Mushroom cloud

I had this great teacher in sixth grade named Paul Peca. Among other things, he had us write in our journals about our thoughts. We also discussed the issues of the day, such as the 1964 general election between Lyndon Johnson (the peace candidate, in retrospect, ironically) and Barry Goldwater (who was depicted in one very effective commercial which ran but one time as the guy who would lead the world to a nuclear holocaust.) We held a mock election in which LBJ beat AuH2O 13-3. It was clear that Mr. Peca preferred Goldwater.

We had this great debate about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His position was that the dropping of those bombs (and the threat to drop others, even though we didn’t HAVE any more) ended the war sooner than continuing to fight a conventional war. He also noted that there were greater deaths in battles such as Dresden, Germany (130,000) than in either of the Japanese cities (120,000), which was the conventional wisdom of the time. (Dresden’s deaths in February 1945 are now estimated to have been 25,000 to 60,000.)

What we argued was that the effect of the atomic bombs was not just limited to its immediate destructive force but the anguish that was suffered by future generations. How well that was understood at the time the bomb was dropped versus what was learned subsequently about the devastating effects of nuclear radiation was also discussed.

I don’t remember if we talked about the fact that the only uses of of the atomic bomb were on people of color, or whether that was a conversation of a later class.

There is a movie called Atomic Cafe, which I saw when it came out about 25 years ago. It was a history of the A-bomb from the 1940s to the early 1960s, told in clips (“duck and cover”, Prersidential announcements) and song (“Jesus Hits Like an Atomic Bomb”, “Atomic Cocktail”). It was funny (in parts), but also quite sobering. I used to play the LP every year so that I would never forget the insanity of nuclear war. (I’ve never seen the soundtrack listed, though several of the songs appear here, an inferior product, so I’ve read.}

As we mark the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb this week, I note that we’ve never used it again on people. This suggests (perhaps foolishly) that we’ve learned from our history.

Haven’t we?

Haven’t we?

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