Sixty-eight years ago, the precise, complex, severe—ironically, stimulating—work that scientists in the United States had secretly done to figure out how to start a nuclear chain reaction in an extraordinary weapon that could blast the Axis Powers exploded our sense of humanity in a Japanese city. The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m., Japan time.
In a moment’s flash, tens of thousands of civilians and wildlife—school children, teenagers, mothers, fathers, nurses, reverends, musicians, fishermen, doctors, shopkeepers, artists, poets meshed with birds and butterflies, so many of Earth’s creatures—were vaporized, melted, scorched beyond recognition. Dropping that first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and another, three days later, on Nagasaki, Japan, seared our national character as it shattered the Pacific theater in the war.
Yes, World War II had brutalized people, but, worse, people normalized brutality.
Today, the political cartoonist Paul Conrad’s Chain Reaction sculpture helps us remember. It stands tall in Santa Monica, for all of us in the world, to call to mind: “This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph.”
Yet, some city leaders think it should be demolished because it is not “safe.” What is not safe is forgetting. Save “Chain Reaction” because it is a way to save ourselves and our fellow creatures of the biosphere. The chain reaction we need is in us to believe in the beauty and goodness of life and what we can do to preserve it.