The atomic cloud rises over Nagasaki. | Credit: Charles Levy

Who wouldn’t appreciate a family physician whose name is Doctor Good? He was of the “old school,” arriving at our home or our hospital bed his stethoscope around his neck and his black medical bag in his hand. He treated our entire family for everything from colds to flus to broken bones to meningitis. My family was composed of a widowed mother with five children, and he never asked us for more than my Mom could afford. His presence matched his name.

During World War II while the United States was researching and developing the first nuclear weapons, Wowa Zev Gdud was being hunted by the Nazis in what is now Lithuania. Miraculously he escaped execution for being Jewish three times, once even falling into a mass grave and feigning death, having been missed by the firing squad. At one point, as he was hiding out in the forest, he came across two Nazi soldiers from the same battalion that had killed his mother and brother. Gun in hand, he had the two men kneel down in a swamp and pointed his gun at their heads, but he couldn’t pull the trigger, not wanting to add to the cycle of death.

After the war and having completed his physician studies in Italy, he immigrated to the United States and changed his name to Dr. William Z. Good. He spent the rest of his life compassionately caring for the sick while charming everyone he met with his wit.

Toward the end of the Second World War, the United States introduced the world to nuclear weapons by dropping one on Hiroshima, Japan, and a second on Nagasaki, Japan. Predictably it has been an arms race ever since with trillions of dollars spent on research, development, testing, and deployment of nuclear weapons by nine countries with a couple more determined to acquire them. With more than 13,000 nuclear weapons now held by nuclear powers, the threat of nuclear conflict also holds the threat of the annihilation of all life on the planet.

Consensus is in. The majority of non-nuclear power states as well as the vast majority of people on the planet have come together to declare nuclear weapons illegal under international law.  On January 22, 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force at the United Nations, the organization set up after World War II to try to bring countries together and prevent another world war. As of this writing, 86 nations have signed the treaty and 51 have ratified it. After over 75 years of nuclear proliferation, the citizens of Planet Earth have come together to say enough is enough, and we can create a world where the extermination of humanity is not possible by pressing a button or turning a key.

All of the nuclear powers including the United States have chosen to ignore international law, ignore the will of the people, ignore the existential threat posed by the very existence of indiscriminate, omnicidal weapons of mass destruction. In a nuclear conflict, we all go together, the Democrats, the Republicans, the hawks, the doves, the conservatives, the liberals, the rich, the poor, the women, the children, all of us and likely most of life on the planet.

What does this have to do with Dr. Good? Dr. Good had every reason to take the lives of two Nazi soldiers when he had the chance, but he chose not to for the sake of not participating in the violence. We, as people, as a nation, and as a world community can make the same choice.


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