Hiroshima and the Ultimate Failure of Our Race

War is insane. If wars didn’t continue to be commonplace today, your history teacher would go, “Centuries ago, nations would gather enormous walls, enormous oceans of men, arm them with instruments of death, and send them to foreign lands where they would face opposing walls and oceans of men armed with foreign instruments of death. These men, only vaguely aware of their purpose, would destroy or be destroyed by the opposing men until what remained was sad enough to convince one or both sides that they should stop. Nowadays, all we have to do is describe the concept to world leaders and they are instantly convinced to solve their problems in other ways, at the considerable discount of several million middlemen.”

Your history teacher would go that and you would say, “Man, that’s crazy. Were the world leaders of centuries past smoking crack?Whyn’t they just figure things out with Rock, Paper, Scissors–the great equalizer–like normal people?”

It’s crazy that even in countries obsessed with Freedom and so put off by the taking of lives performed on a personal level (e.g., when you kill the man who’s been sleeping with your wife) they would still send men, in the millions, against their will, to places where they will kill and, likely, be killed. Crazier still is that so many people worldwide are convinced this is necessary or, even worse, right.

Well, I went to Hiroshima on Friday. In America, people are quick to justify the use of the atomic bomb, saying that it saved millions of American and Japanese lives by averting the need for a full-on invasion. This is probably true, but the Japanese people with whom I’ve talked about it tend to make the counterpoint, “But the A-bomb was horrible.” This is true, too. All acts of war are horrible, but when you visit Hiroshima and see the sheer fantastical speed and magnitude at which death, destruction, and anguish befell the regular people of this town, it’s easy to understand why so many Japanese people still resent Truman’s decision to drop the bomb, despite its apparent practicality. Ultimately, you can’t really justify the immediate, unannounced vaporization of a city filled with human beings, just as you can’t really justify raping Chinese women, decapitating the men and decorating the streets with their heads and entrails. These are acts commanded by the theoretically ambitious few, but enacted by scores of the incredibly short-sighted, who justify their violence by citing the violence that has been done unto them or will be done unto them.

This can bring no end, and I believe everybody knows it. If for every eye destroyed there is an eye taken back, then for every eye taken back there is a pissed off relative who hasn’t thought things through. We humans just can’t resist our desire for instant gratification. It’s in our blood. It’s in every car horn blast, every swear word and sideways glance on the street, in all of these arbitrary allegiances we create daily and then defend at the cost of our charisma, our pride, of the familial understanding that all humans should share. This transcends criticism. It is the inevitable state of Man.

In the context of being humans, under the pretense that all hope was lost from the get-go, the decision to drop the bomb was not wrong. It was simple arithmetic. But considered from a saner plane of reality where the only pretense is that every life deserves an equal chance at happiness and longevity, it was wrong. It was the rightest wrong in a world of nothing but wrongs. Posed with the options of Shit and Feces, Truman made his choice. But when the result of your decision has anything to do with a tricycle melting, not to mention its rider, “right” is hardly the descriptor that comes to mind.

Terms like “Axis of Evil” will destroy us. Nobody is evil. All these would-be paralyzing headlines to which we’ve grown so numb are just sums of arithmetic performed by the short-sighted and ambitious. America, the biggest power on the face of the Earth, with a nuclear stockpile numbering in the thousands, demonizes its opposition. Imagine being in the opposition’s shoes. Wouldn’t you want some nukes of your own, just in case America comes to “purify” the lands? If there’s something all Americans should know, it’s that we’ll never achieve peace by acting like police. There’s a song in there somewhere.

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