This article appeared in the January 11, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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What a missile scare taught one artist about peace

James H. Collins/AP/File
Hawaiian slack key guitarist Makana played in the West 4th St. subway station in New York in April 2009. The artist released a new work this weekend – on the first anniversary of an inadvertent missile warning – to promote awareness of the threat of nuclear weapons.
Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

If you were in Hawaii a year ago this Sunday, the phrase “this is not a drill” might recall 38 minutes of soul-searching.

That’s how long it was before a text alert about an incoming missile was rescinded by the state’s emergency management office. Tensions were high with North Korea, adding credibility to the threat.

Todd Schauman, a colleague then living there, was at a youth basketball tournament. The gym doubled as a shelter. “We were there with many local families,” he says. “There were some good conversations, and the tournament organizers helped promote calm.”

Another dad, who worked in civil air defense, talked about the systems in place and calmly worked his phone. His own “stand down” came before the state’s. Play resumed.

The Hawaiian musician Makana had a more prolonged reaction. After confirming that most of the world’s nuclear arsenal is gripped by the US and Russia, he went to work – and then he went to Russia.

Inside an old Soviet bunker he recorded a song – the acoustics are dramatic – that’s been released for the Hawaiian anniversary. In the video that accompanies it he passes through a crowd of young Russians who look as though they, too, might have gathered for some game. It’s a scene of personalities, not politics.

“My intention is to inspire and remind us all to humanize one another,” Makana says, “to dignify and be curious about each other.” Those connections, he says, are the path to security and peace for us all.

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This article appeared in the January 11, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/11 edition