No American roughly my age, just north of 75, has not had a close relationship with the atomic bomb their entire life. Two had been dropped in the war concluded shortly before we were born. Their aftermath and surviving but mutilated victims constantly appeared in newspapers and were discussed on the radio and the increasingly omnipresent TV. Similar constant coverage was afforded the nuclear arms race, as the U.S.S.R., Britain and France quickly followed our lead. All four “nuclear powers” tested bombs, above and below ground, packing escalating numbers of kilo and mega tons.
By the time we were 15, with all that history and contemporaneous action in our minds, the Cuban Missile Crisis had me and all my friends calculating the time it would take to get from school or afterschool activities home and die with our parents, siblings and pets. If we got enough warning to do that. I remember discussing this very specifically and calmly with my best friend during a water break at football practice, mid-October 1962. The debate topic at my school that fall was whether or not to build a fallout shelter. While debating it I discovered my delight and facility in speaking publicly. We constantly played Dylan’s “Masters of War” and “Hard Rain Gonna Fall” at 33 and 1/3 on our turntables.
The Joke at school that year was something along the lines of “in case of a nuclear attack, close the windows, doors and blinds, go into a corner of the room furthest from the windows, kneel down, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.”
Despite all that, the bomb didn’t scare me much, except that thought about the possibility of being incinerated while separated from my parents. Save that I sort of liked the bomb and what I believed it had done and would do to make the world a bit safer and longer lasting. During those high school debates, I always argued that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki it was highly unlikely that any of the nuclear powers would drop another bomb.
A few years later I wound up informally debating John Toland, a future Pulitzer Prize winner for “The Rising Sun.” Toland was an alum of my college and was guest lecturer in a poli sci class, when he told us it hadn’t been “necessary” to nuke those two Japanese cities – because a surrender, though not “unconditional” would have happened without those horrific assaults.
With all the arrogance of a 20-year-old I responded that his argument was “wrongheaded” because a conventional invasion of the Japanese homeland would have resulted in many times the number of Japanese deaths and killed more American soldiers than the entire war in both theaters had up until August 1945. I also said that “unconditional surrender” as had been beaten out of Germany had been necessary.
By then, 1967, Japan and Germany appeared to have renounced their long militaristic postures and become the most reliable allies. Now 57 years later that reformation continues. And Germany far more than any other country, including the U.S. has acknowledged its racist sins. So much for the crap we hear frequently today that an overwhelming violent response to atrocities will only give rise to future terrorism. Japan and Germany say not necessarily.
As time went by some of my enthusiasm for the perceived benefits of “mutually assured destruction” dissipated, as China, India and Pakistan got the bomb. Part of that was greater uncertainty inherent in greater numbers of nuclear powers. But some was undoubtedly my Western prejudice against Asians deemed less rational than Europeans who had only engaged in constant warfare for one millennium.
Israel, widely believed to have the bomb had not yet fessed up and North Korea had not yet been sold the technology by Pakistan. However, when that happened, the sale of nuclear technology to the top wingnuts in the North Korean nut factory, some of my Occidental concerns about players in the Orient (then still not classified as a term of hate speech by the thought and speech police) played out, as Kim Jong Un frequently tested nukes and threatened to use them against the South, the U.S. and its allies. Both before and after Kim and Trump “fell in love.”
That North Korean saber rattling and constant reports about Iran’s progress in Plutonium enrichment finally got me worrying. But this year, 5784, and beginning two lunar months earlier is the one “when I stopped worrying and loved the bomb.” And specifically, as a Jew began to embrace it. A Jewish bomb lover like the Jewish actor Peter Sellers who portrayed the mad Nazi scientist Merkwürdigliebe in the 1964 masterpiece Dr. Strangelove, produced, directed and co-authored by Stanley Kubrick, another member of the tribe.
As noted, my Jewish theatrical romance with the bomb began last summer and specifically during that wonderful Barbenheimer weekend. I, dressed in pink, watched Margot Robbie stand tiptoes in profile (alone worth the price of admission) and then even more impressive was Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer. Though I was disturbed that Christopher Nolan had culturally appropriated the look and feel of an Upper West Side Jew just to win Oscars for himself and Murphy, Catholics from England and Ireland.
The real J. Robert Oppenheimer and a majority of his colleagues were brilliant lefty Jews, and many had flirted with or gotten to third base or beyond with Communism. They came together under “Oppie” to beat Hitler and Werner Von Braun (America’s real-life Strangelove) to the punch.
After seeing the flick, I read “American Prometheus” upon which it was based, that exhaustively chronicles Oppenheimer’s life and the strong cultural (as opposed to religious) Jewish component in the race to weaponize the scientific breakthroughs of another Jew, one named Einstein.
And then came October 7 and the ongoing Israeli response – unleashing even before that response began, worldwide waves of anti-Semitism and barely disguised glee at the images of Jewish babies burned alive, women raped and mutilated and hundreds carried hostage into Gaza. The world is more comfortable with Jews as victims than as fighters and avengers.
As this plays out, I have listened carefully, and perhaps you, dear reader, have as well. But if you haven’t, listen. The Jewish state has had enough, with October 7 being the worst but only one of a thousand such for Israel and the millionth for the Jewish people – from your hands and for the pleasure of your eyes. They will not stop this time, as you stopped them in ’67 and ’73. If Jews are not allowed to live neither will you. If it comes to it, they have the bomb, will use it and die along with you.