Hiroshima 広島市 Day ☮

The first nuclear weapon “Lit­tle Boy” was dropped on the city of Hiroshi­ma on Mon­day, August 6, 1945.

nuclear disarmament lapel button

nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment lapel but­ton

calling for nuclear disarmament then

I have a clear mem­o­ry from long ago, some­time around 1959: walk­ing with my fam­i­ly down Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard, some­where near Vine. We were part of a demon­stra­tion call­ing for nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment, prob­a­bly orga­nized by the Com­mit­tee for a SANE Nuclear Pol­i­cy. At the time, we were con­cerned not only about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of blow­ing up the entire plan­et, but with atmos­pher­ic nuclear tests we were aware of Stron­tium 90 and its poten­tial for dam­ag­ing our bones through the milk sup­ply. There was even a lit­tle “dit­ty” at the time (I can­not find the source, though oth­ers on the Web quote it):

Stron­tium, Stron­tium, Stron­tium 90
Fall­out will get you even under­ground
So if you want some Stron­tium, Stron­tium 90
There’s plen­ty enough to go around

It was then that I first encoun­tered the Nuclear Dis­ar­ma­ment sym­bol now known as the Peace Sym­bol. I prob­a­bly received a black and white lapel but­ton with the draw­ing on it at that time. I wore the but­ton through­out much of my years at Audubon Jr. High School and Dorsey High School. Then the sym­bol was a polit­i­cal state­ment and rarely seen in any oth­er con­text. Now the sym­bol means lit­tle; it is a com­mer­cial prod­uct and per­va­sive. (It is so per­va­sive that there is even a Uni­code char­ac­ter for the sym­bol ☮. Its val­ue is U+262E, in case you want to type it in HTML, use “& # x 2 6 2 E ;” or “& # 9 7 7 4 ;” with­out the spaces. How­ev­er, it is pos­si­ble that par­tic­u­lar Inter­net browsers may not have a font that can dis­play it.)

pervasive commercialized nuclear disarmament symbol

per­va­sive com­mer­cial­ized nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment sym­bol

I had both the more com­mon white sym­bol on a black ground illus­trat­ed here and the inverse (both about the size of a nick­el). My favorite was about the size of a dime; its col­ors were a black “ND” on a white ground. The bomb­ing of Hiroshi­ma was an impor­tant meme in our family’s clus­ter of sig­nif­i­cant thoughts. (The Win­ter Sol­stice and the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion as well as the Destruc­tion of Euro­pean Jew­ry by the Nazis were prob­a­bly the oth­er three cen­tral con­cepts.) That same year, 1959, Edi­ta Mor­ris wrote her nov­el The Flow­ers of Hiroshi­ma. The John Hersey book based on his arti­cle in The New York­er Hiroshi­ma was also on our book­shelves. How­ev­er, my read­ing abil­i­ties at the time were not up the Hersey text. The nov­el was easy to read and grip­ping. Our father had also read the nov­el (it was he who brought it home and put it on the pub­lic book­shelves). He was so tak­en by the imagery that a few years lat­er he wrote the lyrics to a song for which he asked me to write the melody.

Music for The Flowers of Hiroshima

Music for The Flow­ers of Hiroshi­ma

The Flowers of Hiroshima

words by Nathan Hurvitz PhD
music by Mark Hurvitz
copy­right 1963

Have you seen the flow­ers of Hiroshi­ma?
The twist­ed pan­sy with its ugly face,
The asters petal like a shred­ded lace…?

Have you seen the birds of Hiroshi­ma?
The robins and the spar­rows who can’t fly,
Their foul and dirty nests whose eggs are dry…?

Have you seen the trees of Hiroshi­ma?
The plum and cher­ry with their with­ered fruits,
The pine and cypress with their shriv­eled roots…?

Have you felt the breeze of Hiroshi­ma?
That blows the poi­son dust both low and high,
Upon the bar­ren ground, across the sky…?

Have you seen the chil­dren of Hiroshi­ma?
Who pick the flower with its ugly fact,
Who try to catch the bird who can­not fly…?
Who climb upon the trees with with­ered roots,
And breathe the poi­son breeze from which they’ll die…?

Mark sings his song

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Play­er (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your brows­er.

a later pilgrimage of peace

Many years lat­er, in either 1972 or ear­ly 1973, our par­ents were able to trav­el to Japan for a pro­fes­sion­al con­fer­ence. Among the must-vis­it sites on their list (includ­ing a Japan­ese Kib­butz on Hokai­do Island) was Hiroshi­ma.

Faye Hurvitz with Paper Cranes in Hiroshima

Faye Hurvitz with Paper Cranes in Hiroshi­ma

The origa­mi crane had long been, or become a sym­bol of peace in Japan. I had learned how to fold the crane as a teenag­er. This was a sig­nif­i­cant pil­grim­age for the fam­i­ly.

the complexities of Massada and Samson

As I report­ed here on July 17 2009, I attend­ed a ral­ly to try to pre­vent Iran from devel­op­ing nuclear weapons. Even though I might be will­ing to sup­port the devel­op­ment of nuclear ener­gy for peace­ful uses I still work toward uni­ver­sal nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment.

And what (if I can antic­i­pate your ques­tion) of Israel’s “nuclear ambi­gu­i­ty”?

There does not seem to be much val­ue in hav­ing nuclear weapons. They may exist for a MAD (Mutu­al­ly Assured Destruc­tion) pur­pose. And yet, many peo­ple tell me that Israel’s ene­mies don’t care about MAD, because they (as well as dis­pen­sa­tion­al­ist Chris­tians) believe that they will be in “a bet­ter place” after the destruc­tion. For those of us who believe that it is this world that counts, our task is to avoid such a destruc­tion. And then there’s the argu­ment from deter­rence. If Israel’s ene­mies are “MAD” enough to risk such destruc­tion, then, there is no deter­rent val­ue in any nuclear weapon.

I’m not a par­tic­u­lar­ly gullible per­son. In the ear­ly 1980s I worked with Yitz Green­berg. He would often refer to Elie Wiesel’s account in Night. Green­berg would bow his head, almost close his eyes and in a near whis­per, say that at one point dur­ing the Sho’a babies were tossed live into the cre­ma­to­ria in order to save the (approx­i­mate­ly) 2¢ it would have cost to gas them first. Faced with accounts like this, I tell peo­ple that I can believe any­thing.

Once I under­stood that I could believe that any­thing is pos­si­ble, I real­ized that I should be able to attempt to imag­ine the impos­si­ble (or at least the “high­ly unlike­ly”), as a form of exer­cise, to pre­pare myself.

Some­time since 1967 or so I con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­i­ty of dis­play­ing an ambigu­ous­ly non-exis­tent nuclear device in the Kotel plaza. Think of the var­i­ous state­ments that makes.

ambiguous nuclear device in the kotel plaza

ambigu­ous nuclear device in the kotel plaza

Con­sid­er also the like­li­hood of a nuclear attack by one of Israel’s nuclear-armed ene­mies. Unless, of course they are com­plete­ly MAD, in which case noth­ing we might do would have any affect on their actions, why would any coun­try that wants to destroy Israel with a nuclear device also be will­ing to:

  • Destroy the entire Pales­tin­ian Arab pop­u­la­tion
  • Destroy the holy city of Jerusalem (Al Kuds with its mosque and shrine)?

We can assume that a mod­ern nuclear device (i.e. sig­nif­i­cant­ly larg­er than “Lit­tle Boy”), even if dropped on Tel Aviv, would destroy much of the sur­round­ing area and make it unin­hab­it­able for a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time.

little boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima

lit­tle boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshi­ma

What does any­one gain?

calling for nuclear disarmament now

You can find Hiroshi­ma Day com­mem­o­ra­tive events near you.

beside the Isaiah Wall in Ralph Bunche Park, across the street from UN headquarters

beside the Isa­iah Wall in Ralph Bunche Park, across the street from UN head­quar­ters

For the past cou­ple of weeks, I have been wear­ing this lapel but­ton. It was pro­duced in a vari­ety of for­mats (litho as well as cel­lu­loid; black instead of blue; and as illus­trat­ed here, but with the Isa­iah quote in red).

nuclear disarmament symbol with שלום

nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment sym­bol with שלום

Date: late 1960s
Size: 4.4
Pin Form: straight
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text לא ישא גוי אל גוי חרב
שלום
לא ילמדו עוד מלחמה

[Eng­lish: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation
Peace
Nei­ther shall they learn war any more.]

An Appendix to the Vision of Peace

The words of Yehu­da Amichai

(trans. from the Hebrew by Glen­da Abram­son and Tudor Parfitt)

Don’t stop after beat­ing the swords
into ploughshares, don’t stop! Go on beat­ing
and make musi­cal instru­ments out of them.
Who­ev­er wants to make war again
will have to turn them into ploughshares first.

…and turn the bomb cas­ings into tree planters.

or…:

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