Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July and August anniversaries...atomic weapons

Anniversaries are arriving soon: July 16th, 1945 marks the first atomic bomb tested at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in a remote section of desert near Los Alamos, New Mexico and August 6th, 1945 marks the atom bomb detonated over Hiroshima. I discovered this short essay in The New York Times by Issey Miyake and his thoughts regarding the devastation of Hiroshima. Few of us have ever experienced such a tragedy and it is essential to remind ourselves of the downside of science and technology.

"A Flash of Memory"


Issey Miyake

July 14th, 2009

The New York Times

IN April, President Obama pledged to seek peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons. He called for not simply a reduction, but elimination. His words awakened something buried deeply within me, something about which I have until now been reluctant to discuss.

I realized that I have, perhaps now more than ever, a personal and moral responsibility to speak out as one who survived what Mr. Obama called the “flash of light.”

On Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on my hometown, Hiroshima. I was there, and only 7 years old. When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape — I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure.

I have never chosen to share my memories or thoughts of that day. I have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I gravitated toward the field of clothing design, partly because it is a creative format that is modern and optimistic.

I tried never to be defined by my past. I did not want to be labeled "the designer who survived the atomic bomb," and therefore I have always avoided questions about Hiroshima. They made me uncomfortable.

But now I realize it is a subject that must be discussed if we are ever to rid the world of nuclear weapons. There is a movement in Hiroshima to invite Mr. Obama to Universal Peace Day on Aug. 6 — the annual commemoration of that fateful day. I hope he will accept. My wish is motivated by a desire not to dwell on the past, but rather to give a sign to the world that the American president’s goal is to work to eliminate nuclear wars in the future.

Last week, Russia and the United States signed an agreement to reduce nuclear arms. This was an important event. However, we are not naïve: no one person or country can stop nuclear warfare. In Japan, we live with the constant threat from our nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea. There are reports of other countries acquiring nuclear technology, too. For there to be any hope of peace, people around the world must add their voices to President Obama's.

If Mr. Obama could walk across the Peace Bridge in Hiroshima — whose balustrades were designed by the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi as a reminder both of his ties to East and West and of what humans do to one another out of hatred — it would be both a real and a symbolic step toward creating a world that knows no fear of nuclear threat. Every step taken is another step closer to world peace.

[Issey Miyake is a clothing designer. This article was translated by members of his staff from the Japanese.]

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Here is the entire film...

Hiroshima Mon Amour [1959] by Alain Resnais



John Hersey

ISBN-10: 0679721037
ISBN-13: 978-0679721031

Hersey is probably best known as the author of Hiroshima, a nonfiction account of the explosion of the first atomic bomb. Like many of Hersey's World-War-II writings, Hiroshima focuses on the moral problems associated with war. The work, which is written in straightforward prose, combines a thorough analysis of subject matter with a novelist's attention to narrative. Hersey gathered material for Hiroshima in the actual rubble of bomb-crippled Hiroshima itself, interviewing survivors and probing their agonies and triumphs. Hersey's efforts helped supply Hiroshima with a strong sense of the human consequences of the bombing. Previously, most of the material written about the bombing tended to focus on the science and engineering behind the bomb itself—for example, the force of the blast, the physical principles governing the explosion, and the mass devastation to the landscape of Hiroshima. By contrast, Hiroshima awakened Americans to the bomb's impact on everyday human beings leading everyday lives. Originally published as an entire issue of The New Yorker on August 31, 1946, Hersey's book forced a nation to grapple with its conscience in the wake of a seminal—and signal—act of war.

In Hiroshima, the dropping of the bomb is experienced through the eyes of six survivors: two doctors, Terufumi Saski and Masakazu Fujii; two religious figures: Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German missionary, and Reverend Kioyoshi Tanimoto, a Japanese Methodist minister; and two women, Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in a factory, and Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a poor tailor's widow with several children. Hiroshima recreates the entire experience from the victims' points of view, beginning fifteen minutes before the explosion and covering the period directly thereafter. The six whose stories Hersey tells are probably not truly representative of the average Hiroshima survivor; indeed, critics have noted that the six were more fortunate than most. But by weaving vignettes of the bomb's tragic effects, Hersey created powerful images, sensitively detailing internal emotions by describing external actions. The impact on readers was enormous. According to Charles Poore, "Hiroshima penetrated the tissue of complacency we had built up. It penetrated it all the more inexorably because it told its story not in terms of graphs and charts but in terms of ordinary human beings."

Hersey intentionally created Hiroshima as a relatively objective, non-judgmental account of the bombing. His purpose was to jar the American reading public, upon whom an atmosphere of complacency had descended in the days and months following the blast. Hersey attempted to counteract this reaction by portraying the Japanese people as human beings, not as just an enemy in war. Readers of Hiroshima were made to visualize the terror the six survivors experienced and to understand the horrific human suffering caused by the bomb. The book's message is fundamental: Grave consequences follow grave acts. Hersey does not directly confront the moral issues surrounding the blast, choosing instead to spur serious, personal reflection on the part of all readers. Having read Hiroshima, each reader could hardly help facing this essential question: When, if ever, is it right for a nation to carry out such an act?

When Hiroshima originally appeared in The New Yorker in 1946, the issue was quickly sold out. Many alternative sources for gaining access to the text—for example, readings on national radio, free copies to Book-of-the-Month-Club members (on the grounds that nothing else in print "could be of more importance at this moment to the human race"), and complete reprintings in other publications—were quickly established. The immediate response was overwhelmingly positive—Albert Einstein ordered 1000 copies of the book, Bernard Baruch ordered 500, and numerous other readers purchased multiple copies. A few critics feared Hiroshima would create unwarranted sympathy for the Japanese, but even these commentators recognized the work's important cultural impact. In general, critics praised Hiroshima's humanistic view of war. A few, including Kingsley Widmer, faulted Hiroshima on stylistic grounds—Widmer claimed that "artful detail substitutes for moral intelligence"—but most were impressed by Hersey's simple, straightforward narrative technique. Today, commentators value Hiroshima as one of the most gripping works to emerge from the horrors of World War II. The work continues to reach a wide audience, ranging from young students in educational settings to more advanced students of philosophy, war, and geopolitics.

Just a reminder...July 16th, 1945

Pathos and irony...children of radiation and James Yamazaki

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