Thursday, August 16, 2007

To End World War II: What would you do?

I would like to share some of my own thoughts on this anniversary of the end of World War II.

Last summer I was living with a host family in a small town (Taketoyo) south of Nagoya while attending a language school. On the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima I happened to be watching the news with my host family. Unlike most host families where one's placed with people who are young, I was with two grand parents.

As a segment on the bombing of Hiroshima and the fire bombing of Japan came on, my host mother (78 years old) turned to me and stated, "I and my mother were there." I really didn't know what to say in turn. I felt awful yet anything that I could say would sound well, rather lame. I expressed to her my regret of her having suffered as a small child with her mother through the hell of the atomic bombings. But inside I didn't really think that what I'd said really came out all that well.

Whenever I see footage of the atomic bombings, and whenever I hear debates about if or if not the surrender of Japan had to be achieved through the bombings, I always ask myself this: could I tell the host mother of the family I lived with that the potential deaths of her, her mother, and whoever else were in Hiroshima justified a correct way to end the last bloody portion of World War II?

65 years and thousands of miles away removed from the war against Japan, it’s too easy for Americans to dispassionately argue one way or the other for or against the dropping of the atomic bombs. I realized last summer that without the human element, the face of a victim, or having known someone, who was there, all of the times that I argued about the necessity of the atomic bombs being dropped as necessary for the ending World War II decisively were absolutely hollow. Now I feel on this 65th anniversary of the end of World War II repulsed and disgusted with the beliefs I thought I held so dearly before I studied in Japan in the summer of 2006.

1 comment:

Shingen said...

It's certainly a tough one, isn't it?

We do not deal with certainties in these things, so we can never truly give comfort. The atom bombs were undoubtedly less controversial than the Dolittle Raids, but the immense horror and spectacle has sought to undermine the focus of debate on this issue.

In 'Fog of War', Robert McNamara expressed regret for his role, calling himself a 'war criminal'. However, during war, we are all criminals. Humanity is all too often pushed aside.

It is not your place to apologise for your country's past actions. The mindset that led to those events are far beyond us and our sanitised experience of international relations.

Rather, as a member of the international community, do exactly as you did: empathise. You are not your country nor your ancestors, but you are you. I think that is the journey you have taken.