Monday, March 03, 2008


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.


  1. I feel the same away: powerless in the face of this country's imbecility. It makes me feel a bit ashamed of myself - but moreso of this country.

    I've really enjoyed reading about your visit to Hiroshima. I read John Hersey's book Hiroshima last semester and it's very meaningful to hear you talk about some of the same things addressed in the novel.

    And then there are all the pretty birds you keep finding!

  2. It would be better if you read the news with a little more attention in order to write about it. Colombian army killed one of the worst terrorist in the world in the frontier and Ecuador which is protecting the farc terrorist group and joined forces with Venezuela to threat Colombia.

  3. Anonymous9:12 AM

    Juanri, Bardiac is hoping that the situation does not escalate into violence among countries, no matter who killed whom where and why. Do not you hope for a peaceful resolution as well?

  4. Anonymous3:09 PM

    Peaceful resolution...REALLY??? If you have not read, the Colombian government has been trying for PEACE for FORTY years.. Now two other countries are involved and instead of supporting their neighbor, they are placing blame on the goverment. Presidente Uribe did not start this war. He has been trying to end it,as are the colombian people. I am a colombian native and an american citizen. I love the country I was born in. The horror that the colombian people have endured in the last 40 years has to stop. Personally it would not surprise me one bit if both Correa and Chavez are in deep with the FARC and what it stands for. If that isn't the case, they why are they behind people(FARC) who have murdered millions....??? VIVA COLOMBIA!!!!

  5. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Juanri, neither Bardiac nor I are saying that the Ecuadorean or Venezuelan governments are *right*. I am saying that I hope they will see reason -- that in fact ridding the region of a rat is a good thing, and certainly not worth making war over.

    Perhaps it's not my place to say this, since Bardiac's certainly capable of defending herself should she wish to do so, but since I appreciate her greatly: I don't think she deserved your original jab. You basically said that she wasn't competent to bring this issue to her readers' attention because she didn't know the whole story. You have told us some of the rest of the story. That's great; your passion inspired me to go look things up. Next time, tell us the story with all the passion and without the poke at your host.

  6. PhD Me, Can you tell me more about the book, please? Is it a novel, or history or?

    Theodora, thank you :)

    Juanri and Anonymous, I don't have the whole story, of course. Nor, do most of us. US involvement in Columbia and the "drug war" is problematic, even more so is the demand for drugs in the US which fuels so many problems. The problems in Columbia have lasted more than a generation; you can't really think that Correa is really to blame? And yet, I recognize that he may indeed be complicit. No one in politics is pure.

    I only hope the countries can regain peaceful relations, because most people in the three countries would experience greater difficulties if they went to war.