By Leonard Adame
Dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki supposedly ensured World War II’s end and the beginning of a new and secure era for American democracy. The moment the bombs’ chain reactions initiated, the world became safer. The enemy was nearly annihilated and there would be no more war. At least that was the idea. But soon GIs were dying in Korea and Vietnam, and not too much later in the Middle East and now Afghanistan.
No matter that our postwar golden age’s beginning required the deaths of tens of thousands and the maiming and scarring of even more people.
No matter that according to some sources there was no need for the bombs to be used because Japan at the time no longer had the factories, trains or munitions required to be a viable threat to U.S. forces. Apparently, the U.S. government needed an atomic experiment in an actual war setting. That’s arguable. But this scenario is more than probable given the history of this government’s rationales for waging wars and occupying lands.
So did the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cause U.S. democracy to flower, to ensure that Americans had constitutional protections, including fair treatment from the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the NSA (National Security Agency) and from local law enforcement agencies?
The recent exoneration of George Zimmerman seems to indicate that democratic and legal processes have not been realized. In fact, the perennial abuse of law and order in America’s southern states shows that our system of government has never been fair and equal.
The sins of the southern states are too many to enumerate here, but it’s clear that the outcome of this murder trial has reinforced the idea that White southerners have regressed to the time before the Civil War, before the Emancipation Proclamation, before Reconstruction. As bad as that is, the evils of southern racism have now been further enhanced, equaling their pre–Civil War power that ultimately allowed President Andrew Johnson to rescind the democratic gains that former slaves had enjoyed after the Civil War.
As was the case then, current southern state governments are now passing inhumane laws against women, immigrants and Black Americans, with the help of today’s Supreme Court, which has ruled that racism has become a thing of the past and therefore the principles of the 1965 Voting Rights Act are no longer needed.
So I wonder: What will people of color endure now? The reintroduction of lynching in the South, the hunts for Mexicans in Arizona and Texas, new rationales for the reintroduction of slavery, the rescission of child labor laws, the loss of legal protections against spousal abuse, the rebirth of segregation, the rebirth of separate-but-equal laws—all qualities that not only demean people of color but also, ironically, the people who support and perpetuate these evils?
Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Clearly, with the recent events in our society, this murder case, the Supreme Court’s destruction of constitutional protections, the scorched earth policy aimed at immigrants and on and on, can Americans say with sincerity that we are a nation that upholds human and civil rights? That we uphold the right of all people to be treated humanely and justly? That we are still (I don’t think this was ever true!) the democratic and moral example to the rest of the world? That the deployment of atomic bombs has created in this country a full realization of democracy and morality?
Fascism means that a government controlled by corporations/financiers will not tolerate any obstruction to its boss’s wishes, including invasion of other countries to acquire their resources. A fascist nation will not tolerate mass gatherings protesting government edicts that are perceived to be unlawful, nor will it stop its parallel persecution of people of color, who under a fascist system are always blamed for any economic failures. A fascist system also has to cultivate racism to create division and gain support from those who are not of color, thereby creating targets for them to blame for any loss of rights and jobs.
The use of atomic bombs may have ended a war, but the bombings did not further the cause of democracy in the United States. What has happened is that, yes, this country has become the most powerful in the world (at least currently). But with this rise in hegemony also came the need for secrecy, persecution (especially of people of color), suspension of legal rights (the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA]), and growth in the government (the NSA) inventing more and more ways to spy on its people. Hence the prosecutorial actions against Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, whistleblowers who’ve exposed the government’s secret spying programs, which are growing exponentially.
Because Trayvon Martin was not rich, White or powerful (like Emmett Till before him), and because his legacy now includes a miscarriage of justice, it becomes too clear that our country no longer stands as an example of human rights, dignity for the individual, just laws and the idea that one can live freely knowing that the law is there for him or her to ensure one’s peace and legal standing and procedures.
The atomic bombs practically destroyed one nation, and in so doing they ensured that this country could become unchallenged militarily and that the legal infrastructure of this country would serve to protect only the privileged. For the rest of us, especially those of us of color, we can no longer believe that we are a democratic nation.
Leonard Adame has retired from teaching college English. He now plays drums in various bands, takes photographs, reads mystery novels to a fault and has published poetry in college anthologies. He most enjoys re-learning about human beings from his grandkids. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.