Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Letters from the End of the World: A Firsthand Account of the Bombing of HiroshimaThis week marks a historic and horrific anniversary: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The two countries directly involved in the incidents have and will continue to look at these events from diametrically opposed view points. America will honor the people who created, directed the use of and delivered the bombs. Publicly, these people will be hailed as heroes who ended a war of both ideologies and of physical threat. In Japan, people will mourn the loss of thousands of civilians to unspeakably and unprecedentedly horrible deaths. Sixty-five years after these events occur, one nation sees these events as a reason to seek peace, while another defends these civilian deaths as necessary casualties of a long past war. This official history cannot be challenged by anyone who does not wish their loyalties to America, or credentials questioned in front of a hostile mob. The suffering of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is silenced to the detriment of us all.

My point in writing about this at all is this: we should all examine our consciences and our assumptions about history and politics. If we can write off the deaths of a quarter of a million civilians as a regrettable, but essential act of war, what other events will we stand by and allow to happen in the name of our society or faith or ideology? Whose life is important to us? Who can we fool ourselves into thinking of as faceless, inhuman beings that can easily be killed because they belong to a particular group? As John Donne wrote:

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

As spiritual beings, we should all mourn the losses on both sides of every war, but especially the noncombatant civilians. Humanities have been snuffed out. We should not glorify the deaths of anyone and to continue to vilify long dead people as enemies diminishes all of us to mere puppets of our governors. Let us all be wary of what we can be led to believe, lest consequences come home to roost, on our own doorstep.

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