The world entered a new age – the nuclear age – when the scientists and soldiers of the Manhattan Project test detonated the first ever atomic bomb at White Sands in Nevada. Less than a month later, two more bombs just like it would destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing World War Two to an abrupt end.
On the day, however, no one knew quite how destructive the bomb would be (some worried that it would ignite the entire atmosphere of the planet, for example), or how long its effects would last. But after the explosion, Robert Oppenheimer’s apropos quote from the Bhavagad Gita was generally agreed to be the most apt: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Ronald Reagan was, it’s fair to say, something of an ideologue. And that quality was never more on display than the day when he addressed the 41st Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. It was in this speech that he labelled the USSR both an ‘evil empire’ and also ‘the focus of evil in the modern world’. Reagan liked to portray himself as living in a simple world of absolutes, of good and evil. (In truth, the man, his worldview and the actual world were also significantly more complex than that.)
In a prideful speech, he decried the temptation of pride, which in his construction, would have meant disagreeing with him. His conservative base lapped it up, but the speech heightened tensions in the Cold War. Five years later, when meeting with new Soviet leader Gorbachev, Reagan walked back his earlier words, saying that his opinion had changed. So perhaps he was better able to resist the temptation of pride than he’s given credit for.