It is the lie that began the long decline to America’s loss of its soul. The people were fed, and still swallow, the propaganda that began 70 years ago, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled. As Time magazine repeated ad nauseum a decade ago: “An awful weapon had saved lives.”
Of course, we have, or should have, the benefit of hindsight, especially after so many years. Even so, the question is not so much whether the bombs should have been dropped. Billions of dollars were spent, and hundreds of thousands of America’s best and brightest minds developed and tested the first atomic bomb at the “Trinity” site. Not to mention the immense hatred for ‘Japs’ during the war. These things made the use of the bomb a fait accompli.
The issue is this: The 70th commemoration confronts Americans with the ongoing failure in our character to mourn the only use of nuclear weapons on a population. Even today, rather than question the continued acceptance of nuclear weapons, many Americans feel pride that we possess such power, and that nukes supposedly helped us win the Cold War.
The Manhattan Project is the ultimate example of how science and scientists can serve death and destruction. It is a lesson that has yet to sink in—-that science and technology are methods and tools that have, for the most part, been used in service of the darkness in human consciousness. Science is not and can never be the light that is capable of illuminating the human heart.
Is America approaching the doorstep of the “moral threshold” that we, and humanity, crossed on August 6, 1945? In a classic apologia, David Kennedy, a professor at Stanford, writes: “Long range B-29 bombers systematically undertook fire-bombing raids that consumed 66 of Japan’s largest cities and killed as many 900,000 civilians—many times the combined death tolls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” That is classic apologia, an attempt to blur the line that man crossed by unleashing the bombs on civilian populations.
Back during the depths of the Cold War, there was talk of developing (or having developed) a neutron bomb, which would kill people but leave buildings and infrastructure intact. At a spiritual level, especially since the black dawn of the new millennium, we have been metaphorically detonating one neutron bomb after another.
Twin poles of evil, with George W. Bush, Tony Blair and their ilk at one end, and al Qaeda and their ilk at the other, have been radioactively killing the spirits of millions of people through spreading despair and hopelessness, leaving bodies intact but hearts numb.
The fear of terrorism has replaced the fear of nuclear war, and it is being used to manipulate the people in the same way the fear of communism was used by our government in the 1950’s. We’re inculcating children with this fear, thereby destroying their capacity to have faith in Intelligence as well as in humanity. For what kind of God, they think and feel, would allow a world like this?
Is it because of Americans love of war or our hatred of humanity that so many of our TV shows lately glorify past and present wars and warriors? War is an outbreak of collective madness, and soldiers are, for the most part, decent young men (and now women) caught in the maw of organized mayhem. This ‘all war, all the time’ atmosphere reflects a deep and dangerous deficiency in the national character.
The atomic bombs were exploded over Japan as much to demonstrate American power to the Soviet Union as to end the war with Japan. In the last gasp of triumphalist denial, military might camouflages the spiritual blight of America. War, having come full circle to the cradle of civilization to reveal its suicidal essence, has become a thing of the past. And yet, addicted to violence, we can’t let it go.
Too many people believe that the acknowledgement of the fact that darkness rules human consciousness means being consigned and confined to it in perpetuity. But just the opposite is the case. To begin to dispel darkness, we have to face the truth within ourselves, painful as it is.
The road to recovering America’s soul begins with acknowledging its loss, which began with the bombs and culminated in the two Gulf wars.
The illusion that we are a good people deepened as we rationalized, year after year, the use of the bombs, refusing to mourn the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese are grappling with their own denial over the rape of Nanking, and the enslavement of so-called “comfort women.” We Americans have to challenge the spiritually toxic propaganda that using the bombs saved lives.
The human spirit is very resilient, but not infinitely so. The bombs represent the tyranny of cold reason over the potential understanding and compassion of the human heart. Only developing that side of the American and human character can insure our inward and outward survival in the crowded place and space that the world has become.
First published Aug 1, 2005