On January 22, 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight. The scientists warned that the world was at the highest level of risk since 1945 that nuclear weapons would be used. This grave assessment was the response to the scientists’ observation that there was worldwide governmental dysfunction in dealing with global threats. And that was before the global pandemic of COVID-19, the health-care crisis in every country on Earth, and the economic chaos that ensued. The Doomsday Clock gives a chilling, macro view of the possibility and peril of nuclear weapons today.
This and the historic significance of the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945 compelled me to re-issue the documentary, Original Child Bomb. Produced in 2004, prior to contemporary streaming norms, Original Child Bomb has been recently digitized and technologically renewed. It became available for viewing on YouTube on August 3, 2020.
Original Child Bomb reveals the human scale of the use of nuclear weapons. The film shows what actually happened to people when nuclear weapons targeted and bombed their cities. Using seldom seen 16mm archive film from Hiroshima and Nagasaki before and after the bombings, the viewer comes face to face with the complete destruction caused by these weapons of mass destruction. The film challenges the viewer’s naiveté about the “history” of the bombings. The film asks questions about present-day nuclear arsenals. What time is it? What is going to happen? The film asks the viewer: How will you decide how to respond at this time to the gravest threat ever that nuclear weapons could be used to destroy human life on Earth?
Original Child Bomb is not a conventional historical documentary. It is inspired by and based on a poem by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and it has a meditative tone. It features, in addition to footage from Japan, a Japanese rapper and American high school students. A young girl tries to explain to herself the logic of mutually assured destruction. She cannot. Who can?
While assembling the pieces to reissue the film, Black Lives Matter protests happened in countries around the world. I wondered — how can we take the time to focus on the possible use of nuclear weapons when millions of humans actually suffer threats and harm today?
And then I saw the connection.
When the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in a real sense the people of those two cities were simply collateral damage. It was too bad that they died horrible deaths, but geopolitical power had to be maintained. The refusal to acknowledge that crime against Japanese men, women, and children is a very deep shadow in the U.S. psyche.
Just so, when African men and women were brought to the U.S. colonies to labor as slaves in plantations, they were collateral damage. It was too bad that they were subjugated and seen as less than human. But the young nation needed goods and products in order for the economy to grow, and the bondage laborers assured that growth. The refusal to acknowledge and atone for the enslavement of Black Africans is a long-standing shadow in the U.S. psyche.
There is another connection in the hundreds of thousands of homeless men, women, and children in the U.S. today. Too bad that they have to live on the streets, but they are only collateral damage to our consumer culture that worships high tech, high-rises, and high living, if only for a small percentage of our citizens. That is a very current shadow in the U.S. psyche.
Shadows will not leave until we face them. It is way past time to face the shadow of racism. It is time now to face the shadow of homelessness, before it grows worse. And for the sake of human life on Earth, it is time to face the shadows of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I invite you to watch Original Child Bomb on YouTube at https://youtu.be/vKD6vAm0JJk
If your heart is touched please share your concerns with others — in your family, workplace, church, temple, mosque, or on social media. The more we talk to each other about what matters most — surviving and flourishing — the more courageous we will be about taking action. And, tell your government representatives that you don’t want any of your tax money spent on nuclear weapons. Period.
“The Doomsday Clock is a design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making. It is a metaphor, a reminder of the perils we must address if we are to survive on planet Earth.” —Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Mary Becker is executive producer of Original Child Bomb. She thanks director Carey McKenzie and producer Holly Becker for their work on preparing the film for streaming.