- NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT AND US
This is the first in a group of essays about The Bomb. I will try to explain how nuclear weapons came to be, what they have already done and have almost done, and what I believe we ought to do with them now and in the future. Some commonly held beliefs will be questioned, and I will try to support any new assertions with verified information, based on many years of study. Here are a couple facts that are beyond dispute: The United States built the first atomic bomb. The United States is the only nation ever to use them as weapons in a war against the people of another nation. The United States has not stopped making them, nor stopped encouraging, by our actions, other nations to build them. There are currently over 17,000 nuclear weapons in our world, enough to obliterate the largest cities on earth and kill a majority of the human population. We have a unique opportunity, right now, to assure the success of complete nuclear disarmament; this president is our best hope.
So why do I care? Why would anybody care enough about nuclear weapons to spend any time and energy working for their elimination? Aside from the coincidental fact that I was born about 100 miles away from and 11 days after Trinity, the first atomic explosion, I make no personal claims. As most of us growing up in the 50s, I was completely ignorant about atomic bombs until my third grade teacher finally told our class one day why we were doing all those duck and cover drills. Of course her explanation was that we were preparing to be attacked by the Russians, who would drop atomic bombs on us, and our only hope of survival was to lay down under our desks and be very quiet. No mention was made about where these awful bombs came from, had anybody ever used them, nor why the Russians hated us so much that they would drop them on us. I don’t recall when I first learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, most likely during a lecture on World War II in a high school history class. The facts were simply stated that the United States was proud to have invented the perfect weapon, and used it to bring an early end to a war we had been forced to fight. It was while reading John Hersey’s book Hiroshima, in 1963, my first year at college, that I finally woke up to the terrible tragedy. I expect I am not alone, in being curious, and later, as I read and listened and learned more over the years, in being horrified and ashamed that our nation could have done such a thing.
We have lived with Atomic bombs for nearly seventy years. Many of us have learned to accept the nuclear weapon nightmare as normal, as a status quo that will never be changed. Some have learned to love it and have even grown frightened of letting it go. I believe, however, that there are many others, with whom I share a sense of guilt, shame, and regret that we have stood silently by all these years. I am appealing to you, to read these words and learn more on your own. See if maybe you have had these thoughts.
In these pages, I will share some historical information, about how the bomb came to be, how it was developed over the years since then, and how close we have come to accidental explosions and unintentional acts of war. There will be some philosophical and moral questions. We will look at the past and current efforts of disarmament advocates, and how we may involve ourselves in that work. See if you agree that it is time, now, to finally put an end to this madness.
I am aware that this is but one of the many Peace issues needing our attention, and have made the choice to focus my efforts on nuclear disarmament, because of the opportunity afforded by President Obama’s second term. I really believe we are at a crisis point, where the political forces could accelerate in either direction, to more bombs or less, and we dare not waste this chance.
next: how it began >