Age of Horrorism
John Rachow, MD
June 1, 2010
Diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliance are relieved,
Or not at all.
— [Claudius in Hamlet]
The Japanese called the atomic bomb "Original Child Bomb." The makers of the bomb called it "Little Boy." The way early twentieth century physics was unfolding, perhaps it was inevitable that the drive to understand how the world works would have eventually led to development of nuclear weapons. Or perhaps not. Perhaps the perceived desperation of impending World War turned human endeavor in this direction. Perhaps the need to demonstrate the power of this weapon to U.S. enemies and allies alike led to the first use of a nuclear weapon.
Today in the cool light of historical records, President Truman's revenge justification, "Having found the bomb, we have to use it." seems inadequate. Nuclear weapons have not been used for more than half a century but the planet and human civilization are still shadowed by a "desperate appliance," a remedy that arguably helped not at all, rather started the journey down a suicidal path. This horrorism still festers in the global body politic and continues to threaten the existence of civilization itself.
The grandchildren generation of the builders of the Original Child Bomb are now running for U.S. Senate. Already much hard won wisdom that was eventually realized by their ancestors is fading. This was underscored when two candidates for U.S. Senate in Utah, one of whom is likely to be elected to the Senate in 2010, recently called for resumption of nuclear weapons testing. This, in a state that has a substantial population of Nevada Test Site downwinders and whose radioactive fallout health problems are become transgenerational. Both candidates since seem to have realized their basic insensitivity to their own constituents and restated their positions. Still, one is not reassured that these candidates have come to understand the profound effects of even just developing and building nuclear weapons, let alone their use.
A recent national poll conducted by the Political Science Department at the University of Iowa reported May 24, 2010 that "most Americans support using nuclear weapons to protect the United States, especially if the threat comes from Iran." The level of support rises from 59 percent, "if it were the only viable option" for a threat from an unspecified enemy "to 73 percent when Iran was named as the threatening country." As if nuclear weapon use could ever be considered a "viable" option. Details of the poll data reveal that the poll sought to sample the youngest male, eligible to vote (18-years-old or greater) in each contacted household. If a male was not available, then the youngest female over 18 was interviewed.
A UI professor who teaches a War and Health course, shared with me that college students in Iowa, often have only a dim concept of the difference between conventional and nonconventional weapons and tend to view nuclear weapons as just another tool in the arsenal. This generation comprises the great grandchildren of the Original Child Bomb makers.
As a geriatrician who contributes to the care of the oldest old in our society, daily fare for me is managing the "forgetting diseases." Consequences of dementia, that include the loss of priceless wisdom, can be heartbreaking. There is no cure for Alzheimer disease and no known prevention. But for the generational forgetting malady there is certainly a prevention and a cure and it entails an appliance not desperate.
And that modest appliance is to ensure the careful education of each generation and to recruit the activists who will work to end the age of horrorism.
1. Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, 3rd Ed, Palgrave MacMillan: New York, p. 36
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