Right Wrongs

Drowning in the ocean of injustice.

Context: An atomic bomb was dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima, Japan in August of 1945. This event was the critical one which ended the Second World War. Some claim that it was an act of savagery needlessly killing many because the war could have been ended without that event.

Dear Ted:

Thank you for the passages from Zinn. (H. Zinn, 2010, “The Bomb”) Your outrage against the injustice portrayed by Zinn is understandable. My world outlook forbids me from accepting Zinn’s thesis without scrutiny but let us accept it for the sake of conversation. The thesis is this:

    Influential advisors, mainly Jim Byrnes, led President Truman, in 1945, to sacrifice the lives of over 200,000 people unecessarily, by dropping an atomic bomb on them, for the sake of a political power gambit: to pre-empt any Russian influence in the defeat of Japan. To “let us dictate the terms of ending the war.”

Let’s grant this interesting thesis. What are we to make of it?

I know, Ted, what you make of it. A reason for moral outrage. A call to wake fellow citizens to this atrocity committed by our government.      

To what purpose? To let the decision makers know that inhumane actions will earn them the curses of posterity? To let politicians know that future bad behavior will lose them their constituency? To inaugurate more responsible leadership, a more humane society?  May these come to pass.

Ted, I am grateful that there are human beings like you, about. Our world would be a seethingly evil place were there not compassionate, selfless and concerned people among us. The lives of many are blessed because of your dedication. There is power in your indignation.

What I would like to understand is this: how do you keep from drowning in the evident ocean of injustice, suffering and misery around us?

For every exposé by Zinn, ten thousand lay buried. And without any Zinns at all there are valid calls for justice and humanity in every direction. Against the torture of human beings. For the care of the poor, the oppressed, the sick. For the rescue of the persecuted and of the refugees migrating to escape war. How bear the overwhelming burden of what is so evident; that the calls for help are interminable? And valid!

Most must be ignored. Else what time is left for play, for art, for merriment, for the fanciful, for adventure, for science, for theater, for rejoicing and celebrating life? For irrelevancy? For delicious decadence? Musn’t one ignore injustice – at least for intervals of time? Were the burden of injustices to infuse all art and dance and music it would be a sorry world. As sorry as it would be to lose those who fight for justice. One’s meagre allotment of life’s spare moments may be rationed in many ways: used to play games, used to be entertained, to go shopping, for socializing, used to explore nature, to succor the needy, to right wrongs and to promote justice, to analyze the righting of wrongs  . . .

Fighting injustice is one of the passions; as consuming and noble as that for art or for dancing or for science or playing tennis or buying clothes …  We allot our most precious life moments to these enthusiasms. Fighting injustice is a passion. It has an appeal to some. It is ignored by others. They are consumed with other enthusiasms.

Righteous indignation is a very compelling emotion. When it engulfs me I lose perspective, become humorless. So I try to minimize it. I cannot be righteously indignant and celebrate life. Jubilation and anger don’t coexist.

Therefore my reaction to Zinn’s news is not righteous indignation. This news is about one of ten thousand wrongs to be righted; on my ranking, not worth my time. I am no activist to make the world a better place. There is no respite from that angry task.

Worse, the task may be in vain. The goal is too elusive to be achieved. From my readings the decision to drop the atom bomb is the norm for history. It’s what I would expect. Of government. Of business. Of academe. Of my neighbors. What any constituency demands of its leaders is decisive actions on the basis of personal conviction.

‘The world will be a better place’, thought Byrnes and Truman, ‘if Japan is kept out of Russian hands. A blow of overwhelming awesome power would accomplish it. That 200,000 Japanese would die is of minor concern; they, the enemy, would enslave us if they could.’

Truman and Byrnes were sure what ‘good’ was. One cannot imagine that they viewed their action as atrocity; as doing evil? Not even Zinn would say so, I’m sure. They perceived their decision as a good. They believed they were working from a broader perspective; steering the ship of state not only by the sea at its bow but by the look of the whole broad ocean of history around them.

And, indeed, many would not fault them. Suppose the Russians had invaded before the war ended. The atom bomb preceded the scheduled Soviet invasion only by days. With their troops in Japan the Russians would have leverage for a voice in the peace. They had just such leverage in Eastern Europe and in Germany. There the Soviets created despotic puppet states in which generations of people suffered abuse of human rights, lived poorly and in terror. How would the Japanese have faired under such Soviet domination? Not happily, I’m sure. Were 200,000 lives worth fifty years of prosperity and freedom from Soviet oppression? I expect even Japanese could be found to say that it was.

Values change. What’s right now becomes what’s wrong later. A generation ago the virtue of eating meat was unquestioned in the West. Now less people eat beef. One commonly hears the moral rationale, “I only eat what I, myself, could kill”. That principle would restrict me to lettuce, flies and mosquitos! Too unappetizing a principle for me to contemplate. But those who know the ‘good’ view my choice to eat beef as bad.

Any number of things might have gone differently if Byrnes had not prevailed. These scenarios would be the theses of alter-Zinn historians full of righteous indignation that Truman withheld the bomb when, in the name of humanity, he could have used it.

Acting within the context of their situation – the hysteria of war and their personal prejudices – a decision was made to make the world a better place. From our present broad humanitarian perspective we find the world is not a better place. Or is it?

May my words be powerless, Ted, to sway you from your crusades.







2 responses to “Right Wrongs”

  1. Joseph Hill

    Very Interesting. DIVINE is related to a higher power than human beings. NEUTRALITY is associated more so with, no prejudice, and not being judgmental. Two traits, among others, of a true Christian.

    The theme in this blog seems to be aimed at Justification, or Not?

    First and Foremost, we were created to love each other, to be kind to each other, to help each other. So, to try and comprehend war, or why anyone would want to dominate over another, why anyone would want to hate another, why anyone would want to hurt someone else, why anyone would want to force someone else to believe like they do, or Die, is absolutely the epitome of Evil. Since the fall of Lucifer in Heaven, there has always been good and evil. We were all created with the Freedom of Choice and when tested we failed to Obey. Some ask, why should we be required to Obey? Everyone is required to obey during their lifetime. Kids are required to obey their parents. Citizens are required to obey the laws of the Land. If obedience didn’t play a roll in our lives, we would have all probably annihilated each other off the face of this earth a long time ago.

    Since our first parents were put to the test of obedience and failed, evil remained in existence on this planet and has become more and more extreme ever since. We, in and of ourselves are powerless to do anything about it. But, their is an almighty, all powerful Creator, who says, through me, all things are possible to those who believe. BELIEVE in what, we ask?

    BELIEVE that we were created by the Almighty, all Powerful, DIVINE Being who took on humanity, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. A DIVINE Being with the power to SPEAK into existence all things in the Heavens, on Earth and through out the entire Universe. BELIEVE that He loved us so much, His own creation, that HE and His Father put into action the plan of Salvation. BELIEVE that the plan of Salvation required a sacrifice. BELIEVE the Son of God, Jesus Himself, agreed to be that sacrifice, and through his death on the cross for us all, We, His created Human Beings, have the opportunity to forever be forgiven for our sinful disobedience, and through His forgiveness and our belief in Him, the Son of God, we are promised Eternal Life in His Kingdom.

    One may say, Awe, Don’t believe it, that’s nothing but a myth, a fairy tale, something someone made up. What’s the alternative? Live and Die? Zip, Nada, Nothing after that? Well, I don’t believe we were created to just Live and Die and that’s the end of it.

    Some say, if there is a God, an all powerful Creator of all things, why does he allow so much evil to exist on this planet? Satan and man are responsible for all the evil that exists on this planet, not God. There is a lesson being taught and a lesson to be learned, and the events that have taken place on this planet over the last 6 thousand years have taught us quite a lesson. Selfishness sparks disobedience, disobedience sparks rebellion, rebellion sparks anger, anger sparks hatred, hatred is Evil in its best form. Our Creator does not force us to be a certain way. He says, I stand for all things Good, Satan stands for all things Evil, You choose. Those are the choices. Whether we like it or not, we only have the two sides to choose from. What will be our final choice?

    We must ask ourselves, how is it that the Bible, the holy book inspired by Jesus himself, the holy book he gave us to be our, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (BIBLE), has survived all that it has been through, down through the annals of our Earth’s history , such as the attempt by hundreds of societies to totally destroyed it and annihilate it forevermore. Yet, it has remained in circulation. Is it just by chance that the Bible has survived. Look at how many civilizations down through our earth’s history have been wiped out, totally obliterated, made extinct, and, each one of those civilizations that are now extinct, had the ability to fight back against annihilation, yet were still annihilated, wiped off the face of this earth, never more to be. Yet, the Bible could not even fight for itself, and it has remained one of the most read books in the history of the world. That, my friends, is not just happen stance. That is Divine Intervention.

    So, WAR is really the effects of all things evil, and, really has no place in a world where Love for one another reigns. Hopefully, we as Human beings will eventually get that. But, unfortunately the Bible tells us that we don’t get it, and that is why this world will come to an end and we will see the return of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The big question is, will we have chosen to side with Good or with Evil? Will we choose eternal life, or death and destruction? It is my hope we will all see the light and side with our God, our Creator, the one who gave his Son, who gave his life, that we may live.

    1. Thank you for such a considered and thoughtful response. I see in it you’re passionate good will.

      I believe, “There is no God”. And you “BELIEVE that (God) .. put into action the plan of Salvation”. What is clear, good Joe Hill, is the vaste unbridgable chasm between us.

      I could never win you over to my view. You would have had to emerge into the world as some other person and be nurtured in a completely different environment for that to be possible. Nor could you ever persuade me to follow yours. For the same reason: nature made and nurtured me to perceive the world as you do not. Our minds are two distinct species of things.

      Happily we live in a place where divergent world views are tolerated. So let us caste them aside. I see and cherish the generosity of spirit and good will in you, my devout Christian friend, Joe. Hopefully you will see in me, your atheist Jewish friend, similar virtues.