Seventy Years Since Hiroshima: Nonviolence or Nonexistence

“The atomic bomb has resulted for the time being in destroying the soul of Japan. What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see.”—Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1945

Seventy years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States knows now what the effect has been on the only nation ever to explode nuclear weapons on human beings. The result is not pleasant. August 6 and August 9, 2015, represent days of remembrance … and days of reckoning.

When referencing nuclear weapons, it is common for Americans to circulate images of the mushroom cloud. The awe-inspiring image of phenomenal power reinforces the nation’s sense of self-importance and sanitizes the reality of nuclear bombs. Photos from Hiroshima and Nagasaki sometimes appear, particularly the ones of charred rubble and shattered buildings.

Rarely do we show the stories of piles of bodies stacked higher than those of Auschwitz. This is the reality of nuclear weapons.

This year, Kazuaki Tanahashi, the world’s foremost translator of the 13th century Zen master, Dogen Zengi, will bend his calligraphic art in service of changing the perception of nuclear weapons, by creating a giant banner that reads: 1 H-Bomb = 100 Auschwitz. It will be carried in the 70th anniversary demonstrations at Los Alamos, New Mexico, on August 6 and August 9.

Hundreds of citizens from countless peace and justice organizations are converging in New Mexico for two days of vigils at Los Alamos (the cradle of the bomb) and two days of nonviolent action training at the Campaign Nonviolence National Conference in Santa Fe. Remembrance and reckoning go hand-in-hand, and the decision to change course makes the reflective practices meaningful. Nationally renowned organizers, speakers and researchers from the fields of nonviolence, peace and justice will gather to speak. All events, including the demonstrations at Los Alamos, will be livestreamed here and broadcasted in Japan.

Campaign Nonviolence, and its parent organization, Pace e Bene, say that the time is ripe not only for a renewed commitment to nuclear disarmament, but also for an invigorated, multi-layered mass movement to transform a culture steeped in violence into a culture of active nonviolence.

The horror of nuclear weapons has faded from public consciousness in the United States. The awareness that the world hovers on the perpetual verge of nuclear annihilation recedes into the background of more immediate daily pressures. For 70 years, humanity has managed to keep the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in their silos. Meanwhile, citizens struggle with poverty, evictions, foreclosures, recessions, police brutality, the new horror of mass incarceration, hate crimes, criminalization of homelessness, mass shootings, water shut-offs, unaffordable health care, toxins, pollution, the looming climate crisis, the borderless war on terror, mass surveillance, drone warfare, the erosion of civil liberties, extreme income inequality, racism, fracking, tar sands extraction, exploding oil trains and rupturing pipelines, privatization of public assets, corporate and oligarchic rule … the list goes on.

This is the effect of the bomb on the bomber: 70 years after exploding atomic bombs on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States roils in injustice, cruelty, avarice, greed, hatred, brutality and fear.

We can, on a quiet day rarely found in US society, trace the threads of connection through the complexity of history, far beyond the bomb. The cruel, callous greed of the United States is well documented. The brutal behaviors of conquest and colonization that founded the nation also gave rise to the moral depravity that built and exploded the atomic bombs. The same obscene greed that perpetuates a type of weaponry, which, for the survival of the world, can never be used, also drives the long list of injustices that the population struggles to survive. The irrational fears of Americans are whipped into a froth of xenophobia, hatred and violence by a corporate media apparatus that rivals the most extreme totalitarian propaganda systems. Through this, delusions of American exceptionalism, superiority and the necessity of extreme militarism – including expanding the nuclear arsenal – are perpetuated in the mindset of the populace. Trillions of taxpayer dollars are swindled by the military industrial complex and the justification of the nuclear weapons program continues.

The nuclear warhawks and their scientists live in a delusional world of global cops and robbers, good guys and bad guys, just wars and terrorists. They live in a world of American exceptionalism, supremacy, colonization, militarization and corporate domination. They live in a world of Hollywood fantasies, where justice is served at the end of a weapon, and when the radioactive dust clears, the good guy will ride off into the sunset with the cute girl.

On August 6-9th, citizens are gathering at Los Alamos to call the bluff on these delusions and to stand up for sanity. With the demonstrations for disarmament and the trainings on nonviolence, they are stating the simple truth spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the subject of nuclear weapons: “It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”

“All our issues are connected,” says Campaign Nonviolence. For 70 years, the bomb-building United States has dedicated trillions of dollars to destruction. Justice, peace, civil rights, education, equality, and sustainability have languished. The way forward does not lie on the path we have been walking – that road leads only to death, destruction, annihilation, poverty and extinction. The combined pressures of war, poverty, racism, militarism and political injustice can no longer be ignored.

One thread running through the fabric of US injustice is political, economic, environmental and physical violence. In each category, realistic alternatives exist. From restorative justice, to environmental sustainability, to living wages, to income equality, to functional democracy, viable models are already proving their powerful capacity to create systems of justice, equality and respect. Campaign Nonviolence works with people in all 50 states and beyond to confront the systems of destruction and violence and transform them into a culture of active nonviolence.

The August 6th and 9th commemorations of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a time of powerful reckoning for all US citizens. This nation made a choice years ago … and has continued making that same choice ever since. This year, 2015, Campaign Nonviolence and citizens from across the country offer Dr. King’s choice up again: It is nonviolence or nonexistence.

What will you choose?

Watch the livestream of the Campaign Nonviolence National Conference and Los Alamos Vigils here and learn more about supporting the movement toward nonviolence here.