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The monument and the atom

If only the American media would focus as urgently on rational citizen action for peace as on this week's aberrant episode at the Washington Monument. There happened to be several quiet reminders of such action to contrast with the live coverage of the scene in which a protester against nuclear war threatened to blow up the landmark.

For example, the passing of one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, George Kistiakowsky, brought tributes to his dedication to nuclear arms control. From his long experience with official channels, he came to see that these were not enough to check the arms race and forestall nuclear war. He devoted his latter efforts to kindling a mass movement for peace ''such as there has not been before.''

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Also this week five ''ranchers for peace'' set off for the Soviet Union seeking a ''citizens' detente'' in the face of the tensions between governments. They come from Western states that have accepted missiles in their midst before; they claim to have no illusions about Moscow; but they don't want more missiles, and they evidently share with Kistia-kowsky a sense of citizen responsibility for getting the peace ball rolling.

The White House is said to have told the ranchers President Reagan was too busy to meet with them. But he reportedly did find time for a confidential meeting with nuclear freeze advocate Helen Caldicott in the company of his daughter, Patti Davis.

The latter, unlike her father, supports the freeze. But she has said that no one wants peace more than he does. This would not be the only American family representing different points of view on methods while remaining united for peace.

Cannot the same be said to some degree about the whole family of the nation? Must it not be said more and more in view of the scale of the challenge?

The protester at the Washington Monument called for a massive enforced dialogue to avoid nuclear war - even as a smaller voluntary dialogue was already well underway. The vigorous peaceful activism of many citizens dramatizes how deluded was his demand for peace by threatening violence, an ironic echo of military attitudes he feared.

Mahatma Gandhi is in the news again with the release of a movie biography of him. Gandhi's risks were never taken in threats to blow up anything. Here is one more timely reminder of how people can oppose violence without straying to the use of violence themselves.

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