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    Can’t sleep

    In about five hours, it will be exactly 59 years since the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Every year, I feel deeply conflicted on 6 and 9 August, but for the most part, my sentiment is as follows:

    I love the Japanese people. When I began studying Japanese freshman year in college, I hadn’t the faintest clue that I’d end up making my life here, but I did. In personal terms, people have been overwhelmingly kind to me. In general terms, Japan, for all its systemic faults, is one of the freest countries in the world. Its citizens come and go as they please, its least bureaucracy-bound manufacturers regularly bring the technology of consumer goods to dizzying new heights, and there is no fear of being carted off by the police for criticizing its politicians on the streets. And with freedom comes prosperity–even after 14 years of economic woes, Japan is dumbfoundingly rich, clean, safe.

    When I think of people immediately after the bombings, their faces obliterated by heat, expending their little remaining energy to bow in gratitude for the water volunteers brought to their lips (one of the most famous A-bomb memorials is inscribed with 水, the character for “water,” because that’s what so many victims cried out for), my heart aches. The same when…you know, bodies of water feature very prominently in Japanese literature, as they do the world over, as sources of refreshment and sustenance. Imagining people set afire, stampeding into rivers and lakes to cool themselves, only to find the water boiling hot, makes me cry. As an American who places the highest value on individuals, I wish we hadn’t had to cause such suffering to anyone at all who wasn’t irredeemably evil.

    But we did have to. Emperor Hirohito was ready to surrender, but he had military leaders who were plotting to intercept his proclamation, and no one on the American side could be sure how long rank-and-file Japanese soldiers and citizens would keep fighting. That there were other, more unsavory motivations for dropping the atom bomb (such as scientific curiosity about its effects) is hard to dispute. There probably isn’t any such thing as a guileless decision during wartime, for that matter. I wish the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs a peaceful eternal rest as much as anyone. But I’m glad America did what it took to win.

    11 Responses to “Can’t sleep”

    1. Dean's World says:

      Today In History

      Today is an interesting day in history. Glittering Eye has some thoughts on this date, and its significance to us today.

      * Upda…

    2. Dean's World says:

      Today In History

      Today is an interesting day in history. Glittering Eye has some thoughts on this date, and its significance to us today.

      * Upda…

    3. Dean's World says:

      Today In History

      Today is an interesting day in history. Glittering Eye has some thoughts on this date, and its significance to us today.

      * Upda…

    4. Dean Esmay says:

      Let’s hope we never have to do something like that again.
      Indeed, it is the fact that so many don’t understand that if things go wrongly, we might, that scares me most.

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      You mean the sort of people who think that the end of WWII was so masterfully engineered that it would have ended armed conflict forever, if only the US and Israel had made our munitions manufacturers start making coffee makers and irons like Germany? Yeah, they’re scary. They study Hiroshima and Nagasaki and get all the wrong lessons.
      Interestingly, my Japanese friends generally have no problem when I say that, look, I’m glad we’re allies now, but back then we were enemies, and I’m glad our grandfathers crushed your grandfathers however they could.

    6. Dean Esmay says:

      You of course know far more about the Japanese than I do, but from my background as an American who’s studied Japanese martial arts, loves their movies, their anime, their manga, some of their music, much of their food, and a few of their books (especially “A Book of Five Rings”) I’ll make this haphazard observation:
      Whatever its shortcomings, the Japanese concept of honor is mostly a healthy thing. Understanding that your enemy has vanquished you but may still be honorable and may even become your equal and your friend–this is a very healthy thing.
      I understand that of course not all Japanese feel this way, but the friendship that sprang up between Japanese and Americans after the war ended, this has long been treasured by me as a great thing for both peoples, and for the human race.
      You share that with any of your dangerous yellow slant-eyed friends who think would like to hear it. 😉

    7. Sean Kinsell says:

      Huh. Yeah, I said something similar myself a few months ago. The Japanese don’t view honor only as something that other people have to do to them. It is true that they don’t reflexively give outsiders the same esteem as insiders; but ultimately, you can reason with them and change their view of you because they see respect as a two-way street. Unlike some Pales…um…people.

    8. Sparkey says:

      I’ve known many Japanese, from the childhood friend, fellow graduate students, co-workers, and mentor. But I’ve never been apologetic. Once, a co-worker recounted his family members who died during the Great Pacific War, one uncle disappeared in New Guinea, another in China, a third was lost at sea, and an aunt who died in a firebombing raid. Tragic each and every one. I patiently listened to Hoshi’s list and after he stopped I quietly told him that I’m d*%n glad it was his uncles and not my dad or my uncles. As a wise man once noted, America can choke on a gnat but swallows tigers whole. He smiled and replied, “I’m glad that America swallowed Japan whole.” His explanation being that Japan wasn’t chewed in into little pieces and digested.

    9. Sean Kinsell says:

      Right. I know a good number of Japanese who have explicitly agreed with your friend. Not as in, “Yippee! We lost the war!” but as in, “We wouldn’t have done as well for ourselves as victors as you helped us do while reconstructing us.”

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