By Stanley Campbell
Sixty-five years ago, our military blew away two Japanese cities, killing more than a quarter of a million civilians, and ending what was the worst war in the history of the world. The use of the atomic bombs portended the possibility of the next war destroying everything.
This year marks the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which occurred in 1945 on Aug. 6 and 9, respectively. It would be nice to eliminate—once and for all—the unthinkable threat that a nuclear weapon will ever again be detonated. It would be nice to freeze the development and production of these weapons. At least we have a president who once mentioned he would like to eliminate them. Once. Maybe, we hope.
After 65 years, it is time we retired the bomb.
Rockford Peace & Justice is hosting a short commemoration program Sunday, Aug. 8, beginning at 6 p.m. at 201 Seventh St. (in the JustGoods fair-trade store gallery space). Free and open to the public, we’ll share some readings, sign a petition to our Congressman, and then see the old film classic, Atomic Café.
It’s good to commemorate this day. It was the first time a nuclear weapon was used in anger, and we hope it is the last. Fortunately, it ended a war. Unfortunately, our country used the atomic bomb on a mainly civilian population that was a different skin color. It doesn’t sit too well in the history books.
Whenever we host this annual commemoration, some folks say, “The Japs had it coming.” They wave the bloody shirt of Pearl Harbor as justification for disintegrating more than 300,000 civilians and wiping two cities off the map (wiped off at least for a few months—both cities are now prospering and wish to forget World War II). The United States had entered the war vowing never to knowingly attack civilians.
As a peace activist, I wish we’d never gotten into any war, and yet as a veteran of the Vietnam War, I imagine the joy many soldiers felt when Japan finally surrendered and the war ended.
The world has 23,000 nuclear weapons in existence today, and they are of a much more scientific variety than those used in 1945. George Bush, before he left office, authorized working on a nuclear bomb the size of a suitcase. Whatever for?
So, if the world is going to abolish these weapons of mass destruction, they better start now. And the U.S. better be leading the way.
This year’s events are being planned all over the world for Hiroshima Day, Aug. 6. In Melbourne, Australia, a screening of the recently-produced film Flashes of Hope: Hibakusha Traveling the World will take place, as well as a peace vigil and memorial concert. To see a list of events currently planned in the world, go to www.icanw.org, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (I think Rockford—our meeting—is listed).
It will only be through the concentrated efforts of people like us all over the world that we can ensure the horror inflicted on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is never, ever repeated.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Aug. 4-10, 2010 issue