COLUMBIA - As people color paper lamps and flags billow in the wind, mid-Missouri Peaceworks director Mark Haim smiles and takes pictures of the gathering at Stephens Lake Park. It's the twenty-seventh gathering of its kind - a gathering for food, music and fun, but for a cause that takes the smile from Haim's face.
"We're gathering here to reaffirm our commitment to a nuclear-free future, to a future that's free of nuclear war and annihilation, and one that is secure, that has real security," Haim said.
August 6 marks the 68th anniversary of the use of the nuclear bomb on Japan to end World War II. Another nuclear bomb was used on Nagasaki three days later, amassing a total death toll of over 200,000 people between the two events. Haim wants the event to empower people going forward.
"We can't go back and change what happened then," Haim said. "What we can do is change the course of the future. We're focusing on what people can do today, tomorrow, next month, next year to make meaningful change in the U.S.' nuclear arms position.
"We would like to see the re-direction of investment away from this massive military spending into investment of human needs, into people and in infrastructure, and in sustainable energy development, because those are the things that give us strength and real security in the future, and that's what really matters," Haim said.
Dozens of people attended the event, creating paper lamps to float on Stephens Lake. MU Peace Studies professor Bill Wickersham, a speaker at the event, said he hopes the event creates an attitude change on the issue.
"To get a political solution [to ending nuclear weapons threat], there has to be somebody's attitude change, meaning politicians. But they're not going to take the lead, so you have to change the populous' attitude, so they pressure the Congress to get serious about nuclear war. But [the conversation] is in the closet right now.
"I'm glad we do it," Wickersham said of the event. "We do have quite a few people, but it's minuscule compared to the 120,000 people in the county. So the idea is, 'Can we persuade a few more?' It's a very hard sell."
"Working for peace is not an easy job," Eduardo Crespi, director of Centro Latino said. "There is no funding for that, and usually people don't understand what it means to work for peace. Peace is not a product that sells too much to the masses, and we have to continue doing that until it becomes a need for the masses to start thinking about peace. Violence is so overwhelming that people forget about what peace means."