What ‘Oppenheimer’ Didn’t Tell You

(Photo above by Marek Piwnicki / Pexels)

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is an intimate look into the process of Robert J. Oppenheimer, leader of the Manhattan Project, as he works on developing the atomic bomb. But it misses the chance to talk about the horrific impact these weapons have on humanity.

While the cinematic experience is Oscar-worthy, the fact that nuclear weapons pose a greater threat to humanity today more than ever is not mentioned.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) breaks down just how necessary it is to have an accurate understanding of the horrors of nuclear war and what their presence means in our world. The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a part of this international coalition of nongovernmental organizations that support and promote the abolition of these weapons.

As Buddhists, we focus on inspiring ordinary people to recognize the irreplaceable value of their and others’ lives. This action corresponds to the heart of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s speech in September 1957, calling for the abolition of such weapons:

Although a movement to ban the testing of nuclear weapons is now underway around the world, it is my wish to attack the problem at its root, that is, to rip out the claws that are hidden in the very depths of this issue. … We, the citizens of the world, have an inviolable right to live. Anyone who tries to jeopardize that right is a devil incarnate, a fiend, a monster.

The Human Revolution, pp. 1779–80

Mr. Toda used strident language to highlight the destructive human impulses that underlie these weapons: the desire to dominate and bend others to our will, destroying their lives and livelihoods should they resist.

This declaration, which represents the starting point of the Soka Gakkai’s peace movement, has grown into a decades-long effort to bring attention to the threat of nuclear weapons.

Daisaku Ikeda, who, more than anyone, inherited the will of Mr. Toda to eradicate nuclear weapons, has written tirelessly in the form of peace proposals and editorials, and has held countless dialogues with leading thinkers about this issue. In his 2019 peace proposal, he explains:

Why have I focused so single-mindedly on finding a resolution to the nuclear issue? This is because, just as Josei Toda discerned, so long as nuclear weapons exist the quest for a world of peace and human rights for all will remain elusive. Turning the tide of public opinion against nuclear weapons is our hope to create lasting changes affirming the dignity of life. As everyday people, we must believe in our ability to be the change the world wants to see. In the words of the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The World Ahead: An Anthropologist Anticipates the Future, p. 12

If you would like to learn more or take action to abolish nuclear weapons in the United States, you can check out Back from the Brink, which is a U.S.-based coalition of individuals, elected officials and organizations that push U.S. lawmakers to adopt policies that lead to the abolition of nuclear weapons.

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