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World - Asia/Pacific

Ground Zero: The Nuclear Question

Jerry Rubin still passionate about nuclear disarmament

June 20, 1998
Web posted at: 4:36 p.m. EDT (2036 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Jerry Rubin's life has been shaped by his conviction that nuclear weapons are too dangerous, and must be abolished.

While the post-Cold War period appeared to take the edge off anti-nuclear protests, last month's nuclear tests by India and Pakistan have reignited Rubin's determination to tell the world that nuclear arms are a major threat.

Rubin's generation grew up with "duck-and-cover" drills. And even though those warnings -- suggesting that mere ducking under a school desk or behind a brick wall could protect your life in a nuclear attack -- may seem ridiculously naive to Americans now, they left an indelible mark on Rubin.

"When you're thinking of losing your life, losing your loved ones, losing your friends because of nuclear bombs dropping, it can't make for a happy childhood," he explains.

The experience was enough to make him an anti-nuclear activist, and he has been committed to "peaceful but passionate demonstrations" against nuclear weapons ever since the late 1970s.

In fact, Rubin felt so passionate about the issue that, at one point, he smashed a pie in the face of nuclear bomb pioneer Edward Teller.

He also marched across the United States to support nuclear disarmament, was married at a no-nukes rally and engineered the destruction of toy guns -- with maximum media effect.

For a while, Rubin, along with many others, lost steam once the Cold War ended and the threat of nuclear war appeared to wane.

But now, following the Indian and Pakistani tests, Rubin knows that it's "time to start doing it again." And that means a return to demonstrations, bumper stickers and free peace-symbol handstamps.

While Rubin admits that some of his actions may look a bit corny, he plainly does not care. Just as he couldn't care less that he doesn't own a car or credit card. He is getting by on a small stipend from his group, the Alliance for Survival, which amounts to just a couple of thousand dollars a year.

Rubin is clearly worried about the nuclear testing by India and Pakistan, which has prompted international protests and condemnations.

"Forget about 'Deep Impact' or 'Godzilla,'" Rubin says, referring to two movies of catastrophic genre. "This is real we're talking about."

And because it's so real, Rubin hopes his anti-nuclear message will help "reignite" the push for nuclear disarmament.

"[I want to] try to convince as many people as I can that this is still the greatest issue facing humanity today."

Correspondent Anne McDermott contributed to this report.
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