The Unmet Sorrow of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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    Featured Columnist – Meditations
    Martin LeFerve

    Here we are again, 65 years and tens of thousands of nuclear weapons later, commemorating the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Perhaps it’s because my first political memory, at ten, is of the Cuban Missile Crisis, that the issue of nuclear proliferation still wrings my heart and wracks my mind. I vividly recall the palpable fear of adults around me as the world stood on the brink of annihilation for a few days in 1962.

    It turns out we were even closer to nuclear war with the Soviet Union than anyone realized at the time. Tens of thousands of American soldiers were standing ready to board ships in Florida. The Russians had installed tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, with local authority to use them, and every commander in the field said they would have done so if the United States invaded, as our military unanimously urged Kennedy to do. That would have launched all the ICBM’s on both sides.

    The brush with nuclear obliteration scared the bejesus out of the leaders of the US and USSR enough to install safeguards, such as a hotline between Washington and Moscow. The politicians were also much more careful in their proxy wars.

    But we learned nothing from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s as if the horror of it got submerged somewhere in the unseen and unfelt recesses of human consciousness, with only the Japanese people understanding the true meaning of detonating a single atomic bomb (1000 times less powerful than the H-bombs we now have) over a city.

    I believe the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki marks the beginning of the long descent of America into its present spiritual and social malaise. It wasn’t just the highly dubious military value of the bombs, which we’ve been told, for six and a half decades in a non-stop drumbeat of propaganda, “ended the war and saved a million American servicemen’s lives.”

    It wasn’t even the demonstration of limitless American power to our World War II ally, the understandably restless and restive Soviet Union, which contributed 20 millions worth of cannon fodder to the Allies’ victory. (Demonstrating America’s newfound power, and the willingness to use it, was a motivation that either equaled or superseded the military objectives against a prostrate Japan.)

    No, it was year after year of rationalization without sorrow, of developing ever more powerful hydrogen bombs without reflection, of continually drawing a moral equivalency between at least 250,000 civilians killed from the blasts outright, and the 2500 American military personnel killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    As a people, we have still not awakened to the truth that unleashing the power of the universe on a slumbering city was not just a crime against humanity; it was a crime against the cosmos.

    The stain belongs not just to America however, but to man. And we won’t wash it clean until humanity has destroyed every nuclear weapon on earth.

    I heard a religious philosopher once say, “the universe is in a state of meditation.” One feels the truth of that statement, indeed an intimation of its actuality, when one is in a state of meditation.

    But if the universe is in a state of meditation, man violates its very essence by using the power of the stars to incinerate tens of thousands of people, and then continuing to develop ever more powerful weapons.

    Does the universe, which mirrors the mind of God, have anything to do with the world of man? It seems not, and yet, in some way, it must, since we are literally the stuff of stars.

    So what will it take to bring human consciousness into an imperfect accord with nature and the universe and ourselves? Not a belief in God certainly. That’s been tried with hundreds of religions, and they have failed utterly to change human nature.

    Not another global catastrophe clearly. World War II, in which 50 million died, was punctuated with the hideous exclamation points of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they only served to send man into an orgy of weapon building on an infinitely greater scale.

    If human consciousness is composed of billions of separate units known as ‘individuals,’ then the chance of our radically changing as a species is nil. But if consciousness is more like the net, to which we’re all connected and contribute, for good or ill, then as the interconnectedness between peoples increases so does the possibility of transmutation.

    Each true individual can, by questioning and igniting insight, open spaces in the fabric of collective consciousness. Human consciousness is essentially one thing at the core level; therefore questioning and awakening insight within oneself creates openings through which insight streams to some degree into consciousness as a whole.

    Politically, some kind of global polity is obviously essential in a global society. The more people cling to the primal identifications of the past—whether tribal, religious, ethnic, or national—the more conflict and chaos there will be on this shrinking sphere.

    As the world and the human prospect darken, the question stands, and grows more urgent: Can enough individuals awaken and radically change to bring about a revolution in human consciousness?

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