Getting to Know Elissa Karim, Destroyer of Weapons
Getting to Know Elissa Karim, Destroyer of Weapons

She Is Elissa Karim, Destroyer of Weapons

The Cornell College student is working with Global Zero, a group that has created an international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.
August 15, 2016
4 mins read

In 2015, Global Zero sent Karim and one other delegate to Japan for the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Karim will begin an internship at Global Zero’s office in Washington D.C. this fall.

“I probably talked about the bombings of Japan in class or something, and I went home and I talked to my dad. I was shocked, even as an eight or nine-year old, that we dropped these massive destructive bombs on another country and killed so many people. To me, it seemed mean.”

I was interested in what Global Zero was about based on that it’s a non-profit, political activist group that focuses a lot on lobbying legislation and affecting public opinion. I was really interested in that combination of those two things, and I hadn’t seen that before.”

I thought ‘Wow, there’s a lot of people who see nuclear weapons as a major threat, a big problem, and see it as the oppressive force that I did.’”

When I got off the train in Hiroshima, I felt the magnitude of what had happened there. There was this definite sense of immense loss.”

Going into the museums and seeing the artifacts, suddenly you’re realizing what was actually happening. There’s no longer this distance that we have in the US in both time and space. Now it’s in front of your face.”

I didn’t know how I was going to feel. Being an American in Hiroshima on the anniversary, I wasn’t sure what that was going to be like either. I ended up being really amazed by the Japanese ability to turn this event into a symbol of why we need peace.”

When I was in Nagasaki, it hit me that we chose to do it [the bombing] a second time.”

“Feeling sad is a feeling that I don’t think a lot of Americans get to experience. We feel so far away from it.”

I’ve written down these [survivor’s] stories and now I’m one of a select group of people in the world who have heard these people talk and who have experienced looking at them as they tell their stories.”

“Most of them that tell their stories are in their 80’s and are damaged by their experience of being there at that moment. A lot of them are not going to live much longer.”

“I feel the obligation to explain their stories.”

If I hadn’t gone to Cornell College, I definitely wouldn’t be involved with Global Zero. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to speak to these presidential candidates.”

“As a politics major, that’s amazing in general. If I hadn’t been involved with Global Zero, I may not have gone to the caucuses. I get to have a purpose. It’s all in layers. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that anywhere else but in Iowa.”

I like the combination of non-profits and activism. I really like affecting legislation and talking to people about issues.”

“I tell people I’d like to do some sort of advising in foreign policy. I don’t know how that would come about, but that’s my dream job.”

Lindsey Davis, Iowa State University

English and Journalism

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