Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: The following item from Kyodo News Service, “Hiroshima, Nagasaki Plan A-Bomb Exhibition in Washington,” was published in the Jan. 16, 2015, edition of the Herald. It caught the eye of Red Slider in Sacramento, Calif., who shares his perspective on the planned exhibition in this feedback commentary. Slider is editor and steward of the online publication, The Sacramento Z Newspaper (www.saczee.com).
HIROSHIMA, NAGASAKI PLAN A-BOMB EXHIBITION IN WASHINGTON
HIROSHIMA — The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hope to mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of their cities in World War II by holding an exhibition in Washington, D.C.
If realized, the exhibit will be the first of its kind in 20 years in the U.S. Officials said the cities are considering introducing the voices of atomic bomb survivors and displaying belongings of the victims.
Since 1995, the two cities have cosponsored Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibitions in 15 countries, including such nuclear powers as the United States, Russia and Britain, and other nations that are actively trying to abolish nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are hoping to hold the exhibit sometime between summer and autumn at American University in Washington, D.C., which hosted the 1995 exhibition. The exhibition was to have been held at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum featuring materials related to the atomic bombings. However, the venue was canceled due to strong opposition from U.S. war veterans.
Former Hiroshima Mayor Takashi Hiraoka, who spoke at the 1995 exhibit, said feelings have changed under President Barack Obama, who has advocated for a world free of nuclear weapons.
“Although the justification of the atomic bombings probably persists in the United States, we have to convey (the survivors’) long-lasting sufferings and criminality of using nuclear weapons,” said Hiraoka, who is now 87 years old.
The U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 in 1945.
Thank you so much for including the announcement about plans by the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to hold a major exhibit in Washington, D.C., to educate the public about the tragic belief that the world can continue to try to settle arguments with other nations through violence and war — especially nuclear war.
It is long overdue that such realities, terrible as they are, be brought out from the shadows and into the light of day. Without knowing that side of the story and what it really means to be a victim of such precipitous moments in history, there can be no way to end that history. It continues to fester and recreates itself sometime in the future.
It was understandable if those who suffered the consequences of those bombings were stunned and shocked into silence. The hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) responded to the horror in the only way they could — with self-appointed shame and silence. In the face of what could not be changed, gaman (enduring hardship in silence) was their only option, the only possible way that dignity and honor could be preserved. They had been punished for something. And though it was not of their making, anything other than silent assent was unthinkable. They would bear their suffering with dignity. At least that much was possible.
But gaman is only honorable for as long as nothing can be changed, as long as speaking out cannot alter the course of what has been. That is no longer the case. There is something of such monumental importance in the events of August 1945 that silence can only aid and abet. What must be avoided at all costs — a repeat of those days of horror — is precisely what is at stake. And so gaman must give way to something else, something more compelling and more obligating.
But it is not only the hibakusha who have been driven into silence for so long. That resignation into the shadows of denial falls equally on American shoulders, for it is not in anger or shame that America has been so reluctant to welcome light into this corner of history, nor the refusal to learn something from it. It is the hands of a very few misguided and corrupt individuals that have stood in the way. In that, there is one small misstatement that I would correct in the Kyodo News article. It is the sentence about the plans for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s 1995 exhibit that would have included materials related to the victims of the bombings being cancelled “due to strong opposition from U.S. war veterans.”
It was not the opposition of U.S. war veterans that caused the cancellation or that forced the museum’s director, Dr. Martin Harwit, to resign his position in May 1995 rather than falsify history and concede to his critics. It was only a very few who had installed themselves into positions in some military organizations where they could foment dissent and stifle discussion on anything that didn’t agree with their view of military history. Some of these individuals, in fact, were never in the military. But that didn’t stop them from falsifying records, slandering individuals, planting false news reports, intimidating publishers, and hijacking Wikipedia sites and anything else that might serve their dark purposes.
And what are their purposes? To censor and prevent any position that does not glorify or commend everything and anything the U.S. military has done or will do in the future. They do the same to anyone or anything that might disagree with their filtered opinions. They did it also to author and scientist Charles Pellegrino, whose book, “Last Train from Hiroshima,” was censored by this group and finally pulled from store shelves after its publisher had been intimidated and threatened by this same handful of troublemakers.
Please be assured that it is not the view of the vast majority of veterans who, least of all, would condone attempts to silence speech or the press or public exhibits — the very things most of them would avow was what they fought and died to protect.
So, it should be known that the obstacles in the way of presenting the whole truth about that horrific episode in our history do not issue from the reluctance of Americans to join their friends in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in letting the truth be told, and without omissions. Are there obstacles? Sure there are. And it is with courage that the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as American University in Washington, step forward at this time to host such an event, for it is the right time to do so.
After this long period of gaman, the time has arrived to speak out, to show and to discuss the meaning of these events — not to rehash the past or settle old arguments that can never be settled in any case — but to inform the future and to prevent the repetition of something the world might not survive should it happen again. What follows gaman must be kakusei — a time of awakening!
It is not simply for the sake of knowing that this should be done, or that we should listen and hear what it means to continue to use war to settle our disagreements or stockpile weapons of unthinkable consequence for all. There is one even greater and more compelling reason to finally have this open and unedited conversation with ourselves: Kodomo no tame ni. It is for the sake of the children that this must be done.