How Can We Prevent another Hiroshima, another Holocaust, another Trail
of Tears, another Civil War?
by Michael R. Burch,
an editor and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry
What factors led to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb blasts, the
Holocaust, the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, and other similar catastrophes?
And what, if anything, can we do to prevent similar catastrophes in the present
I think the answer is surprisingly simple, which
does not mean that the solution is easy. It is easy
to say that if you want to be an NBA shooting guard, you need to develop an
accurate jump shot. It is much harder to actually become a great jump-shot
artist like Michael Jordan.
The root of catastrophes like Hiroshima, the Holocaust and the Trail of Tears
lies in tribalism, nationalism and other forms of human group identification. We
can see the basic problem in our schools. One group of students forms a clique
and begins to experience friction with other cliques. Soon the jocks are
bullying the geeks because the jocks are stronger and more aggressive. In the
opinions of the jocks, they are "better" than the geeks. The same sort of thing
happens with nations. The United States and its allies are powerful and
aggressive. The superpowers start pushing other nations around, convinced that
they are "better." If the weaker nations resist, violence and sometimes wars
result. If the weaker nations don't resist, they are understandably unhappy in
their submission. If the do resist, they can't take on the United States
head-on, so they resort to acts of terrorism. But few Americans ever question
whether their government is guilty of larger-scale acts of terrorism that came
first. Take, for instance, 9-11. The men who helped plan
and execute the 9-11 attacks who were later apprehended and interviewed by the
FBI explained that their main motivations were the suffering of the Palestinians
at the hands of the governments of Israel and the U.S., and the presence of the
U.S. military in the Middle East.
What is the solution, if we want peace rather than more acts of violence and
war? The solution is equality and justice. The more powerful groups, whether
nations or students, need to accept the fact that might is not right.
Superpowers like the U.S. need to realize that using superior military power to
bully other nations into submission is wrong, and can lead to acts of terrorism,
which can in turn lead to acts of war as tensions and responses escalate.
Take, for instance, the problem of Native Americans who were forced to walk the
Trail of Tears. Was it right or wrong for white supremacists like Andrew Jackson
to deny completely innocent Native American women and children equal rights and
justice, just because white Americans had superior strength in the form of
military weaponry? Obviously, it was wrong for white supremacists to demonize
Native Americans, make it seem that they were "the problem" and steal their land
under false pretenses.
The same thing is true of American slavery and the Civil War. It was obviously
wrong for white supremacists to deny completely completely innocent African
American women and children equal rights and justice, just because white people
had greater numbers and military power.
The same thing is true of the Holocaust. It was obviously wrong for Germans to
deny completely completely innocent Jewish, Gypsy and Slavic women and children
equal rights and justice, just because Germans had greater numbers and military
In each case, whether we are talking about a school or nations, the obvious
solution is for the larger and more powerful groups to be fair to the smaller,
less powerful groups. Unfortunately, in the real world this seldom happens. For
instance, the United States and Israel have large numbers of nuclear weapons and
have never submitted to United Nations inspections of their nuclear facilities.
Israel has never signed a non-proliferation treaty. And yet the United States
and Israel constantly discuss attacking Iran because Iran may potentially one
day develop nuclear weapons. Obviously, this is unjust and makes no sense
whatsoever. If the United States and Israel can develop nuclear weapons for
defensive purposes, why can't Iran? If nuclear weapons are dangerous and wrong
to possess, then the United States and Israel should get rid of their nuclear
weapons before condemning Iran for possibly seeking weapons they already
And regardless of whether nations possess nuclear weapons or not, there is no
way to excuse the way the governments of Israel and the United States have
ignored and abused the human rights of Palestinians for more than half a
century. If Americans want to avoid more acts of
terrorism and more unwinnable, nation-bankrupting wars, they need to use their
votes to elect leaders who advocate equal rights, justice and representative
government for everyone, not just the "chosen few."