The best teacher I ever had was Paul Peca, my sixth-grade teacher. He encouraged us to think, create, and debate about things in the world. He was a staunch Republican, yet encouraged a mock election in class in which Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater for President, 13-3.
One of the issues we debated was whether the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 and the Nagasaki bombing a couple of days later was justified. Mr. Peca said yes; it shortened the war. Most of us said no; it was brutalizing, with health effects far beyond the immediate event.
I haven’t really changed my position, and I suspect neither has Mr. Peca, who we loved so much that some of us walked 12 miles roundtrip one day to visit him the next year.
Here’s the complete video for Atomic Cafe, a 1982 documentary about the bombings as well as the subsequent Cold War propaganda, which had a strong effect on me. Or use the embedded video below. Here’s Vincent Canby’s review of the film in the New York Times.
Public Reading of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima”
Friday, August 6 at 12:30 pm
Location: John J. Bach Branch, Albany Public Library