Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hiroshima Day, 2008

Every year the City of Hiroshima holds the Peace Memorial Ceremony to console the souls of those who were lost due to the atomic bombing as well as pray for the realization of everlasting world peace. This ceremony, which is attended by many citizens, including those who lost family members in the bombing, is held in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims (Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace). The Peace Declaration, which is delivered by the Mayor of Hiroshima during the ceremony, is sent to every country in the world thus conveying Hiroshima's wish for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of eternal world peace. At exactly 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped, the Peace Bell is rung, sirens sound all over the city and for one minute people at the ceremony grounds, in households and in workplaces pay silent tribute to the victims of the atomic bombing and pray for the realization of everlasting world peace. LINK

As the years go by memories of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fade as those living experiences, like those of the Holocaust, are replaced by less personal documents, photos and statistics. History revises the past, cleaning up the edges and refocusing the actual events to conform to some "modern" narrative about how and why they took place.

My recent post from a soldier in Iraq underscores the point. His raw descriptions of war, vivid as they are, still fail to make most readers want to abandon the idea of waging war. Too complete has been the indoctrination of most people (our warriors included). As individuals we want peace and security, but collectively we are easily led to believe that we cannot secure those blessings alone.

And I cannot argue that without wars the world would be a better place. There are too many examples of tyrannies being overthrown, principles being defended and economic stability being enhanced in the aftermath of wars. It is no accident that the two countries defeated in World War Two, Germany and Japan, emerged from their ruins to become economic and social powerhouses. Of course the Marshall Plan in Europe and the post-war occupation of Japan claim credit, but without the participation of the survivors the results would have been poor.

But today is not the time to argue or evaluate. Today is the day for remembrance and reflection for those of us who memorialize the victims. This is from the Manhattan Project website.

No one will ever know for certain how many died as a result of the attack on Hiroshima. Some 70,000 people probably died as a result of initial blast, heat, and radiation effects. This included about twenty American airmen being held as prisoners in the city. By the end of 1945, because of the lingering effects of radioactive fallout and other after effects, the Hiroshima death toll was probably over 100,000. The five-year death total may have reached or even exceeded 200,000, as cancer and other long-term effects took hold.

Interested readers may want to take a look at an archive of photos and resources from Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon. I haven't combed through it all, but was drawn to a collection of pictures of relics that document some of the results of that atomic bomb. Don't just glance at the pictures. Take a moment to read the captions and stories that tell why they were selected.

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