Monday, August 5, 2013

Hiroshima / Nagasaki Memorial

Every 1st Sunday in August, a memorial service for the victims of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is held at the Los Angeles Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo Los Angeles. As with every year, what few surviving Hibakusha of the ASA American Survivors of Hiroshima / Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors that are still with us attend and share their stories. In the last five years that we have attended these memorial services, we have always found it troubling to hear people throw in the age old argument as to the necessity of the bomb to end the war, but never from those who have ever encountered these few survivors who have had the opportunity to hear first hand what it was like to have walked through a burning hell on earth and live to tell about it. We assure you that while it is easy to arm chair quarterback history from a distance, seeing, meeting and shaking the hands and in some cases hugging these aging survivors presents a human face and a reality not one of us could possibly imagine that in our opinion would mute any argument in favor of the bomb. 

As with any post war debate here in the United States, the mention of the bombing of Pearl Harbor is thrown around carte blanche in the same old “well they started it” mentality. We could argue this point all day long but that's not what we are here for. There is no point in re-fighting WWII for argument's sake. While the attack on Hawaii was focused on attacking Military installations and personnel (part of the risk of being part of the military), the atomic bombings on civilian population centers simply do not equate on the same level. While tragic and unfortunate it might have been to have been a serviceman at Pearl, to have been a primary school student forced to search for bodies of your dead and dying classmates under the rubble and ash of your grade school is not the same thing. They didn't volunteer for that nor could they imagine seeing inner city canals clogged with dead bodies and rivers of blood amidst the burning skies and blackened smoke to the screams and cries of those who could no longer be helped. And you think you had childhood trauma? Imagine what these grade school children when through! Compared to these people, we've got nothing to complain about. The United States was so fortunate to not have its cities bombed during the war, it is likely for this reason people could not grasp the concept of total war hence the realities of such war can not be understood leading in some cases to the level of arrogance by those who have never experienced war yet out of ignorance, champion it. 

I could not imagine on any level seeing people walking about so burned beyond recognition you could no longer tell if they were male or female or if they were facing you or if their back was turned to you. Yet, these events did happen and must never happen again. When I look into the eyes of these people and see their scars and the humbleness in their voices, it evokes a level of hurt and disappointment that 68 years later, the world has not learned from these events. Selective memory I call it. We as a society choose to remember only what happened to us and ignore the suffering of those civilians who by no fault of their own had been swept up by tragic events beyond their control both in Japan and here in the United States. Like the old people who showed me their tattoos force ably inked onto them in places like Dachau, so too are the scars and haunting looks carried on by these survivors. And what many do not know here is what became of them after the war as they became known as Hibakusha – a people sometimes shunned within their own country as if they were responsible for what happened to them. As said many times by ASA member Kazu Suyeshi – No more Hiroshima's – No more Nagasaki - No more Hibakusha.

Undeniably, War is an ugly business in which there are always casualties be it intended or unintended of consequence. While 68 years have passed, we can not allow these tragic events to be forgotten or written off like some disconnected grainy black & white photograph accompanied by a two sentence footnote in history. You can't say it's a Japanese problem not our problem. War is a world wide human problem that stems from the failure to communicate. We live on such a small planet, it makes no sense why parts of the world still fight like cavemen over tiny scraps of meat or act irresponsibly by threatening the world with nuclear war if they do not get what they want. Such war must never happen again. Such horrible weapons should never be used yet they still exist. Those who have not learned of what took place those terrible days of August 1945 have no concept of what such weapons can do. Therefore it is important to hear the stories of these few remaining survivors for we have such little time left as the WWII generation leaves us in ever greater numbers. We at American Mishima would like to thank Mr. Junji Sarashina, and Ms,Midori Seino for their continued work sharing their stories so that future generations will learn from their experiences. 

 No more Hiroshima's – No more Nagasaki - No more Hibakusha.

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