I didn’t understand the world better after visiting Hiroshima, I understood it more. More:
-What it means to lose in war.
-About the people whose lives were reduced to one paragraph in my US History textbook.
-Why history shouldn’t be taught only from the winners’ point of view.
This is the tricycle of a three-year-old boy who was burned to death after the bomb dropped.
I only realized two weeks ago, when I visited Peace Memorial Park—which is what you visit when you visit Hiroshima—that it all happened on August 6th.
Today’s the anniversary, if you will.
Before I went to Japan, I had visions (in retrospect: delusions) of writing a meaningful post about Hiroshima. But I’m incredibly behind, as anyone who has written to me about this knows.
It was making me sad that today had gone by, that Aurora had gone by, that Oak Creek had gone by, and I’d chosen to sit out mentioning any of them. That I’d visited the site of one of the world’s most amazing acts of destruction, and written nothing, while making time to post stupid pictures of myself in Japan.
Look closely in the background of this picture and you’ll see the charred remains of the dome where the bomb was dropped.
You’ll also see Japanese students on a class trip.
I passed so many Japanese children at the museum. It’s insane that my ancestors and their ancestors were once trying to kill each other. It’s actually textbook insanity, which is defined as utterly senseless. Why go through that when we have the potential for this?
I’m not slamming the people who came before me; what’s crazy is how the world can change in a lifetime.
Milan Kundera says that’s exactly why war happens; those who wage it know they’ll die eventually and won’t have to keep reliving the aftermath.
I think he’s onto something.
A big part of me didn’t want to go to Hiroshima during my honeymoon. I thought it would be depressing and that I’d spend the entire visit crying. (I did; no big deal.)
Wasn’t a honeymoon supposed to be upbeat? (Says who?)
I knew I couldn’t be so close to Hiroshima and just tell myself that I’d gone to Sapporo instead. I’d always wonder what lesson I’d missed. What alternative version of myself might exist in the universe if only I’d visited Hiroshima. So Eric got our train tickets.
I’d heard that the Japanese take on World War II, as expressed in the museum, was dubious, but that wasn’t my take on their take at all. It was matter-of-fact and impressively, glaringly without blame.
Seeing history through another point of view made me think about the way we’re taught in this country. We learn about wars in the abstract: how they’ve made us bigger, richer, stronger.
But what if we were all forced to stop and stare at the rubble, like in Hiroshima?
By the way, the city has been totally rebuilt and is officially dedicated to peace.
So today, in light of the anniversary, which means something totally different to me since I just got married, I’m thinking about peace. It often seems like a cliche that belongs on bumper stickers. The idea of taking it seriously as a goal seems optimistic at best, crazy-hippie at worst.
But I think it’s a good starting point.
What’s the alternative, really?