Oct. 23, 2005

Atomic Dawn

by Gary Snyder

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Poem: "Atomic Dawn" by Gary Snyder from Danger on Peaks. © Shoemaker & Hoard. Reprinted with permission.

Atomic Dawn

The day I first climbed Mt. St. Helens was August 13, 1945.

Spirit Lake was far from the cities of the valley and news came slow.
Though the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima August 6
and the second dropped on Nagasaki August 9, photographs didn't
appear in the Portland Oregonian until August 12. Those papers must
have been driven in to Spirit Lake on the 13th. Early the morning of
the 14th I walked over to the lodge to check the bulletin board. There
were whole pages of the paper pinned up: photos of a blasted city
from the air, the estimate of 150,000 dead in Hiroshima alone, the
American scientist quoted as saying "nothing will grow there again
for seventy years." The morning sun on my shoulders, the fir forest
smell and the big tree shadows; feet in thin moccasins feeling the
ground, and my heart still one with the snowpeak mountain at my
back. Horrified, blaming scientists and politicians and the govern-
ments of the world, I swore a vow to myself, something like, "By
the purity and beauty and permanence of Mt. St. Helens, I will fight
against this cruel destructive power and those who would seek to
use it, for all my life."

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1920 the novel Main Street was published, written by a 35-year-old writer from Sauk Centre Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis. It was his sixth novel and it made him famous.

It was on this day in 1987, the U.S. Senate rejected the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork on a vote of 58 to 42. It was one of the most controversial nomination hearings in history.

In the first hundred years of the American republic, the Senate took its role in the process of selecting Supreme Court justices very seriously. Between 1794 and 1892, 81 nominees were sent to the Senate and 22 failed to make it onto the court. Senators did not hesitate to say that they objected to a nominee for political reasons.

But after 1894, as the power of the presidency grew, the Senate started approving nearly every nominee that came down the pike. Between 1894 and 1968, only one nominee was rejected by the Senate, John J. Parker of North Carolina. He was nominated by Herbert Hoover.

Robert Bork, a distinguished legal scholar was nominated by President Reagan to lead the conservative revolution on the court. And in his confirmation hearings, Bork decided to enter the debate about his ideas head-on and openly discuss his originalist views of the Constitution and his belief that there was no right to privacy.

In the years since he was voted down, in 1987, no nominee to the court has openly debated with senators about legal philosophy the way Bork did. Most nominees have refused to answer at least some of the questions asked of them, and no nominee has been rejected since.

It's the birthday of two doctors who became writers, the poet Robert Bridges, born in Kent, England (1844); and Michael Crichton, born in Chicago (1942).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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