And everywhere the good prepare for perpetual war
And let their weapons shape the plan
The way the hammer shapes the hand.
— “Casino Nation” lyrics by Jackson Browne, 2002
Have we ever got weapons. According to The New York Times, there are currently about 15 million military-style rifles in civilian hands in the United States. They are very rarely used in suicides or crimes. But when they are, the bloodshed is appalling. From The Telegraph: No firearm of any kind has killed more people — or been more widely embraced as a symbol — than the Avtomat Kalashnikov, aka the AK-47. Emblazoned on the national flag of Mozambique and on the banners of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the AK-47 has become the weapon of choice for guerrillas, terrorists and rebels across the world.
In the 68 years since the first prototype was made, the AK-47 has probably dealt death to millions.
And we’ve got nuclear weapons. In early 2019, more than 90% of the world’s 13,865 nuclear weapons were owned by Russia and the United States.
It was 74 years ago on Aug. 6 and 9 that the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the end of that year, it is estimated that 220,000 people had died, and Japanese people still die as a result of the bombings. Scholars attest that because so much money and effort had been poured into the secret planning and production of the bombs that President Harry S. Truman and the cadre of scientists and engineers felt compelled to use them. If so, “they let their weapons shape the plan the way the hammer shapes the hand,” as in Jackson Browne’s song.
The nuclear establishment also has become a lethal facet of the U.S. national character. Mighty laboratories, handsomely paid scientists and engineers, thousands of people working in the Department of Energy’s nuclear complex spread poisonously across the U.S. comprise a major aspect of U.S. and world economies.
More than 1,000 tons of deadly plutonium are scattered around the globe, often in unstable conditions, and the hoard keeps growing. “Plutonium is fast becoming a way of life and a likely way of death for mankind,” observed Paul Leventhal, founder of the Nuclear Control Institute.
Many of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are trying to warn the world about the unimaginable terror and death rained on these cities and the unending aftermath. Citizen groups in the U.S. against gun violence work to warn us and stem the tide.
It is possible to remove the “hammer from the hand” and stop those who “prepare for perpetual war,” even though it is deeply woven into our society. What is required is intense and consistent will of those who understand nuclear madness and gun madness — and the human propensity to intentionally kill other human beings, to say, for the sake of life on Earth, “No more!”
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.