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”

As I write this, it’s one week before the timely Aug.5 Hiroshima and Nagasaki public remembrance scheduled to take place near the Chain Reaction peace sculpture at the Santa Monica Civic Center. By the time you read this, members of the dozen or so peace groups co-sponsoring the event will have joined together for a moment of silence at precisely 4:15 p.m.

Our attention to the cause should not end there. I have been on a personal liquids-only protest fast against nuclear weapons since May 6. I have decided to keep fasting until Sept. 21, the United Nations-sponsored International Day of Peace.

This is not a hunger strike. I’ve been mixing vitamin and mineral powders into my daily (mostly healthful) drinks. So, I am getting nourishment and my physical health is fine. I’ve fasted many times for a number of causes in my 35 years of being a peace activist, but fasting for global nuclear disarmament is the most emotionally stressful because of the enormity of the issue and the consequences at stake.

Not eating solid food is somewhat of a large sacrifice for me because I really love to eat. It’s a social thing. We must always try to remember just how lucky we are to have food to eat. I’m not eating by choice, but many others around the country and around the world don’t have that choice. I believe we need to put more money into feeding the hungry, not the Pentagon.

My sense of appreciation and gratitude is amplified during my fasting. I feel a deep sense of thanks for the many dedicated activists, locally and worldwide, who work tirelessly and passionately to secure a more peaceful future. I’m grateful for friends who are supportive and understanding. Mostly, I’m so very grateful and appreciative for my loving, good-hearted “peace partner” wife Marissa.

Some people have asked me what I can possibly hope to gain by fasting. I try to explain that fasting can sometimes help build inner strength.

I also explain that my personal fast is an activist-oriented fast. In other words, I haven’t stopped doing the other important things that need to be done to affect change. I’m still sending e-mails and making phone calls to local leaders and to Congress members, writing letters to the editor, signing petitions and attending meetings. I’m still organizing the Activist Support Circle to guard against burnout. I’m still out on the Third Street Promenade at the bumper sticker table. And I’m still working with many others to make sure Paul Conrad’s Chain Reaction peace sculpture — where I started my fast — is honorably refurbished.

Sure, I get hungry sometimes. But I’m hungrier for peace and a nuclear weapons-free world.