Bats, Men, and Morals:
Desert Reflections on the Unnatural Quality of Mercy
BEFORE I settled in the Sonoran desert I spent a few days in the foothills of New Mexico’s Sacramento mountains. From a height we looked down on Alamagordo and, beyond that, across twenty or thirty miles of white gypsum sand to the forbidden spot where the first atom bomb was exploded.
There must be very few places in the United States so suitable for such an experiment; few, that is to say, either so remote or so devoid of anything to be destroyed. Several hundred square miles thereabout look very much as though they had all been worked over not so long ago by some very effective destructive agent, and after the bomb had gone off one might, with some justification, have inscribed over the spot the epitaph which seems a little overwrought for the situation in which Swinburne used it: “Like a god self-slain on his own strange altar Death lies dead.”
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