70 Years After

On August 6, I joined 35-40 others in a mosaic-tiled garden in L.A’s Beachwood Canyon for a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. We sat in silence for half an hour and then, at 8:15 AM, the moment the Enola Gay dropped the bomb over Hiroshima, a cellist began to play. We listened to the trancelike drone of his bowing, the occasional plane above our heads in our peacetime city, the rumble of service trucks up the wooded canyon road, a dog barking across the street. A Buddhist priest chanted sutras and rang a bell 10 times, a Zen monk in maroon robes lead a chant of compassion for all beings.

In Los Alamos, NM– where the bomb was conceived and engineered– on this same day a group of citizens walked the streets in a silent march for peace. The organizer, the Rev. John Dear, proclaimed: “All roads lead to Los Alamos.” What is the connection between where the weapons of war are conceived and where the fall? What binds the people of both places together?

In Calais, desperate Somalis and Syrians risk their lives to cross the Chunnel into England, convinced that somewhere, there’s a better life. A life without bombs falling. They float across the Mediterranean in flimsy rafts, to wash ashore on Greek islands. A grey-haired woman sitting on the rocky beach of Lesbos watches for them. She says the flow of desperate people– including women and children– onto her local beach– “has driven me mad.”

When the British Prime Minister David Cameron refers to the “swarms” of people heading for British shores, does he realize he’s speaking of people, not insects? In Susan Southard’s new book on the bombing of Nagasaki, she quotes bombing survivor Yoshida Katsuji who puts it simply: “The basis for peace is for people to understand the pain of others.” Is he right?

One of the speakers at the Los Alamos peace march, the Rev. James Lawson (a civil rights veteran) was quoted in the NYTimes as saying “Today’s weapons of mass destruction are nothing but the evolution of our understanding of violence.” When asked what he meant by that, he replied: “The police officer who shoots an unarmed boy or sees a young man as a demon rushing at him represents the same lost regard for human life we learned with the bomb.”

His statement makes you stop and think. Stop and think. Take a moment. How does it all tie together? Tomorrow is seventy years from the day the United States dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, the last city to have endured an atomic weapon. In this nuclear-armed world this world of desperate people on rafts at sea– we must somehow continue to try to understand the pain of others.

7 Responses to “70 Years After”

  1. Larry Steinman Says:

    Powerful. Thanks Louise

  2. Doyle Lormah Says:

    Well you weave the many threads of our tragic cloak.

  3. Sarah Jacobus Says:

    I’ve just left Hiroshima with head and heart full of images of the powerful observances of the 70th anniversary. Thank you for your lucid writing. I don’t have words yet.

  4. Thanks Louise. The bomb has morphed into drones, unarmed assassination devices that hit “targets” deemed dangerous, like police taking out unarmed citizens. So appreciate your report and weaving of these themes.

  5. dsklar@danceth.net Says:

    Thank you dear Lulu.Reminders are always goodespecially when simply & eloquently stated.I hope the workshop with Cynthia was helpful.I’m just finishing 2 weeks in San Diego.much love,d

  6. Richard Katkov Says:

    Dear Lulu,

    I’m sorry it took me so long to respond / react to your ’70 Years Later’ post. Perhaps, some reflection on this particular topic is appropriate. I think your post is lovely, thoughtful, tragic.

    I remember as a child, my mother telling me about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was outraged that Truman and America did that. She defended the action on a number of fronts. ‘Japan attacked Pearl Harbor’; ‘We didn’t really know what the bomb would do’; ‘Dropping the bomb saved thousands of American lives’ (including an uncle who was steaming towards the Japanese mainland). I remember thinking that all these arguments were ridiculous. I would try to discuss this with her on several occasions. Oddly, my father was notably silent. I concluded that the impasse was generational and sad.

    You always stimulate thinking, Louise.

    Love,

    D

    Richard Katkov

    Mulder-Katkov Architecture

    2431 22nd Street

    Santa Monica, CA 90405

    T: (310) 392-3441

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