Friday, August 05, 2005

Silence Speaks Volumes

Tomorrow (August 6th) is the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. BBC online ran this cover story, covering the gathering of thousands of Japanese in Hiroshima's Peace Park to commemorate the event and remember the thousands killed.

I'd link to the story on CNN about this, but, golly... there's just isn't one.

Now, before we go getting all lovey-dovey regarding the dropping of the A-bomb, let me tell you something that might shock you. I think it was -- given the events leading up to it, and the fact that Truman gave the Japanese every conceivable opportunity to surrender prior to it -- the right thing to do. They were never going to surrender. They would have just gone on flying planes into the decks of our ships until the very last plane. And, while they didn't have a lot of planes left, and had fewer pilots than they cared about (the average age of the kamikaze pilot was around 17 by the end of the war, if I remember correctly), we still had a couple of sailors we wanted to bring home. And, not to sound too grade-school about it, but the Japanese started it.

So we shouldn't be apologetic. I mean, we're sorry civilians died, but we're sorry Japanese fanaticism left us with no other options. Besides, my philosophy is that we'll apologize to the Japanese for the thousands of dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki the day they apologize to the Chinese for the million plus they raped and killed in Manchuria. Live by the sword, and all that rubbish....

But here's the thing. Truman was tortured by the decision to deploy Fat Man and Little Boy. He was up nights, trying to find other options. It was a big deal. It still is. There are people in Japan still suffering the aftereffects of this cataclysm. Shouldn't our news agencies be just as interested in covering commemorative events as the BBC is?

I don't know. Maybe they're all planning on a big fiesta tomorrow. But the Japanese are standing in Peace Park as I type these words, lighting candles and weeping and praying for the long-dead. Yet, the biggest American online news source doesn't breathe a word of it. Aside from a blurb about the TIME magazine issue covering the anniversary, there's nothing about it. Not. One. Word.

Does it speak to our humanity as a nation that we could turn our backs on such a violent historic event? If we felt it was such a right thing to do, then cannot we afford to be big about it, acknowledge it, own it, and move on? Are we too concerned with the possibility that parallels might be drawn between that war and this? August 6, 1945 was a momentous day in United States History, people. Our president (who had not been elected into the office, mind you) had to give an order that no president had ever given in history, nor has since had to give, nor should ever have to give. And it ended a huge, devastating world war. 58 years later, another president who (it could be and has been argued) was also not elected into office made another big decision -- only this one was to start a huge and devastating war.

On August 6th, if you happen to think of it, just have the decency to stop what you are doing for just a moment, and remember that on a sad, sad day, 80,000 people died in the blink of an eye, and nearly that many died over the course of the following months. And if you forget, but it occurs to you a day or two later, then try to remember again on August 9th, to consider Nagasaki.

Now, 60 years later, it's meaningless to dwell on the right or wrong of what happened. We're humans, as were they, and we can honor them as humans who died believing they were right. It doesn't make them any less dead for us to do so. But it does make us more human.


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