Memories of Hiroshima

Nuclear Experts in Pakistan May have Links to Al Qaeda. The United States is investigating new intelligence reports of contact between Pakistani nuclear weapons scientists and the Taliban or the terrorist network al Qaeda…;

The story about nuclear weapons, Al Qaeda and Pakistan takes me directly back to memories of Hiroshima. There are times I think I have come to terms with the bomb, but I know I will probably live to see its use again. It is ironic that the nuclear genie and the bottle should end up in the land of Ali Baba.

The historical march in governance from tribe to city state to nation and then to global organization has been an attempt on humanity’s part to understand the uses of power. We are far from being very good at it, but I believe we have made progress.

While that is good news, there is still the bad news that lurks within all of us. The drive for power, dominance or whatever you want to call it, springs from a necessary seed called self-preservation but it breeds a sinister plant.

When I was in the fifth grade, in 1944, I was walking home from school one day. It was spring, a beautiful warm day. I was swinging a stick I had picked up from near the sidewalk, chatting with a friend. Behind us were two boys, one, the class clown, a favorite of mine, named Jimmy. I do not remember the name of the other boy. He was new to school.

For some reason this boy chose to shout insults at me, teasing me in a loud and abusive voice. I ignored him for the first four blocks, and then the anger completely overwhelmed me. Without conscious volition, I grabbed the stick like a baseball bat and in one smooth movement turned and hit him with all my strength on the left side of the head. The stick shattered, and in so doing shattered his left eye. It was a glass eye, a relic from some earlier trauma, and I am sure, if he had had sight in that eye, he would have ducked the blow.

The four of us stood there as he picked bloody glass out of his eye socket. I was horrified. We were all silent. Finally Jimmy said he would see the boy home and call me with a report.

I ran the rest of the way home, threw myself on the couch crying and waited for the phone call. Jimmy finally called and said that he had seen the boy safely to his mother. Nothing was said about notifying my parents or any reprisals against me. It seems strange in these days of lawsuits that nothing more happened, but perhaps the boys lied about the circumstances. Whatever it was, that incident was a secret I kept from my parents.

The lesson was profound. I realized for the first time in my life the capacity every person carries for destruction. Murder lies in the hearts of us all.

If the thirties taught me something about cycles and fear, the forties were a lesson in rage. On a national or international scale, we call it war.

© 2001 Janet Taliaferro