Some thoughts on Hiroshima, the city of peace

The Atomic Bomb Dome is all that remains of a large exhibition hall destroyed by the bomb. (Photo by author. All rights reserved.)


HONG KONG — Even before Donald Trump (R-Blowhard) won the election, I had planned to visit Hiroshima during my Japan tour. Now that he’s president, visiting this city is especially poignant.

During the campaign, both Trump and his rival for the nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), spoke casually of using nuclear weapons on ISIS and our other enemies, as if dropping them would solve all our problems. [See notes below for details.]

Their comments made me cringe, as neither man seems to comprehend the horrors of nuclear weapons. If they did, they would never suggest using them in such an off-the-cuff manner.

I wanted to visit Hiroshima to see how the city has rebounded from its utter destruction in 1945. Now, you would hardly know the city was once a pile of rubble. Ground zero is now occupied by a peace park, which is surrounded by high rise buildings. Hiroshima is a vibrant testimony to the strength of the human spirit.

Rather than be depressed by my brief visit, I was uplifted. Hiroshima has moved on, choosing to stand for peace and reconciliation, not hate and retribution, despite the horrors the A-bomb brought on..

Everyone should read John Hersey’s Hiroshima. It’s an excellent introduction to the immediate and delayed effects of the Hiroshima blast, including the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent people (including ten thousand middle school students who were not even local residents) in an instant.

The city was utterly leveled. The Atomic Bomb Dome, pictured above, is the remains of a large city exhibition hall near the hypocenter. Rather than tear it down, the city decided to leave the structure — now reinforced to prevent collapse — as a memorial to the blast.

The Childrens’ Memorial in Hiroshima Peace Park recalls the story of Sadako Sasaki and the thousand paper cranes she folded. (Photo by author. All rights reserved.)

Beside the A-Bomb Dome is the Hiroshima Peace Park. It has a memorial to Sadako Sasaki and the other child victims of the blast, and another to the student volunteers who also died on Aug. 6, 1945.

The story of Sadako is well known, but I had no idea about the student volunteers until my visit to the park.

They were middle and high school students mustered from other parts of Japan for wartime service work. Their particular task in Hiroshima was to help in pulling down buildings to create firebreaks, in case of conventional bombing runs.

On the day the bomb dropped, these kids were in the open all over the city doing their service work. And then they were gone. Ten thousand youngsters, who by chance happened to be in Hiroshima and not some other place in Japan.

The nearby museum has some fairly graphic photographs of the victims of Hiroshima blast, including forensic remains of tumors and other deformities created by radiation exposure. While radiation levels in the city are now close to background levels (IOW, I’m safe), for decades after the bombing Hiroshima survivors — even those who moved away to other parts of Japan — suffered from higher than normal rates of leukemia, tumors and other diseases from radiation exposure.

Atomic and nuclear weapons are depressingly effective in killing people, but they are indiscriminate in that killing. And the suffering they cause lasts for decades, killing people who were mere children (or in utero) during the conflict during which thy were used.

I’m not going to debate the necessity of dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That debate continues among historians to this day. But I am appalled that anyone nowadays would even suggest nuclear weapons are an acceptable weapon of choice. It’s completely irresponsible, something we could expect from a crazy leader like North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, not from someone running for president of the USA — the only country to date to have used atomic weapons in combat. If anything, American politicians — and presidents — have an even higher responsibility than any other world leaders to ensure nukes are never used again.

At least this politician gets it — Former President Barack Obama’s message and paper crane has been included in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum’s exhibits. (Photo by author. All rights reserved.)

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Whether Trump favors using nukes is a debatable point, as he characteristically contradicts his own statements each time he speaks about them. TIME magazine collected some of those statements, none of which suggest to me that Trump really understands how horrible nuclear weapons would be.

During a campaign stop in 2015, Cruz said, “We will utterly destroy ISIS,” he said. “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”


Also published on Medium.

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