There are historical matters toward which our ongoing attention is worthy because of their relevance today. Here are some examples:
1. The courage and benefit of Socrates’ sacrifice to uphold the rule of law demonstrated by his refusal to escape his prison cell and willingness to drink deadly poison, a penalty arising from a trial in which he was unjustly adjudicated guilty. He personally sacrificed his life to highlight forever the importance of the rule of law for his and any society.
2. The horror of a sophisticated culture’s descent into madness and the perpetration of genocide in the Holocaust and killing of millions of Jews reminds us that the values that bind civilization can never be neglected and must always be extolled and lived passionately or fear, ignorance, prejudice, and extreme violence can overtake reason, justice, and stability.
3. The day in which humanity realized that the continuity of generations cannot be assumed and that we have the technical capacity to render the planet earth unfit for human survival: August 6, 1945, when Hiroshima experienced the unimaginable.
4. The value of extolling the virtues of individuals who express love, compassion, wisdom, and justice in their lives as examples of what it means to be a true human being.
During events commemorating Hiroshima this past August of 2017 organized by Pax Christi of New York City, I had the privilege of addressing some of these matters which must not be forgotten until ignorance, fear, prejudice, and violence are forever eliminated from the human heart. In other words, for virtue to prevail our memories must be awake, our hearts resonant with goodness, and our hands active in the pursuit of peace.
Hiroshima Never Again: Principles for Inner and Outer Peace
(An Homage to Thomas Merton)
On the occasion of the
72nd Anniversary of the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Pax Christi Metro New York, Global Security Institute, Catholic Worker, The Raging Grannies, and The Ribbon International
August 6, 2017
New York City, New York
First, thank God. Second, thank Rosemary Pace and Pax Christi Metro New York for their hard work bringing us together today.
To begin to contemplate the awesome event of August 6, 1945, when in a flash of light, waves of heat and radiation virtually annihilated the population of Hiroshima and warned humanity that although we might have the power to destroy the gift of creation we surely do not have the right, we should consider prayer.
This is a precarious moment with over 15,000 nuclear weapons in existence and thousands poised to unleash unspeakable suffering and destruction, world leaders acting like petulant children degrading the tools of law and morality, ignoring our shared interests in addressing real factual global needs such as protecting the climate and the oceans and ending poverty, a media focused on the crisis de jour while ignoring the over 95% of the world’s nuclear arms in Russia and the US which deploy thousands on alert status, and a public fascinated by the spectacle culture and its devices of mass distraction. Our political leaders ignore the fact that the majority of nations are parties to nuclear weapons free zones making the entire Southern Hemisphere virtually nuclear weapons free, that the majority of nations have voted for a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons and the nuclear weapons states have adopted a legal duty to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons, which they substantially ignore while either modernizing and/or expanding their arsenals.
If prayer was ever appropriate on any day, it surely is today. A Nuclear Prayer can be found at the web site TheNuclearPrayer.com where it is recited by an informed group that includes former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Secretary of State George Shultz and Ambassadors Thomas Graham and James Goodby. It was inspired and penned by Rev. Bill Swing:
The Nuclear Prayer
The Beginning and the End are in your hands, O Creator of the Universe. And in our hands you have placed the fate of this planet. We, who are tested by having both creative and destructive power in our free will, turn to you in sober fear and in intoxicating hope. We ask for your guidance and to share in your imagination in our deliberations about the use of nuclear force. Help us to lift the fog of atomic darkness that hovers so pervasively over our Earth, Your Earth, so that soon all eyes may see life magnified by your pure light.
Bless all of us who wait today for your Presence and who dedicate ourselves to achieve your intended peace and rightful equilibrium on Earth. In the Name of all that is holy and all that is hoped. AMEN.
The activities of one of America’s greatest holy men, Thomas Merton, generated intensive government supervision the evidence of which was obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request made by Robert G. Grip, a reporter at a television station in Mobile, Alabama.
The United States federal agencies queried were the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) main headquarters and Louisville office, and the U.S. State Department’s offices of Passport Services and the Central Foreign Policy Records.
The request yielded a letter intercepted by the CIA from Merton to [Nobel laureate] Boris Pasternak in 1958. The FBI offices revealed information kept on Merton in regards to his involvement with the peace movement (mainly the Catholic Peace Fellowship) and in helping a conscientious objector.
In support of an application for CO status, Merton wrote a letter dated February 19, 1968 (at the height of the Vietnam War) to Local Draft Board 47 in Louisville, Kentucky, which found its way into the file:
“As spiritual advisor, I have been consulted by Joseph Mulloy, who is seeking to follow his conscience in opposition to war. ..I would like to make clear that such support is a religious matter and is not to be construed as an illegal act, nor is it political. It is essential for the preservation of American democratic values that the rights of conscience be respected even, indeed especially, in matters involving violence and war.”
The file showed that the Kentucky State Un-American Activities Committee in 1968 received a report from a group called Catholic Concerned Citizens that advocated “a closer look should be taken at the questionable activity within the Roman Catholic Church of Louisville and Kentucky,” and included a comment on Merton: “he is of an undesirable element and should be considered the #1 target of your committee.”
His insights on the dangers of the reliance on weaponry to advance national goals better served by diplomacy, the immorality of nuclear weapons, and the importance of loving-kindness and compassion made him the target of the ignorant and a source of inspiration to the open hearted.
Merton was a man of conquest, conquering apathy with compassionate service, hatred with love, vanity with humility, and pettiness with inspiration.
He practiced what the great Sufi Master Bawa Muhaiyaddeen instructed: Separate from yourself that which separates you from others. Anger, falsehood, jealousy, arrogance, pride, hastiness and numerous other ignorant qualities separate us while love, compassion, tolerance, patience, justice, peacefulness not only bring us together as people but bring us together with the Source of our lives, God, the ultimate mysterious power that provides each breath and heartbeat. Merton dove deep into his inner self and found a wellspring of beauty, wisdom and goodness. He found unity.
Merton called on States to practice moral principles as a path to world peace and emphasized contemplative practice and moral action for individual peace.
Let us pause for a moment to seek principles for that peace.
Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” UDANAVARGA, 5:18; Christianity: “All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them.” Matthew 7:12; Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you wouldnot have them do unto you.” Analects 15:23; Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not unto others that which would cause you pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517; Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” Hadith; Jainism: “In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” Lord Mahavir 24th Tirthankara; Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. That is the law; all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a; Zoroastrianism: “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatsoever is not good for its own self.” Dadistan-I-Dinik, 94:5.
The principle is found in the ethics of all traditions and arises in the heart of all individuals who experience the immanence of the Creator in their own lives.
Application of this principle brings inner-peace and at another level brings peace amongst nations. When nations treat other nations as they wish to be treated coherence, stability and cooperation follow. When this principle is violated incoherence and instability follow.
Nothing could so offend this rule of equity more clearly than the policy that nuclear weapons are good for some nations but not for others.
Imagine if the Biological Weapons Convention said no nation can use polio or smallpox as a weapon but we will let nine nations -- US, UK, Russia, China, India, Israel, North Korea, France, and Pakistan – use the plague to bring global stability. This is absurd. It is this violation of the principle of equity, the Golden Rule, that ensures that the world will remain in a dangerous unstable state until all nations are equal under the law. The law of reason, equity, morality, expressed clearly by the International Court of Justice when it addressed the legality of nuclear weapons compels the universal, legally verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons.
The law of spiritual awakening compels the disarmament of the heart from the weapons of anger, jealousy, pride, hatred and prejudice. The law of the world compels the pursuit of security based on equity under the law and the peaceful resolution of disputes through law.
Otherwise the horse of science wedded to technology guided by fear, greed, and national prejudice will run amok. The reigns of law, morality, and wisdom must gain the upper hand in our personal and collective lives and the principles that bring success in each realm reflect each other.
The Holy See has identified the unacceptable basis of nuclear deterrence as a violation of the a moral principle. Nuclear deterrence is based on the credible readiness to unleash the unthinkable destructive forces of thousands of nuclear warheads. This cannot be an acceptable foundation for a stable moral peace. My political mentor Sen. Alan Cranston used to say, “Nuclear weapons are unworthy of civilization.” Not only are they expensive, dangerous and subject to their use through accident, design or madness, but they are morally unacceptable.
In 1961, before the near destruction of the world during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Thomas Merton did his best to express his insights in what he called an anti-poem to honor Hiroshima day. To help us think clearly about the issue I will share it:
ORIGINAL CHILD BOMB
Points for meditation to be scratched on the walls of a cave
1: In the year 1945 an Original Child was born. The name Original Child was given to it by the Japanese people, who recognized that it was the first of its kind.
2: On April 12th, 1945, Mr. Harry Truman became the President of the United States, which was then fighting the second world war. Mr. Truman was a vice president who became president by accident when his predecessor died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He did not know as much about the war as the president before him did. He knew a lot less about the war than many people did.
About one hour after Mr. Truman became president, his aides told him about a new bomb which was being developed by atomic scientists. They called it the “atomic bomb”. They said scientists had been working on it for six years and that it had so far cost two billion dollars. They added that its power was equal to that of twenty thousand tons of TNT. A single bomb could destroy a city. One of those present added, in a reverent tone, that the new explosive might eventually destroy the whole world.
But Admiral Leahy told the president the bomb would never work.
3: President Truman formed a committee of men to tell him if this bomb would work, and if so, what he should do with it. Some members of this committee felt that the bomb would jeopardize the future of civilization. They were against its use. Others wanted it to be used in demonstrations on a forest of cryptomeria trees, but not against a civil or military target. Many atomic scientists warned that the use of atomic power in war would be difficult and even impossible to control. The danger would be very great. Finally, there were others who believed that if the bomb were used just once or twice, on one or two Japanese cities, there would be no more war. They believed the new bomb would product eternal peace.
4: In June 1945 the Japanese government was taking steps to negotiate for peace. On one hand the Japanese ambassador tried to interest the Russian government in acting as a go-between with the United States. On the other hand, an unofficial approach was made secretly through Mr. Allen Dulles in Switzerland. The Russians said they were not interested and that they would not negotiate. Nothing was done about the other proposal which was not official. The Japanese High Command was not in favor of asking for peace, but wanted to continue the war, even if the Japanese mainland were invaded. The generals believed that the war should continue until everybody was dead. The Japanese generals were professional soldiers.
5: In the same month of June, the President’s committee decided that the new bomb should be dropped on a Japanese city. This would be a demonstration of the bomb on a civil and military target. As “demonstration” it would be a kind of a “show”. “Civilians” all over the world love a good “show”. The “destructive” aspect of the bomb would be “military”.
6: The same committee also asked if America’s friendly ally, the Soviet Union, should be informed of the atomic bomb. Someone suggested that this information would make the Soviet Union even more friendly than it was already. But all finally agreed that the Soviet Union was now friendly enough.
7: There was discussion about which city should be selected as the first target. Some wanted it to be Kyoto, an ancient capital of Japan and a center of the Buddhist religion. Others said no, this would cause bitterness. As a result of a chance conversation, Mr. Stimson, the Secretary of War, had recently read up on the history and beauties of Kyoto. He insisted that this city should be left untouched. Some wanted Tokyo to be the first target, but others argued that Tokyo had already been practically destroyed by fire raids and could no longer be considered a “target.” So it was decided Hiroshima was the most opportune target, as it had not yet been bombed at all. Lucky Hiroshima! What others had experienced over a period of four years would happen to Hiroshima in a single day! Much time would be saved, and “time is money!”
8: When they bombed Hiroshima they would put the following out of business: The Ube Nitrogen Fertilizer Company; the Ube Soda Company; the Nippon Motor Oil Company; the Sumitoma Chemical Company; and most of the inhabitants.
9: At this time some atomic scientists protested again, warning that the use of the bomb in war would tend to make the United States unpopular. But the President’s committee was by now fully convinced that the bomb had to be used. Its use would arouse the attention of the Japanese military class and give them food for thought.
10: Admiral Leahy renewed his declaration that the bomb would not explode.
11: On the 4th of July, when the United States in displays of fireworks celebrates its independence from British rule, the British and Americans agreed together that the bomb ought to be used against Japan.
12: On July 7th the Emperor of Japan pleaded with the Soviet Government to act as mediator for peace between Japan and the Allies. Molotov said the question would be “studied.” In order to facilitate this “study” Soviet troops in Siberia prepared to attack the Japanese. The Allies had, in any case, been urging Russia to join the war against Japan. However, now that the atomic bomb was nearly ready, some thought it would be better if the Russians took a rest.
13: The time was coming for the new bomb to be tested, in the New Mexico desert. A name was chosen to designate this secret operation. It was called “Trinity”.
14: At 5:30 A.M. on July 16th, 1945 a plutonium bomb was successfully exploded in the desert at Almagordo, New Mexico. It was suspended from a hundred foot steel tower which evaporated. There was a fireball a mile wide. The great flash could be seen for a radius of 250 miles. A blind woman miles away said she perceived light. There was a cloud of smoke 40,000 feet high. It was shaped like a toadstool.
15: Many who saw the experiment expressed their satisfaction in religious terms. A semi-official report even quoted a religious book – The New Testament, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” There was an atmosphere of devotion. It was a great act of faith. They believed the explosion was exceptionally powerful.
16: Admiral Leahy, still a “doubting Thomas,” said that the bomb would not explode when dropped from a plane over a city. Others may have had “faith,” but he had his own variety of “hope”.
17: On July 21st a full written report of the explosion reached President Truman at Potsdam. The report was documented by pictures. President Truman read the report and looked at the pictures before starting out for the conference. When he left his mood was jaunty and his step was light.
18: That afternoon Mr. Stimson called on Mr. Churchill, and laid before him a sheet of paper bearing a code message about the successful test. The message read “Babies satisfactorily born.” Mr. Churchill was quick to realize that there was more in this than met the eye. Mr. Stimson satisfied his legitimate curiosity.
19: On this same day sixty atomic scientists who knew of the test signed a petition that the bomb should not be used against Japan without a convincing warning and an opportunity to surrender.
At this time the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which had left San Francisco on the 18th, was sailing toward the island of Tinian, with some U 235 in a lead bucket. The fissionable material was about the size of a softball, but there was enough for one atomic bomb. Instructions were that if the ship sank, the Uranium was to be saved first, before any life. The mechanism of the bomb was on board the U.S.S. Indianapolis, but it was not yet assembled.
20: On July 26th the Potsdam declaration was issued. An ultimatum was given to Japan: “Surrender unconditionally or be destroyed.” Nothing was said about the new bomb. But pamphlets dropped all over Japan threatened “an enormous air bombardment” if the army would not surrender. On July 26th the U.S.S. Indianapolis arrived at Tinian and the bomb was delivered.
21: On July 28th, since the Japanese High Command wished to continue the war, the ultimatum was rejected. A censored version of the ultimatum appeared in the Japanese press with the comment that it was “an attempt to drive a wedge between the military and the Japanese people.” But the Emperor continued to hope that the Russians, after “studying” his proposal, would help to negotiate a peace. On July 30th Mr. Stimson revised a draft of the announcement that was to be made after the bomb was dropped on the Japanese target. The statement was much better than the original draft.
22: On August 1st the bomb was assembled in an air-conditioned hut on Tinian. Those who handled the bomb referred to it as “Little Boy”. Their care for the Original Child was devoted and tender.
23: On August 2nd President Truman was the guest of His Majesty King George VI on board the H.M.S. Renown in Plymouth Harbor. The atomic bomb was praised. Admiral Leahy, who was present, declared that the bomb would not work. His Majesty George VI offered a small wager to the contrary.
24: On August 2nd a special message from the Japanese Foreign Minister was sent to the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow. “It is requested that further efforts be exerted … Since the loss of one day may result in a thousand years of regret, it is requested that you immediately have a talk with Molotov.” But Molotov did not return from Potsdam until the day the bomb fell.
25: On August 4th the bombing crew on Tinian watched a movie of “Trinity” (the Almagordo Test). August 5th was a Sunday but there was little time for formal worship. They said a quick prayer that the war might end “very soon.” On that day, Colonel Tibbetts, who was in command of the B-29 that was to drop the bomb, felt that his bomber ought to have a name. He baptized it Enola Gay, after his mother in Iowa. Col. Tibbetts was a well balanced man, and not sentimental. He did not have a nervous breakdown after the bombing, like some of the other members of his crew.
26: On Sunday afternoon “Little Boy” was brought out in procession and devoutly tucked away in the womb of Enola Gay. That evening few were able to sleep. They were as excited as little boys on Christmas Eve.
27: At 1:37 A.M. August 6th the weather scout plane took off. It was named the Straight Flush, in reference to the mechanical action of a water closet. There was a picture of one, to make this evident.
28: At the last minute before taking off Col. Tibbetts changed the secret radio call sign from “Visitor” to “Dimples.” The bombing mission would be a kind of flying smile.
29: At 2:45 A.M. Enola Gay got off the ground with difficulty. Over Iwo Jima she met her escort, two more B-29’s, one of which was called the Great Artiste. Together they proceeded to Japan.
30: At 6:40 they climbed to 31,000 feet, the bombing altitude. The sky was clear. It was a perfect morning.
31: At 3:09 they reached Hiroshima and started the bomb run. The city was full of sun. The fliers could see the green grass in the gardens. No fighters rose up to meet them. There was no flak. No one in the city bothered to take cover.
32: The bomb exploded within 100 feet of the aiming point. The fireball was 18,000 feet across. The temperature at the center of the fireball was 100,000,000 degrees. The people who were near the center became nothing. The whole city was blown to bits and the ruins all caught fire instantly everywhere, burning briskly. 70,000 people were killed right away or died within a few hours. Those who did not die right away suffered great pain. Few of them were soldiers.
33: The men in the plane perceived that the raid had been successful, but they thought of the people in the city and they were not perfectly happy. Some felt they had done wrong. But in any case they had obeyed orders. “It was war.”
34: Over the radio went the code message that the bomb had been successful: “Visible effects greater than Trinity … Proceeding to Papacy.” Papacy was the code name for Tinian.
35: It took a little while for the rest of Japan to find out what had happened to Hiroshima. Papers were forbidden to publish any news of the new bomb. A four line item said that Hiroshima had been hit by incendiary bombs and added: “It seems that some damage was caused to the city and its vicinity.”
36: Then the military governor of the Prefecture of Hiroshima issued a proclamation full of martial spirit. To all the people without hands, without feet, with their faces falling off, with their intestines hanging out, with their whole bodies full of radiation, he declared: “We must not rest a single day in our war effort … We must bear in mind that the annihilation of the stubborn enemy is our road to revenge.” He was a professional soldier.
37: On August 8th Molotov finally summoned the Japanese Ambassador. At last neutral Russia would give an answer to the Emperor’s inquiry. Molotov said coldly that the Soviet Union was declaring war on Japan.
38: On August 9th another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, though Hiroshima was still burning. On August 11th the Emperor overruled his high command and accepted the peace terms dictated at Potsdam. Yet for three days discussion continued, until August 14th the surrender was made public and final.
39: Even then the Soviet troops thought they ought to fight in Manchuria “just a little longer.” They felt that even though they could not, at this time, be of help in Japan, it would be worth while if they displayed their good will in Manchuria, or even in Korea.
40: As to the Original Child that was now born, President Truman summed up the philosophy of the situation in a few words, “We found the bomb” he said “and we used it.”
41: Since that summer many other bombs have been “found.” What is going to happen? At the time of writing, after a season of brisk speculation, men seem to be fatigued by the whole question.
But we are not fatigued. We know that this year 120 nations at the United Nations created a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear weapons and declare therein that the devices violate International Humanitarian Law that prohibits weapons of indiscriminate effect and cause unnecessary human suffering, and “ that any use of nuclear weapons would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.”
We will work to fulfill that Treaty’s call for the universal elimination of nuclear weapons.
We are drawn together by a common vision that humanity can awaken from the dream of the love of power and respond to the grace and possibility that comes from the power of love.
We are emboldened in courage and conviction that our lives respond to the gift of life best when we work for peace within and peace in the world.
We will press our political leaders to answer three questions:
What are you doing to eliminate nuclear weapons?
What are you doing to protect the climate?
What are you doing to eliminate poverty?
The first question is necessary to achieve the cooperation needed to succeed in the second and third.
We will ask ourselves everyday:
What am I doing to bring dignity, love, compassion and peace to my heart?
What am I doing to bring these beautiful qualities into action?
By sincerely asking of ourselves these questions a turning occurs that permits us to be the peace we seek to see in the world.
May we have the sincerity and courage to be that peace. Thank you.