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Hiroshima Day 2012, Domestic and International

August 7, 2012

“Though we have very agile minds, able to penetrate into the mysteries of nature, we put this gift and attainment to ignoble uses.”  –Jonathan Edwards (1750)

In a world that seems awash in violence, our voices need be raised and raised again for peace.  On this Hiroshima Day, August 6, 2012, even news of the Olympics in London is drowned out by news of yet another mass murder in America, this time what appears to be a racist “hate crime” perpetrated against a Sikh community, at worship in their temple in Wisconsin.

(A reporter asked a Sikh to explain their religion, and the man replied with an admirable clarity and directness: Sikhs accept three responsibilities—to give homage to God, to work industriously, and to give back to the community—by which we mean the whole community, not just our religious group.)

Two weeks before it was the man in the Colorado movie theater, who seems to have been motivated by nothing deeper than the insane wish to play “the Joker” role in the latest pop-culture craze, the Batman movies.  Also, back in the news today is the fellow who, one year ago, shot Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords and many others in Arizona at a political rally, and now may face trial.  Again we look for a motive, and can only say that everything about the case points to the stimulus of extreme political language, including “targeting” opponents for defeat.

Yes, in each case the perpetrator “must have been insane.”  But insanity too has a social context: a culture of xenophobia and hatred, which feeds on violent imagery and imagines guns are a quick fix and a glorious extension of oneself.  We as a society must take control of our own social context: dismantling hate groups, stopping the endless diet of gratuitous violence in mass entertainment, eliminating the politics of vilification and the megaphones provided to it by the mass media, and, of course, the total removal of automatic and so-called semi-automatic weapons.

Effecting a domestic peace agenda will not be easy.  Every analysis, and every proposal to remediate the situation, brings forth howls of protest.  These wielders of the political veto are so vociferous that our political leaders are intimidated.  Neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Romney has so much as mentioned gun control after our latest round of atrocities (and let’s stop dignifying them with the term “tragedy”).  They’ve been told they will lose votes.  We’d rather hunker down.

Effecting an international peace agenda will be even more difficult.  Here too our political leaders refuse to lead.  Mr. Romney goes to Israel and assures its extreme right wing, Netanyahu and Co., that we will back them when they do what they’ve been itching to do for a long time now: bomb Iranian nuclear installations.  Backing them means, of course, going to war with Iran when Iran retaliates against Israel (and the US, if only covertly), as it surely will.  While President Obama dithers, his Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, publicly “predicts” preemptive action by Israel; diplomatically, it was giving them the green light.  All this so that one nuclear power can strike out at a hostile, would-be nuclear power, thus assuring its deepening hostility for yet another generation.  Demagogues need each other to shore up the political base.

To say “all options are on the table” is to say we are ready to go to war.  In 1945 President Harry Truman took up the option that scientists with “very agile minds” had put on his war-making table: atomic bombs were dropped on two Japanese cities (rather than, say, naval installations).  Controversial, yes.  Morally defensible, no.  Ah, how hard it is to find heroes in such stories!

This is our Hiroshima Day, 2012.  Some Israelis have chosen this day to protest their Defense Ministry, with a simple message: “No to war with Iran!  Do not bomb.  Talk.”  I learned of this event from the brilliant and brave critic, Adam Keller, director of Gush Shalom, whom I met in Tel Aviv a few years ago.

(Contact information:; Israeli Committee for a Middle East Free of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons,; Unitarain Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, .)

My old friend and colleague Richard Boeke has forwarded notes from the Hiroshima Remembrance held early today at the HorshamPeaceGarden, in England.  Several haiku were read, including these:

Hoeing, I gather bones

from Hiroshima’s burnt earth

under the blazing sun.


Survivors emerged

with an iron will,

“Never again.”


This is our cry.

This is our prayer.

Peace in our world.



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