The lead story in the New York Times a few days ago reported there is little or no likelihood that President Obama, our Nobel Peace Laureate president, will announce a no first use of nuclear weapons pledge, a declaration that seems to have met with a collective yawn.
Though I lack the means to take a poll, I venture to say that some 95% of Americans with regard to nuclear weapons are much like practical atheists with regard to God. Practical atheists—as opposed to true unbelievers—do not make a fuss about God not existing, and the foolishness of believing that he does. It just does not occur to them to give the matter any thought at all. Ditto 95% of Americans with regard to nuclear weapons and the perils they embody, foremost of which is a world so bleak and desolate that, as Khrushchev once put it, the living will envy the dead.
Their state of mind verifies Einstein’s assertion that everything has changed with the splitting of the atom except the way people think. The New York Times story could have accomplished something if had gotten one sixteenth of the amount of attention given to the clown show now at center stage: Trump and his wall and Hillary and her e-mails. It might have caught the attention of a significant number of Americans who had forgotten all about nuclear weapons and prompt them to ask their representatives in Congress, as well as Hillary and Donald on the stump, some good questions. Then, again, it might not have.
One would expect a cry of moral outrage from mainline religious groups and the peace institutes flourishing throughout the land at the prospect of the first nation to use the most heinous of weapons refusing to rule out being the second to do so. But I am afraid one would expect in vain. Though all of them deplore modern war—Pope Francis frequently expresses his distaste for it (to no avail, needless to say)—they hesitate to get downright rude about it, to rhetorically kick butt and name names.
What does that mean to you and me? It means that at any moment—with hundreds of nukes on land, sea, and in the air primed and ready to go—that those of us who survive that first use and the second and third uses that will inevitably follow will find ourselves reduced to circumstances far worse than that of those refugees we cannot avoid seeing on television, try as we might. These wretched souls at least have the hope, however faint, of finding refuge somewhere before they perish. But we will not have even that much. There will be nowhere left to flee.