I read the news today, oh boy.* Troops in Columbia and Ecuador are gathering on the border with Venezuela after what may have been an incursion onto Ecuadorian territory (and airspace) by Venezuela going after a rebel group. I have a soft spot in my heart for Ecuador. It's not that I idealize Ecuador or something, but part of my heart is there. I hope, somehow, cooler minds prevail and the countries can work things out for greater peace.
I was talking today with a friend here, about my experience in Hiroshima, and showing her my pictures. She told me her parents were from the area, and saw the burning on August 6, 1945, but were far enough away not to be immediately affected. And then she said how amazing it is that we two are here, sitting together and talking. It does give me hope in the possibility of peace, though the conflict between Japan and the US in WWII was relatively short-lived compared to the historical/ethnic/religious conflicts in so many areas, and I'm guessing that helped the two nations make peace, and helps us today. Every so often, as I pass someone who looks pretty old on the street, and I smile and give a nod/bow, I wonder how they feel, and wish my Japanese was good enough to say something more than "good afternoon." (Not that asking how someone feels about the end of WWII would be a conversation starter, in any case.)
The speaker I heard on Saturday talked about what she'd been doing the day of the bombing. I gather that middle school children had been set the task of preparing fire-breaks in various cities, and so she was working in Hiroshima, helping to demolish buildings and carting away that bricks. Her mother was working in a factory fairly far from the blast, and was inside, and pretty safe. A sister was in school, and injured by some glass. A brother was in the military, stationed outside Hiroshima, and so suffered secondary effects when he entered the blast zone to try to find family and such.
One of the oddly practical, and all the more horrific for being so practical, aspects of the bombing is that the US military had set out several cities as potential A-bomb targets, and avoided bombing those cities with conventional bombs, at least in part so that they'd have a really good idea just how damaging the two atomic bombs were. So to add to the horror, school children were making firebreaks in anticipation of bombings because the cities hadn't been bombed or burned before.
My high school had this weird black box thing sitting on top of the building during the war; it was a room where all day, one or another teacher took turns sitting up there with binoculars, looking for bombers coming from the sea. The bombers never came, and the stories I heard from a teacher who'd been just starting her career during that era, was that a certain female teacher used the time and privacy to smoke cigars. Such was the war at my high school.
As I learned at the memorial, Hiroshima was both a military city and an important port and rail city. I imagine it was like San Francisco in some ways, and as appealing a target, a busy bustling city.
But the school kids working on demolition suggests a civilian populace contributing mightily to the war effort. And apparently not only civilians, but forced laborers, Koreans and Chinese, were working in numbers in Hiroshima in August, 1945.
I worry about the current war, especially in Iraq. I didn't choose to go to war; but I haven't gone to jail or anything for protesting it, either. I don't, sadly, even see the point in protesting; I feel powerless against the way my country thinks now. There's a level at which I'm complicit in what my government does, even if I don't like it. Maybe especially if I don't like it. (Let's be clear, though. Even if I protested a ton, I don't think the US government would punish me in the way that Japanese pacifists. That gives me even less excuse.)
*Lennon and McCartney, "A Day in the Life" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The bird is a Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) (I think!), photographed in the moat around the Hiroshima Castle.