Sunday, August 07, 2005

I come and stand by every door.

Mr. Spock has a post that reminded me of the song the title of this post is from. It's a song I learned in the first sleep-away camp I went to (ages 7 & 8). Let's call it Camp Guilt.
I come and stand by every door
Though none can hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, I am dead

It's about Hiroshima and the children who died there. We sang it every Hiroshima Day and after singing it, we would put origami cranes out to float on the lake. For a long time that was really all I knew about Hiroshima.

Later on, my school took us on a field trip to the UN. There's a fabulous museum there with exhibits on the Holocaust and Hiroshima. One image I'll never forget is a photograph of a sidewalk in Hiroshima with a man's shadow permanently stained onto the concrete. I can't imagine the amount of light and heat it would take to cause that. It's so hard to believe that human beings could create a weapon that can melt rocks, vaporize people and animals, and cause horrific cancers and then use it. It's even harder to believe that we used it twice.


Mr. Spock said...

They say we used it twice so the world would know we could do it again and again.

You put a valuable lens over the event, by emphasizing the view that humans could create such a weapon. For me, the astonishment has always arisen not so much from the fact that we could do it, as from the fact that it could be done at all. The laws of physics, of nature itself, must have been written by a madman. In the middle of them all, there's one that reads--more or less--to the effect that, if you bang two pieces of metal together fast enough, you can destroy a city. The footnotes say that the pieces you bang don't have to be all that big, and the speed with which you bang them doesn't have to be all that fast.

On the other hand, I have stood at the end of the high-tension towers that once fed incomprehensible levels of current to the uranium plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the atomic metals were made. The buildings I saw were, some of them, bigger than football fields. The whole place is like a Brobdignagian toy set. It must have been a devastating project for the people who had to make such a place. Banging metal pieces might be easy, but making the pieces... that was hard.

The rules of atomic fission are shockingly simple, yet they are elusive in the extreme. The rules of atomic engineering are breathtakingly huge, yet call for only rivets and power lines. Brilliant human beings can decipher the former. Relentless human beings can build the latter.

Who wrote such insane rules? Who rose such crazy people?

We built the God-damned thing, and we used it twice. 60 years later, with the power in our hands during all that time to destroy the world, the world is not destroyed.

I think, just maybe, we are not so nuts as the one who wrote the rules.

halloweenlover said...

That is so sad. I have never seen that photo, but it sounds awful.

Lovely post.