Hiroshima: A legacy 57 years in the making

By Kris Kotarski

The 57th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing blew by with hardly a whimper. Doesn’t really mean much these days, does it? There was a vigil in Japan, dignitaries spoke, and there was silence to honour the 145,000 that perished in the attack.

August 8, 1945 is a date that changed the world, a day when war ceased to threaten portions of humankind and began to threaten the whole. The 60 seconds of silence over today’s Hiroshima must be much different then the crash of the bomb and the silence of the city once the people evaporated and the buildings fell.

Before Hiroshima, conflict was regional. Barely two decades later, the world almost perished ten times over because a small island in the Caribbean accepted help from a nation in faraway Eurasia. This displeased the dominant North Atlantic power and the world stood at the brink of nuclear war. Makes you wonder how the good people of South America, Asia, Western Europe, Australia and Africa would have reacted to clouds of radioactive gas or nuclear winter. Would they have survived?

As horrible as World War II was, it staggers the imagination what World War III might have been. This too is the significance of Hiroshima. The 145,000 did not die in vain–their deaths showed how far human ingenuity could go when applied to the art of death. We saw the perversion of science after the Holocaust, but there is nothing like the nuclear bomb. It is the pinnacle of death, whether it is plutonium, uranium or hydrogen.

The anniversary of Hiroshima is an anniversary of a great turning point in human history. For the first time, man harnessed the power of the atom, something so small it cannot even be seen. On Aug. 8, 1945, this was used for destruction. On Aug. 8, 2002, this same power provides energy to people worldwide.

Hiroshima and what followed shows two sides of human nature like nothing else can. On one hand, we see perverted images of mutation, burns, sickness and cancer. On the other, there is a clean energy source, a happy home and a shining light bulb over Einstein’s head.

It is death and destruction–the perfect reflection for humanity’s progress and hope.

How we look at Hiroshima defines who we are. The pragmatists see a necessary evil; a sequence of events that saved lives in the Pacific theatre of World War II. The idealists see a waste; a weapon unleashed on a defenseless and unsuspecting civilian population. Perhaps it’s best to see both sides. They are, after all, reflections of who we are.


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