Guest Column

Hiroshima Peace Day


Gila Friends Meeting (Quaker) invites the public to join Friends in the 2019 Hiroshima Peace Day Observance at Gough Park on Sunday, Aug. 4. The remembrance will begin with a period of silent worship at 12:30 p.m., followed by an opportunity to speak out of the silence on the threat nuclear armaments represent for us - and the world. Please bring chairs to the pavilion.

Remember “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus,” a novel written by Mary Shelley two centuries ago? In this undying work, Victor Frankenstein, creates a humanoid life from inert materials - and it becomes a terrible, malignant force that cannot be controlled or extinguished. In one passage, the monster says to Frankenstein, "I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel."

Frankenstein’s monster was created in Germany. New Mexico is the birthplace of another undying monster, created 74 years ago: The atomic bomb.

Many peaceful applications have been found for nuclear energy. However, when used in weaponry, it is a terrible, malignant force that can barely be controlled or extinguished. A father of the bomb, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, thought of a line from the “Bhagavad Gita” when he observed the awesome power unleashed at the Trinity explosion on July 16, 1945: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

At Trinity, the bang and the cloud got all the attention. The “downwinders,” residents of the Tularosa Basin, are still fighting for recognition of the effects Trinity’s fallout had on residents there.

A few weeks later in Japan, nuclear weapons were exploded over Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9. City blocks were leveled, and thousands died instantly – the effect was devastating. Then the cancers and malignancies began to appear and the world began to realize the real extent of the harm caused by those massive doses of radiation.

During the Cold War arms race, the focus remained on the bang and the cloud while developing the H-bomb and testing nuclear devices above ground, below ground and on atolls in the Pacific. New Mexico, with its nuclear labs at Sandia and Los Alamos was once again the cradle of atomic development.

Evidence accumulated that nuclear energy in all its forms is dangerous. Uranium miners got sick. People down-wind from testing sites got sick. Spills of radiated materials created localized health hazards, leading to Superfund clean-ups.

The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 was followed by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, in which the signatories agreed to work toward total elimination of nuclear arsenals. Through this and other treaties (SALT 1, SALT 2, New START), nuclear arsenals have been reduced by 85 percent!

In the 21st Century, however, the memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and of the nuclear power disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima – have faded. We spend billions to store and maintain weapons that few can imagine ever actually deploying. There are new proposed budget items for a new “low-yield” nuclear warhead and two new nuclear-capable missiles. Our malignant creation of 74 years ago is threatening to break its chains again. Once again, a major part of that new surge of activity will be right here in New Mexico.

Those who are concerned about the continuing nuclear arms race are invited to join Friends in the Hiroshima Peace Day Observance at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 4, in the pavilion at Gough Park in Silver City.