On another August 6, we are jolted into realizing that Mitt Romney wants his finger on the trigger that 67 years ago took more than a hundred thousand lives in the name of peace.
In Japan, the Mayor of Hiroshima cites efforts to provide health care for survivors, now almost 80, so they can continue to bear witness to what human beings can do to one another.
On that day back then, I was in Germany, one of untold thousands waiting to be sent as foot soldiers to invade Japan. All we knew was that a mushroom cloud had ended our dread of going to the Pacific to storm beaches and fight through cities. For the first time in years, we could wake in the morning without feeling there was an IOU out on our lives, held by someone unknown and payable on demand.
It was weeks before we learned the moral price for our relief--that over 200,000 would die from that explosion in Hiroshima and another over Nagasaki three days later and that our country would forever bear the burden of being the first to use such weapons of mass destruction.
Almost two decades later, in August 1963, I was interviewing John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office. "Since 1945," he said, "we have gone into an entirely new period of nuclear weapons. Most people have no conception of what it all means. A nuclear exchange lasting sixty minutes would mean over 300 million deaths. We have to prevent the end of the human race."
As voters consider Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on this day in August, those memories must be part of the equation. How much power of life and death will be in the hands of whoever they choose in November and what kind of judgment, character and human feeling will he need to make such choices for them in the future?
Update: Even with so much at stake and more, the latest Gallup Poll shows voters not budging much from their party-line voting in 2008.
If the planet blows up, those who are left in the rubble will still have their partisan campaign buttons.