Fire and Ice Part I

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice. – Robert Frost

Daniel Ellsberg from If Americans Knew

In June 1971 the New York Times (and other newspapers) published the Pentagon Papers; in June 2023 Daniel Ellsberg passed. It took forty years for the documents included in the Pentagon Paper to be declassified. It is hard to imagine the legacy and impact of the choices that we make in the present moment and how they influence future choices. Daniel joyously shared with the world how the influence  he was embracing life when given a diagnosis of death that helps us all embrace life and its complexities. Daniel Ellsberg’s life was a living legacy of how we can lean into the strength of others when we are faced with a fork in the road as well as claiming our truth within and sharing that with the world.

The New York Times begins their obituary of Daniel Ellsberg by mentioning how as a military analyst he had an antiwar epiphany on the floor of a bathroom when he decided to disclose the trove of documents that he had access to in order to expose the US lies and deceit in the war with Vietnam. Leading with that aspect of the story helped expose the fragility of the person that Henry Kissinger would name “the most dangerous man in the world.”  

The story continues on to name Randy Kehler as the person who was speaking at the War Resisters League conference about his opposition to the Vietnam war; who was facing 2 years in prison for resisting to cooperate with the Selective Services. It was Randy’s sacrifice that influenced Daniel to share the war planning documents he had from working with the RAND In corporation, which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. The start of Mr. Ellsberg’s obit  alludes to the influence of Randy Kehler’s antiwar influence and ends with a quote by Daniel sharing how Randy had influenced his decision to try to halt the unjust war and prevent unnecessary slaughter. Randy’s anti war activities led him to become a war tax resister. 

After publishing the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg became more involved in the antiwar movement and more specifically the antinuclear movement. His role as a war planner with the RAND corporations had a more detailed insight into what he referred to as the Doomsday machine.  In April 2021,To His Last Breath, Daniel Ellsberg, Fought to Save the World interview he reflected on his 90 years of life and where he saw humanity headed and saw the influences of both fire, in the form of climate catastrophe and bombing as well as ice, in the form of a nuclear winter resulting from nuclear detonation. In the interview he recites Robert Frost’s poem Fire and Ice.  

When he was asked about what keeps him speaking out about these issues and devoting his time to peace making and raising awareness about the dangers of nuclear disarmament in this 90th year, he responded “Hope, that we can surmount the challenges that are facing us…ceasing a moral catastrophe… that we have allowed doomsday machines to exist…to advert physical catastrophes… My hope is expressed in action. As my friend Joanna Macy has said ‘Hope isn’t a feeling or an expectation. It’s a way of acting.’  Joanna has been involved in forming the Work That Reconnects (WTR) over the past decades that advocates for War Tax Resistance (WTR) as part of that work. After many years of antinuclear work she has taken a light touch of which way the trajectory of the world will go. 

Daniel and Pat Ellsberg on Wikipedia

Perhaps the most prophetic message that Daniel shared with the world was that of his looming death when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; how he was able to embrace that because of a life well lived, inspired by conscience and others who shared in that. He shared “My life is privileged, I have many friends joining in these efforts and that brings great joy!”

Keep an eye out for more on the person who influenced ‘the most dangerous man’ whose actions led to his epiphany in a future blog. Randy Kehler who refused to comply with the Selective Service was one of many resisters of that era but like Ellsberg he found his truth within and shared it with the world and encouraged us all to find our truth within and to generously share that.

Post by Chrissy Kirchhoefer

One thought on “Fire and Ice Part I”

  1. Sue Barnhart says:

    Great post about two wonderful heroes!!

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