Guns and Bombs - America's Shame, Then and Now

"Sha'Quille Kornegay, 2 years old, was buried in a pink coffin, her favorite doll by her side and a tiara strategically placed to hide the self-inflicted gunshot wound to her forehead."

Sha'Quille accidently shot herself with a 9mm pistol her father kept under his pillow. She was attracted to the red laser-sighting device, which was very much like the red lights in her cousins' sneakers that fired when they played hopscotch. The gun was, quite gruesomely apparently, unlocked and loaded. Sure, only good guys with guns can stop the bad guys.

This tragic paragraph opened a recent New York Times article about the deaths of four toddlers in one week in April. These small bodies are just particularly poignant evidence of the collateral damage of a country gone mad with guns.

Even this heart-wrenching image will not lead to any sober reflection about violence in our society. The deaths of these toddlers are only like tiny melting snowflakes compared to the iceberg of nuclear terror, about which no politician will speak.

On May 27th, President Obama will be the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima since we obliterated 60% of the city with the first use of an atomic weapon. According to reports from the White House, he will not apologize. How could he? Unnoticed in the political fervor over Donald Trump's latest tweet, Obama has advanced a three-decade, trillion-dollar plan, to revitalize America's nuclear program. Only good guys with bombs can stop the bad guys, I suppose. While I admire Obama, it is difficult to accept his anti-nuclear rhetoric in light of this plan to continue, or arguably, raise the already high stakes.

I don't intend to re-litigate the 1945 decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- 200,000 died. Proponents argue that only this raw display of power could bring the Japanese to their knees. Apologists for that decision claim that any other military "solution" would have taken ten thousand or more American soldiers' lives and 100's of thousands of innocent Japanese citizens' lives. Critics claim, with some evidence, that Japanese surrender was imminent and the unleashing of atomic might was horrifyingly unnecessary.

The scale of risk is quite different from home to planet, but the frame of mind is identical. A safer home is an armed home. A safer world is an armed world. Neither assertion is true. In both cases, tragic collateral damage is inevitable - a question of when, not if.

On the domestic end of this continuum of fear, sales of guns rise with every heartbreak. The slaughter of children, at Sandy Hook or anywhere else, is greeted with a moment of anguish and then a trip to the gun store. When children die, the solution is to arm the teachers. Our unique American solution to any threat is to withdraw into a well-armed defensive posture. No sober reflection on community, no recognition that guns kill far more innocent people than they protect. Just a bunker mentality that leads to 9mm guns under pillows, in glove boxes, and in holsters as increasing numbers of Americans strut through life prepared to "take out" any of the threats that roam through their imaginations.

And so it is with our national policy. We will spend another trillion dollars to produce nuclear weapons we say we will never use. As we are the "exceptional nation," we are morally justified. Russia, the UK, France, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel also have nuclear weapons. They too feel quite "exceptional."

In 1945 we used the horrible power that only we possessed, to terrorize the Japanese and the rest of the world to their knees. They couldn't retaliate. As the saying goes, they only had a knife to bring a gunfight. Now the consequences of nuclear warfare, no matter which "exceptional" nation strikes the first blow, are beyond imagination.

Unilateral disarmament is the only answer. We cannot ever use our lethal power. A trillion dollar commitment to this insanity can only have the consequence of increasing the global threat of nuclear holocaust.

When folks like Sha'Quille Kornegay's father keep loaded weapons under pillows, tragedy is a matter of when, not if. When the world's nations, led by our own, have nuclear weapons at the ready, a tragedy, intentional or accidental, is inevitable.

Will we ever learn?