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LeFevre: The Atomic Bombings and America’s Soul

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

The Atomic Bombings and America’s Soul

It is the lie that began the long decline to America’s loss of its soul. The people are still fed, and still swallow, the propaganda that began 60 years ago, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled. As Time magazine echoed for the umpteenth time this week: “An awful weapon had saved lives.”

Of course, we have, or should have, the benefit of hindsight. Even so, the question is not so much whether the bombs should have been dropped. Billions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of America’s best and brightest who developed and tested the first atomic bomb at the “Trinity” site (not to mention the unfathomable hatred for ‘Japs’ during the war), made their use a foregone conclusion.

The issue is this: the 60th commemoration confronts Americans with the ongoing failure in our character to mourn the only use of nuclear weapons on a population. Even today, rather than question the continued acceptance of nuclear weapons, many Americans feel pride that we have such power, and that nukes supposedly helped us 'win' the Cold War.

The Manhattan Project is the ultimate example of how science and scientists can serve death and destruction. It is a lesson that has yet to sink in— that science and technology are methods and tools that have, for the most part, served the darkness of the human mind. In themselves they are not and can never be the light that is capable of shining through the human heart.

America has yet to even approach the doorstep of the “moral threshold” that we, and humanity, crossed on August 6, 1945. In a classic apologia, David Kennedy, a professor at Stanford, writes in the August 1 issue of Time (which features a retrospective on the bombings): “Long range B-29 bombers systematically undertook fire-bombing raids that consumed 66 of Japan’s largest cities and killed as many 900,000 civilians —many times the combined death tolls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Back during the depths of the Cold War, there was talk of developing (or having developed) a neutron bomb, which would kill people but leave buildings and infrastructure intact. At a spiritual level, especially since the black dawn of the new millennium, we have been metaphorically detonating one neutron bomb after another.

Twin poles of evil, with Bush, Blair, and their ilk on one end, and Al Qeda and their ilk on the other, have been radioactively killing, through spreading despair and hopelessness, the spirits of millions of people, leaving bodies intact but hearts numb.

The fear of terrorism has replaced the fear of nuclear war, and it is used to manipulate the people in the same way by our government. We’re inculcating children with this fear, and thereby destroying their capacity to have faith in God and in humanity. For what kind of God, they feel, would allow a world like this?

Is it because of Americans love of war or our hatred of humanity that so many of our TV shows lately glorify past and present wars and warriors? War is an outbreak of collective madness, and soldiers are, for the most part, decent young men (and now women) caught in the maw of organized mayhem. This ‘all war, all the time’ atmosphere reflects a deep deficiency in the national character.

In the last gasp of triumphalist denial, military might camouflages the spiritual blight of America. And war, having come full circle to the cradle of civilization to reveal its suicidal essence, has clearly become a thing of the past. And yet, addicted to violence, we can’t let it go.

Too many people believe that the acknowledgement of a truth means being consigned and confined to it in perpetuity. But just the opposite is the case—to begin to change something, you have to face the truth, however painful it is.

The atomic bombs were exploded over Japan as much to demonstrate American power to the Soviet Union as to end the war with Japan. The long road back to recovering and restoring America’s soul begins with acknowledging its loss, and cutting the feeding tube to the half-truth about using the bombs, which to this day sustains the fantasy that we are a good people.

The human spirit is very resilient, but not infinitely so. The bombs represent the dominance of the cold reason of the machine over the potential understanding and compassion of the human heart. Only developing that side of the human character can insure our inward and outward survival in the crowded place and space that the world has become.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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