15 August 2010

history - Hiroshima

     I read John Hersey's Hiroshima in junior high school, as an assignment for my world history class.
     It was during the height of the Cold War, and before Vietnam and it was still common practice to conduct air-raid drills during the school day.
     The drills were where virtually everyone was herded into the inner hallways, and instructed where the civil defense supplies were kept. Before reading the book, the drills were kind of a joke; a way of getting out of class for an hour. But the reading had a sobering influence.
     Although I was well aware that the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was blatant political propaganda, I lacked any strong awareness of peace activism, nor much of a political sense at all. Reading Hiroshima began to change that.
     After reading the book, my sense was that no windowless hallway could save anyone from an atomic blast. If anything, we'd either be vaporized or crushed to death under the rubble of a collapsing building. It also set the stage for how fearsome the Cuban Missle Crisis seemed to me.
     Afterwards, it seemed that Popular Culture became obsessed with knowing that the Kremlin and the White House would be in contact with one another ~ using the eponymous "red phone" ~ to avoid a nuclear war. The decades continued tense, but by the 1990s ~ even with other nations acquiring nuclear bomb making technology ~ we were lulled into imagining that a nuclear annihilation could be remote.
     Now, 65 years later, the possibility of a nuclear attack is no less real, though the potential perpetrators are less likely to be heads of States, and more likely they'd be disaffected dissidents, power crazed megalomaniacs ...or even some idiot thinking he'd make a profit (somehow). This possibility remains, whether the perpetrator is some middle-eastern religious fanatic [e.g. someone akin to Osama Bin Laden] or some middle-western political zealot [e.g. Timothy McVeigh]. Let's hold no doctrinaire fantasies about which "side" the perp might come from.
     So where do we go from here? How does the risk become less severe?
     I don't have an answer.

IMAGE CREDITS: 1- Hiroshima LIFE; 2- Wikipedia; 3- BuzzFlash Blog. COMMENT: First published in the New Yorker, the editors recognized the impact that the article would have by providing a human face to the victims. Although four chapters were intended for serialization they decided to devote one entire issue only to it. There were no other articles and none of the magazine's signature cartoons.
     Readers, who had never before been exposed to nuclear war from the perspective of the actual people who lived through it, were quick to pick up copies, and the edition sold out within just a few hours. Shortly after it appeared, the Book-of-the-Month Club printed it and distributed it free of charge to all of its members. LINK: U S Department of Energy The Atomic Bombing of HIroshima

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