Anniversaries remind us. They require us to remember. Yesterday, August 6, is a big one. On that day 76 years ago, 140,000 people died in an instant when the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. It dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing another 70,000. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II.
On August, 6, 1965, 20 years later to the day, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War.
I turned 11 two weeks after the bombing of Hiroshima and remember well my confused feelings of shocked horror and relief wrestling for dominance inside me. The long war was over, but at what price?
On August 6, 1965, I was just short of my 31st birthday, freshly graduated from the University of South Florida and working as a reporter for the Fort Lauderdale News. Katie, our firstborn, was seven months old.
Strange that I don’t recall my feelings as I learned of President Johnson’s important action on that day.
After president Franklin D. Roosevelt died, it was up to President Harry S Truman to figure out how to end the war. Invading Japan was full of risks. The Japanese were fighting for their emperor who had convinced them that it was better to die than surrender. Women and children had been taught how to kill with basic weapons. Japanese kamikaze pilots could turn planes into missiles.
Truman was aware of the Manhattan Project, a secret project to create an atomic bomb. After a successful test of the bomb, Truman issued the Potsdam Declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of the Japanese government, warning of “prompt and utter destruction.”
He spoke the truth. Fierce debates followed Truman’s fateful decision and continue today. Thousands of innocent people died horribly, yet the long war had ended. And, it is reasonable to argue, ending the war saved countless lives.
War is so wrong. Why is it inevitable?
As for voting rights, where are we today?
At war. With ourselves.