Monday, August 9, 2010

Bombs Away

"Fat Man" atomic bomb explodes over Nagasaki
Last Friday, ignored as usual by the overwhelming majority of Americans, passed the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Today, and likely to be even more ignored, if that's possible, is the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, which brought an end to the most horrific war that's ever been fought on planet Earth. Together these two bombings killed over 100,000 people and injured another 94,000.* I haven't been able to locate figures on the gender and age statistics of the victims, but it's likely more than half of these people were women and children. Many more thousands died in the years after 1945 from exposure to the radiation. And the long-term effects--incidence of various cancers in survivors--also continues.

So first of all, does it seem strange to anybody besides me that this year, for the first time ever,** the US and the UK had representatives at the memorial services in Hiroshima? Sixty-five years before this country acknowledges in a public way the misery and suffering it visited on the people of these two cities. That seems quite long enough. When I heard this on the news, it struck me as very odd that this was the first time, and I was glad to hear it, but that, I guess, is a measure of my naiveté. No, friends, not everybody was happy. Indeed, the president is being criticized for being "insensitive" to the feelings of the World War II generation.

From my perspective, all of us should be sensitive to anybody in any nation anywhere who had to endure the carnival of killing and suffering from 1939-45. My own father barely escaped with his life in this war. But to me, it's simply wrong not to acknowledge in some way the fact that human suffering is a universal, and the suffering we inflict upon ourselves by war is something that we all have chosen. That's what those representative of ours were doing in Hiroshima. And it was right for them to do so.

*This is a conservative estimate. Some studies put the deaths at over 200,000. Fact is nobody will ever know.

**Previously the US did not attend the ceremonies so as not the raise the question of whether it should apologize for the a-bombs.
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