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Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Report of Salon on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
We had another engaging event last Saturday at the Peace Philosophy Salon on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am sure each of the films spoke different messages to the participants and I thank all of them for sharing their diverse opinions and views during the discussion. To me the story of Joe O'Donell family was very moving. Tyge O'Donell to me symbolized the new generation of the United States who started to take a different look at the country's past behaviours,inspired by his father's courageous act of disobedience. At one time it seemed like that Joe had his whole country and even his family against him, but at the end there were moving moments of reconciliation, like the letter that Ellen, Joe's estranged wife wrote to her son saying how proud she was of him. Iri and Maruki Toshi's work on the amazingly wide range of issues from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Okinawa to Auschwitz, Nanjing and Minamata really spoke deeply to my mind about transcending perceived borders like nationalities, perpetrators and victims, and good and evil in quest for the ultimate nature of humanity, and world peace.
One of the issues discussed was age-appropriate material for peace education. One of the participants, who is an early childhood educator, expressed concerns over using graphic imagies to teach children horrors of war. When she read Toshi Maruki's book "Hiroshima no Pika," to her daughter, she was frightened and said she never wanted to go to Hiroshima. Two other college students who were at the event were Hiroshima City natives, and they both said they were frightened by some of the exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. You will see one of their comments below. Some of us argued that those graphical exhibits, like the wax figures of badly burnt A-bomb survivors walking with their skin dangling from their arms at the Hiroshima Museum, were not appropriate for children, and others argued that it was important for the visitors to learn and know the truth. One comment I made in response to that is that we should not expect the same materials to be equally effective in educating people of all ages. Perhaps the A-bomb museums can consider setting up a dedicated section for educating young children.
Here are comments by participants:
"I appreciate you point of view and agree that the first film, does symbolize the beginning of partial acceptance by the new generation of the United States. I think they should have clarified and shown the historical fact that the bombs were not used to save American lives and to end the war. The second film was very explicit and moving, and I feel it reaches out and touches many people, even though the graphic content upsets the average person. Then again we have that problem of what people will accept. I take the position that we must show the horrors inflicted upon humans by the use of nuclear weapons, whether it is done by word of mouth, by art, by reproductions of those wax figures, or by all the displays shown at the Hiroshima City and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims." - D.L.
(Following up on this comment, I introduced an article by Peter Kuznick, history professor of American University in Washington, D.C., which addresses how Truman and other U.S. leaders then came to the decision to drop the bombs, demystifying the widely held perception that the bombs were used to end the war and that a million lives were saved because of the bombs.)
"My parents took me to the museum when I was 5 or 6 years old, and I remember everything I saw, heard, and felt was all about "terror". Everything there -pictures of injured and burned bodies of victims, burned clothing slightly stained with blood, victim's hairs and nails, watches stopped at 8:15, the completely devastated city, and the wax dolls- struck terror into me.
Then, when I got out off the museum, I remember I saw beautiful blue sky and gently shining green grass all around in the peace memorial park. There were little children who were chasing doves with cute smiles. I felt relieved and felt peace of mind. There was a peaceful world out there, in contrast to those dark, bloody, and frightening things I saw inside the museum.
However, I was still scared of what I saw that day. At that night, I prayed in my bed: "Please, God. please do not let anyone to drop PikaDon when everyone is sleeping". (I do not belong to any religion by the way.) I could not sleep. I was so afraid of falling in asleep. If I closed my eyes,I pictured the "hell" I saw in the museum.
Based on this experience , I imagine that if I was not born and raised in Hiroshima, I would not want to visit the museum ever again. However, since I grew up in Hiroshima and I had "peace education" every summer (elementary school to high school), visiting the museum and listening to survivors' stories became my annual ritual.
Also, when I was 10 years old or so, my grandmother told me that she held"atomic bomb survivor's certificate", and she told me about what she saw and experienced as a nurse when she was taking care of the victims. Everything she told me was quite shocking as well, but since she is my grandmother, I felt the history as something much closer to me.
Even when I did not know details of history, I took "peace education" for granted to have, and I think the experience of growing up in Hiroshima has influenced me a lot, in a way that it made me to have questioned myself,"what is world peace?", "what can we do to prevent wars?" "how can we keep the promise we made to the victims of atomic bombings？（安らかにお眠りください。過ちは繰り返しませんから）", so many times during my childhood and adolescence....and still I do.
Then, I have learned and felt a lot from the film about Iri and MarukiToshi, and the film reminded me one thing: it is very important for each of us to be aware of that our perspectives tend to be fixed and biased to some extent. I believe that only by challenging our consciousness and perspectives simultaneously, we can step forward. It was a very encouraging film, and I found it very beautiful as well.
In the book "Change the world without taking power" I am reading right now,the author (John Holloway) says that "The first step in struggling against invisibility is to turn the world upside down, to think from the perspective of struggle, to take sides".....This quote just popped up when I saw how they have brought the sensation around the world.... " - S.H.
The following comment is in Japanese.
絵や写真のメッセージをどう受け止めるかは、個人個人の持つ情報や心の状態で随分変わってくるのでしょう。そして、子どもたちがそれをどう受け止めるかについても話し合いがでました。幼すぎる子どもたちに真実をどのように伝えていくかは課題です。でも、恐怖を小さな子どもたちの心に植えつけていくことは反対です。核を、戦争をこの世から無くしていくために教育がどれだけ重大な位置をもっているか確認できた時間でもあったように思います。そんな話が、サロンの人たちと話が出来たこと、うれしく思っています。" - S. I.
The next salon will be on Saturday, March 28th. See you there again!
Love and peace,