The Communist father of the Soviet Union’s hydrogen bomb was a better man than Donald Trump, and not just because Andrei Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
After Sakharov led the Soviet Union’s development of thermonuclear weapons, he became a pacifist. In his posthumously published “Memoirs,” Sakharov wrote that his route to pacifism came through his study of what he called nonthreshold effects.
In a 1958 article, “Nuclear Explosions and Nonthreshold Biological Effects,” in the Soviet journal Atomic Energy, “Sakharov estimated that about 10,000 people would ultimately suffer cancers, genetic disorders, and other ill effects from the radioactivity produced by a 1-megaton nuclear explosion in the atmosphere,” according to an English translation of the article.
It continues: “According to this estimate, the 1961 Soviet test of a 58-megaton nuclear explosive — an explosion that by itself accounts for about 10 percent to the total yield of all atmospheric nuclear explosions in history — will, in the long term, injure or kill about half a million people.”
Sakharov was a world-class physicist, and his conclusions should not be described as fake news, by lower-grade thinkers, such as you, me, or anyone else.
Linus Pauling, the only human to win a Nobel Prize in chemistry and peace, was calculating similar effects at the same time.
And what is a nonthreshold effect?
Sakharov wrote that atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs released so much atomic radiation that each test surely caused thousands of human cancers — somewhere. But because the world is a big place, and wind patterns are uncertain, as is each human being’s ability to fight off cancer, it would be impossible to link any case of cancer to any particular atomic test.
Nonetheless, Sakharov wrote, it was certain that each atmospheric test of a nuclear bomb would cause thousands of people to die of cancer.
The fact that no one could be proved guilty of causing any one of those thousands of deaths was beside the point.
Nuclear tests killed innocent people. Therefore the tests were immoral. Therefore the tests had to stop.
So Sakharov became a leading advocate of the 1963 partial test ban treaty, which led to the cessation — until recently — of above-ground tests of nuclear bombs. Sakharov’s pacifism won him the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize — and six years of internal exile.
Now let’s consider Mr. Trump.
It is incontrovertible fact that since he was elected, nay, since he began leading the polls, hate crimes have mushroomed in the United States. Hundreds of death threats against Jewish temples and community centers; two Jewish cemeteries desecrated in the past two weeks; a racist Kansan killed an Indian immigrant last week in a bar, and wounded another one; and does anyone remember the guy who drove hundreds of miles to shoot up a pizza parlor run by a legal immigrant? Or is that old news?
Now, can we link any of these crimes, to any of the particular, despicable words that Don Trump uttered?
But that doesn’t mean he’s not guilty.
Of course he’s guilty. So were Mussolini and the Ku Klux Klan.
Trump tapped into, encouraged, and continues to lead a resurgence of violence inherent in homo sapiens: envy, greed, willful ignorance and hatred — the return of the repressed, an unleashing of the worst elements of human nature: whose very repression, since the dawn of literacy, has constituted what we call civilization.
Donnie Trump did not shoot Srinivas Kuchibhotla to death in Kansas. He did not knock over the gravestones in Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia. But he is the radioactive center of those nonthreshold effects, and of thousands of others, and he’s fixin’ to be guilty of millions more.
And if you don’t understand that, my fellow Americans, it’s because you ain’t listening.