Days Of Infamy

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In the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt called that moment, “a day that will live in infamy.”

Since then, the phrase “day of infamy” has become synonymous with that attack.  Scholars have since argued about whether the “sneak attack” was anticipated or not. 

Whatever the case may be, I would suggest that the real day of infamy came as one of the final strokes of the war Studs Turkel called “the Good War”: the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.  Approximately 140,000 people died in the Hiroshima explosion, and another 40,000 at Nagasaki three days later. Most of them were civilians.

This first week in August, the 62nd anniversary of those days, provides a somber moment of reflection on those two violent days.  We cannot pretend days such as those will never happen again.  The number of nations that hold nuclear technology and retain nuclear arsenals has continued to increase since World War II. 

Iran obviously wants to join that club, even though they protest that allegation. North Korea has momentarily given up its threat to develop its capabilities in that regard. We hold our breath lest some terrorist organizations attain that capability. Of course, the U.S. has enough of an arsenal of nuclear weapons to blow up the entire world many times over. We aim our weapons at our enemies, real or perceived, hoping the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, aptly given the acronym MAD, will protect us.  MAD is the promise that if you do it to us, it will be done to you.  This all gives me cause to wonder.

We are assured that if a nuclear holocaust should happen in our midst, our nation’s leaders will be safely ensconced in a bunker somewhere, so that the political and military affairs of our nation will continue unabated.  That is small comfort.  I wonder how the others who will not be so protected will feel, just as I wonder how the common folk in Hiroshima and Nagasaki felt when fire rained down from the skies.  I wonder how those airmen who flew those missions felt, knowing the devastation and horror they would unleash on the many innocents below.
I know we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. We cannot go back to the days before nuclear warfare. We have taken a bite from the apple on the nuclear tree, and we are the worse for it.  But, on this anniversary of the one time the United States used the bomb, I pray we will not succumb to the temptation ever to use it again. God forgive us if we ever do.

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