Sixty seven years ago on August 6th the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and killed at least 166,000 people.  On August 9 a second nuclear bomb was deployed on Nagasaki and destroyed 80,000 more.  At this news I, as a 12 year old patriotic daughter in a military family, rejoiced with triumphant glee.  The war was a glorious cause for the neighborhood kids and it seemed wonderful that so many enemies had been killed at one blow.   

It never crossed my mind that incinerating individuals (including women and children) and destroying cities might be immoral or less than Christian.  An earlier resistance to  bombing European cities as unethical had been overcome in the beginning of the war and was never mentioned again.  Any empathy for the Japanese was erased from consciousness because of the pervasive racist conditioning we had been subjected to in  movies and comic books. The Japanese were depicted as less than human, similar to monkeys or thought of as a “nameless mass of vermin.”

Our leaders held up the extermination and annihilation of Japan and its people as the war’s righteous goal.  Censorship ensured that we were ignorant of the remote concentration camps where Japanese American citizens were incarcerated. Later too after the war silence was pervasive and documentary films of the atomic destruction were rarely shown.    

I never heard a dissenting word against the violent destructiveness of war until I attended a Quaker college and met pacifists.  Soon after in converting to Catholicism I became inspired by Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker’s witness to the church’s peace and justice teachings.  The road home from the crusades has been a long one.

On every anniversary of Hiroshima I am reminded with shame how flawed human beings like ourselves can be.  Individuals are blindly shaped by group conditioning and can learn to turn off innate responses of empathy for others.  Quite routinely contradictory assumptions and beliefs are accepted: Love your enemies,yet support killing them.

 People succeed in turning away from collective injustice and horrible atrocities.  Only much later is the abuse, the war crime, the genocide acknowledged and brought to light.  At least retrospective shame can induce the disquieting question: What injustice might we be calmly accepting at the moment?       

 

 

Comments

J Cosgrove | 8/9/2012 - 9:39am
Miss Evans, Thank you for clarifying your name.


''Mr. JR Cosgrove, I have seen your kind of disagreements in other conversations and so have no intention of getting in an argument with you here.'' 


I don't look at it as getting into an argument.  I look at it at trying to establish a dialogue and understanding each other's point of view and using facts and reasons as the basis of what one believes and espouses.  Something that is rarely done on this site and sad because it is sponsored by the Jesuits, supposedly the epitome of rational dialogue.  At least they were when they taught me.
J Cosgrove | 8/8/2012 - 3:07pm
''Can we all agree that nuclear weapons should NEVER be used again? By our nation under any circumstances?''

That would be an invitation for someone else to use them on us or anyone they dislike. If we say we will never use them even if attacked then the deterrent value of them is gone.  So by agreeing to the statement above, it is an invitation for someone to cause the death of hundreds of million if not billions of people.  So what is the moral thing to do.  Renouce nuclear weapons and watch hundreds of millions die or keep the option open to use them and save these hundreds of million of people.
Kang Dole | 8/7/2012 - 6:52pm
"For a period of nearly 200 years from the time of Augustus to around the time of Marcus Aurelius' death the Roman Empire was one of the safest places in world history as the legions kept the peace and prevented outside forces from attacking.  It was known as Pax Romana.  One could leave the coast of Normandy, take paved roads all the way to Damascus speaking one language, using one currency and not worry about any harm."

If his hand wasn't nailed to a Roman cross, Jesus would probably being doing a facepalm right about now.
J Cosgrove | 8/7/2012 - 6:37pm
David Power,

''For a clue to what happened when you stepped out of line during the Pax Romana I would suggest a reading of the last few chapters of the Gospels.''


I have read them and these stories make my point.  It is a good argument for a strong military and the willingness to use it.  I didn't say they acted nice all the time or they were morally right either but they probably were in the right sometimes and wrong others.  I just said they reduced loss of life which is probably true and in the course of this saving of lives, many innocent ones got taken.  There is one especially good example, but then again that was a plan, wasn't it.
J Cosgrove | 8/7/2012 - 6:02pm
Dave,

I am not sure I agree with the author's point of view or what Sr. Megan is doing.  I understand their concerns and I understand the horrors of war.  I recently got through a book on World War I, a truly senseless and gruesome war which is the root of our troubles today nearly 100 years later.  In one anecdote twin American nurses committed suicide on the way home from the War due to the emotional harm they went through while tending the wounded. 


But I personally believe the actions of pacifists and their point of view lead to more deaths not fewer.  We can certainly debate this but there is a point of view that a strong military actually saves lives and in the case at the end of WWII specific military actions may have saved millions of lives.  I tend to agree with Thucydides and that the cause of war is weakness.  Thus, in order to prevent war one has to be ready to go to war.  For a period of nearly 200 years from the time of Augustus to around the time of Marcus Aurelius' death the Roman Empire was one of the safest places in world history as the legions kept the peace and prevented outside forces from attacking.  It was known as Pax Romana.  One could leave the coast of Normandy, take paved roads all the way to Damascus speaking one language, using one currency and not worry about any harm.


So all I am saying is that a lot of people subscribe to an entirely different philosophy than the author and Sr. Megan.  Which is right?  Sometimes it is hard to know.  I have never seen a good argument for pacifism.  It is usually an emotional one, not one based on facts and reason.  But because one does not like the others point of view is no reason to view them as militaristic or uncaring.  They in fact may care more. 
J Cosgrove | 8/7/2012 - 2:31pm
From Wikipedia


''R. J. Rummel, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, states that between 1937 and 1945, the Japanese military murdered from nearly 3,000,000 to over 10,000,000 people, most likely 6,000,000 Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war. ''This democide was due to a morally bankrupt political and military strategy, military expediency and custom, and national culture.'' According to Rummel, in China alone, during 1937–45, approximately 3.9 million Chinese were killed, mostly civilians, as a direct result of the Japanese operations and 10.2 million in the course of the war. The most infamous incident during this period was the Nanking Massacre of 1937–38, when, according to the findings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the Japanese Army massacred as many as 300,000 civilians and prisoners of war, although the accepted figure is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. In Southeast Asia, the Manila massacre resulted in the death of 100,000 civilians in the Philippines. It is estimated that at least one out of every 20 Filipinos died at the hand of the Japanese during the occupation. In the Sook Ching massacre, Lee Kuan Yew, the ex-Prime Minister of Singapore, said during an interview with National Geographic that there were between 50,000 and 90,000 casualties while according to Major General Kawamura Saburo, there were 5,000 casualties in total. There were other massacres of civilians e.g. the Kalagong massacre..''


We can forever argue just how many would have been killed in the battle for Japan.  The estimate for Americans was 1 million and many times that for the Japanese.  Nearly every purple medal awarded to US military personnel since WWII were those manufactured for the Battle of Japan.  They had 500,000 made up.


So did the bombings of Hiroshia and Nagasaki end up saving millions of lives.  Probably but some will dispute it.  I also heard recently that  the Japanese were still not ready to surrender after the atomic bombs but it took one last raid with conventional bombs that made the final difference.  On August 14th over a 1000 planes bombed Tokyo.  The next day the Emperor surrendered
David Pasinski | 8/8/2012 - 3:48pm
"Ay, there's this the rub," JR... a question that people of good will and even Catholic theologians (:-)) have been grappling with for these many years.. "deterrence" has been the bishops rationale for not condemnig the development of weapons even as theyand thePope of conservatives and liberals alike has seemed to condemn their possible use... Is this the stalemate that we continue at? US has not renounced first-strike, I don't believe.

 Do we have any responsibility with that? Or all we all so so focussed on "jobs" and faux "religious liberty" issues that we don't even want to continue talking abut this because it's too difficult????
J Cosgrove | 8/9/2012 - 6:35pm
Dave, You might be interested in a short story by Isaac Asimov called ''Silly Asses.''

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silly_Asses

I read it several years ago. 

I don't think nuclear weapons are an issue at the moment.  That could change if the Iranians test a bomb.
David Pasinski | 8/8/2012 - 2:18pm
Can we all agree that nuclear weapons should NEVER be used again? By our nation under any circumstances?

if we disagree with that, then we havfea long slog to come to agreement... and, for what it's worth, find ourselves out side the mainstream of all papal, conservative,  liberal, and other moral theology as I see it...
David Pasinski | 8/9/2012 - 5:14pm
Perhaps that's the end of this post... on teh anniversary of Nagasaki... I'll take it that no one is interested in my question... or cannot justify the use of this weapon... I'd like to believe the latter.. Say a prayer for Sr. Megan and her co-defendants... and maybe of rthose maintaining and prooting thesse weapons of mass destrcuction in all nations....God help us... and we have to helpurselves
Melody Evans | 8/8/2012 - 12:52am
Very thoughtful blog but kind of sad responses.  I grew up hearing the same thing as is being said here.  That if we hadn't used those bombs even more would have died.  Why do we justify killing women, children and the elderly (civilians) along with men in such a way?  A group of lucky people died instantly but even more were burned to death or died slowly of radiation poisoning.  I don't question the goodness of the hearts making these arguments because it is the same one given by my father and grandfather whom I love.  Is it a guilty conscience that causes us to reach for anything that will justify our actions (might I add again here, against children, women, elderly... civilians)?

I know that there are injustices taking place right now by America.  The difficult part is, what can I do?  The only thing that I can think to do is to not be a cheerleader or an excuser for bad military-industrial-complex behavior.  But that is pathetically little.  As Mr Dave Pasinski asked, What am I called to do?
David Pasinski | 8/9/2012 - 11:59am
Now that's that' settled... JR, since you seemto be denfending stockpiling or at least possessing nuclear weapons, do you think they ever would be justified to be used?
First or second strike?
I would welcome others who would justify their use also to acknowledge that and why you think so, if you wish.
david power | 8/7/2012 - 6:19pm
Sounds wonderful JR.
For a clue to what happened when you stepped out of line  during the Pax Romana I would suggest a reading of the last few chapters of the Gospels.
Agree that pacifism is irrational though.
Melody Evans | 8/8/2012 - 10:53pm
p.s. - I will agree with you Mr JR Cosgrove that my use of the word "silly" was a belittling word and therefore inappropriate.  I apologize.
david power | 8/7/2012 - 4:31pm
Fr Pedro Arrupe was there and the whole thing had a profound effect on him spiritually.
Malachi Martin wrote an incredible piece in his book on the Jesuits.


http://www.welcom.org.nz/?sid=617

All of life is or can be complex but anybody of sane mind must just exhale at the senseless slaughter of so many.

I am not sure if America would dedicate a piece to the many Americans who gave their lives for the freedom of the world.I do know that in Rome on liberation day if you wave an American flag you could be beaten up but if you wave a communist flag it is the norm.

This song sums up the "glory" of war.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvPtkzdbv90 


Melody Evans | 8/8/2012 - 10:43pm
Mr. JR Cosgrove, I have seen your kind of disagreements in other conversations and so have no intention of getting in an argument with you here.  I will say that I simply stated my opinion in my post and have left it up to whoever follows to either agree or disagree. 

MISS Mel Evans
David Pasinski | 8/7/2012 - 2:59pm
Some interesting history there, JR...

The argument is endless about the "morality" of these initial bombings, but that really is no longer the question.

The bishops - when they had somewhat more credibility, if even then judged by some to be naive - issued their '86 (?) pastoral calling for some end to the arms race...

Is my friend Sr. Megan best advancing that? What do the rest of us do?
J Cosgrove | 8/8/2012 - 6:11pm
Mr. Evans,

It is one thing to disagree with someone. It quite another to mock them.  I suggest you try to state the rationale behind your postions rather plainly.  I have stated mine in brief.  Then we can look at each and if we can not convince the other of our postion, then we can agree to disagree and others can take away from it what they wish.


Otherwise it just looks like you are saying, look at me, I am a morally superior postion person to those who disagree with me.  So ignore what those who disagree with me on this are saying because they are not worthy of consideration.
David Pasinski | 8/7/2012 - 2:20pm
My 82 year old friend, Sr, Megan Rice, was arrested last week for spilling their blood and hammering on a system makingthe only weapons grade uranium in the US at Oak Ridge at a nuclear facility. She may welll be sentenced to years of prison and die there.

Many other friends faced sentencing because of convictions of trespassingin non-viollent protest against drone warfare at our local base (Hancock Air Base) where piilots are stationed.

Are these actions prophecy or folly? Wha am I called to do...?

These actions and questions are the legacy of Hiroshima.
Melody Evans | 8/8/2012 - 5:21pm
Mr JR Cosgrove's last post has me rereading Dr Seuss' "The Butter Battle Book."  It is rather fitting for a discussion that has taken a turn into building up nuclear armaments as "defense." A silly idea since nuclear weapons are clearly not defensive weapons but so completely offensive weapons.  Having them does not deter someone else from getting them, instead it encourages them to have their own so if they feel it necessary they can strike first.


"On every anniversary of Hiroshima I am reminded with shame how flawed human beings like ourselves can be.  Individuals are blindly shaped by group conditioning and can learn to turn off innate responses of empathy for others.  Quite routinely contradictory assumptions and beliefs are accepted: Love your enemies,yet support killing them."

I think the group conditioning referred to here is the idea that we own nuclear weapons as defense and we used nuclear weapons on Japanese civilians (women, children, elderly, etc...) to save lives.