The HyperTexts

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 and future?

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 power.

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 possess.

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."

The HyperTexts