Dugger: May I first ask, since this is a dialogue, that anybody interrupt me at any point. We’ll succeed or fail according to how many of us we hear from. Secondly, may I ask how many of you have read that zditoi Lai challenge in the Texas Observer? [hands are raised.] Most of you have, so with your permission, I’ll summarize it. There is a group of Nobel peace prize winners, including 18 Americans, who have laid down a challenge with respect to the fact that every day 50,000 to 80,000 people die of starvation, malnutrition, or neglect in the world. Which means that in the next hour, while we are together, between 2,000 and 3,000 people will die of neglect, and that’s going on every day and night of our lives. What is the individual to do? They said that the individual should simply refuse to obey any law except the law of life the law that the right to life is first. And they raised fundamentally questions of civil disobedience nonviolent, but well-considered resistance. To that proposition I presumed to add oncoming nuclear war. Together they compose in my mind the ghastly chasm, between the quantity of the ethical crisis of our time the size, the hugeness, the bulk of it, and it is world-wide and the fact that we are each only one person. So, let us talk about our own problem of existing in such a time. The question is what do we do personally? What do you 4 OCTOBER 9, 1981 do? What do I do? How do we close this chasm? We are all here, and everybody is equally responsible, but almost everybody is doing nothing. So, let’s have a dialogue. Let me start by adding that I keep files on various subjects and have been building them for 15 years. One of them is on the people in the world who are poor. This is the latest clipping for that file, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 28. The Government Accounting Office, which is into the subject because of federal aid abroad, gave us a report that in the developing nations, two out of every three water pumps are broken at any one time. More than a third of the world’s four billion population lacks safe water supplies, and an even greater number don’t have adequate sanitation facilities. So the United Nations has declared this to be the decade of water supplies, of sanitation abroad. If you don’t have sanitation, you can’t have life very long. We do contribute to international agencies about 25% of the contribution from the developed nations. That may not continue under Mr. Reagan, or it may not continue at that rate. Others’ Ideas In response to my editorial, I have heard from some of our readers, but not many. I don’t get discouraged about that fact because of something I learned from John J. Chapman in an essay he entitled, “On Practical Agitation.” It only takes a few; it never takes many. People raising questions of conscience and action who get discouraged because they are so out-numbered are making a serious and self-weakening logical mistake. Chapman said, as I recall, that once someone in any community it is usually only one person sounds the high, clear note on the tuning fork of principle, then everyone in the community, from that moment on, has to orient to the existence of that high note. So while I cannot tell you that I am overwhelmed with people asserting new ideas about what to do in this crisis, neither am I discouraged by how few ideas I have received. The first thing that happened, I was out at Barton Springs, rereading that plaque [giving the history of the swimming pool] and getting ready to take a swim, when I heard someone’s voice asking me if I was myself. A couple were out for their morning walk and had read the editorial. “I hope you get a lot of letters,” she said. I let the thought crossing my mind why not one from you all? pass. Then I asked their names. They were Jenny and Elmo Hegman. After much happy renewal, Elmo called to my attention Gunter Grass’ book of speeches in paperback, the last one of which has nuclear war starting because of two major powers. “Two,” Elmo said, holding up two fingers. Jenny remembered someone who predicted that the United States and Russia will filially cooperate because we are both nations predominantly of white peoples. We all at once agreed that if race can be used for that purpose, we must use it; that we must use anything we can to prevent nuclear war. Because, after all, hundreds of millions of people of all colors will die in it. I received a letter from Houston from Arnold Dean, and I’ll just read it to you: “It seems to me that there is only one way out of this terrible dilemma. The United States and the Soviet Union must sign a treaty not to engage in war with each other.” Isn’t that a remarkable thought! Why is it so surprising? Dean continues: “Just that and nothing else. It will work because it makes the ultimate decision first. It sidesteps the bickering, horsetrading, and disagreements that always seem to be a part of negotiations. Economic conditions, common sense, and citizen demand will negate further and unnecessary military buildup, etc. The President should immediately propose this idea to Congress and ask for authority to make this offer to Mr. Brezhnev.” I should like to interpose an additional thought. It is a little-known fact about A Dialogue What Can We Do? Observer readers to send in their ideas on what a person can do about nuclear war and world hunger. This became the subject of the forum meeting at the First Unitarian Church in Austin on August 30th. Although a driving rain was descending and although liberals are supposed to be chronically dispirited these days, the meeting place was jammed; 1 was told this was the church’s largest forum turnout in two or three years. I spoke for some appointed time, and then the meeting burst open with concern and ideas. Susan Reid, a member of the church and of the Observer editorial advisory board, made a transcript of the discussion, which we present here in an edited and somewhat shortened form. – R.D. . tz: z -yort
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