Wednesday, August 5, 2009
"There is just no reason."
Bix forgot to put his charged batteries back in his camera this morning, so as we approached the A-bomb Dome I handed him mine to snap away on. Turns out, after years of trying to get him familiar with technology (which it seems he keeps away with a ten foot stick), he loves taking digital pictures, and then reviewing the results with a combination of delight and surprise. We handed the camera to another visitor, asking them to take one of us together, then they requested that we reciprocate. As I took their camera and began to frame our new friends against the skeleton of one of the few surviving buildings from pre-1945, I heard Bix's voice ask, "um... Tamara?" Upon glancing his direction, I knew immediately the situation he found himself in, and one of the few situations he will ever ask for help with: another pair of visitors had asked him to take their picture, and handed him an advanced digital camera with a flash and lens attached. "Tamara? Could you, maybe?" he asked. Perhaps Bix`s new found love for pictures only goes so far.
That is the joy of traveling to Hiroshima with Bix: we find ourselves surrounded by stories and pictures and the reality of humanity`s worst mistake, find ourselves buried in sorrow and unable to see how we can recover, and yet somehow Bix can still make you smile, help you laugh easily. I needed that help very much today.
We left the A-bomb dome and walked across the Peace Park to the Hiroshima Peace Museum, where we paid our entrance fees and rented audio guides in English. Bix and I debated last night how long it would take to go through the Museum; I bet one hour, he bet four. Although he was technically right and we did leave after four hours, I think perhaps we were both wrong. We could still be walking through that exhibit right now and not have had enough time. I wish I could explain. I wish I had words that could help you feel the way that I felt, looking at a watch frozen forever at 8:15am, at the binoculars used by the Enola Gay, reading letters written by the Mayor of Hiroshima each time another country tested nuclear weapons, watching a video of the mushroom cloud, standing over a replica of the city before, and then after, the bombing. I wish I could explain, but I can`t. Perhaps soon, perhaps never. All I know is, I would not wish that on my worst enemy. Hell should not exist here on Earth, and what we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was so much worse than hell.
Outside of the Museum, Bix stopped dead in his tracks and turned to me with anger on his face, "There is just no reason" he said. "There is absolutely no reason for us to still have the capability to drop those bombs."
Our delegation met up again at the A-bomb Dome, then left by street car to the Peace Cathedral where we took part in the Catholic Symposium on nuclear weapons. Six priests sat at tables in the front of the Cathedral to present their thoughts (I wont even get started now on the lack of women we saw represented throughout our time today at the Cathedral... don`t get me started...). A few key quotes and highlights:
Fr. Bob Cushing: "The art of peace making is in the sharing of the journey that we take together right now... We in the US struggle with an inability to be honest about the past... Those who are persecuted for justice are indeed blessed."
B.P. Matsuura: "Now is the time to find a new way for us to live together in peace."
Fr. Koezuka: "There has been a great swelling of movement against nuclear weapons due to Obama`s speech. But he said that he probably wouldn`t see it in his lifetime. Some Japanese respond to this speech by saying that they have been protected by the nuclear umbrella so not to take it away... My belief is very simple, but I cannot take my attention away from the fact that August 6th, 1945 was a turning point in human history. It showed us that we have the ability to destroy each other completely."
Following the symposium we crossed the courtyard to take part in a listening activity with a Hibakusha. The room was packed, and I found myself sitting in the hallway listening, rather than seeing and fully experiencing, the story. Ashley mentioned afterward that even though she did not know what the woman was saying, as it was in Japanese, that there was a moment when everyone in the room began to cry, so she too began to cry.
As I sat in the hallway, one of the reporters who we`ve been talking with while here came and sat with me. He asked what I had thought of the Museum this morning, and I gave him my inadequate attempt at describing the indescribable, the unimaginable. He then responded that even for him, the first time he went to the Museum, there were no words. He still couldn`t believe what had happened, it was just too terrible.
It`s one minute to midnight here, one minute to the day when, 64 years ago, the first atomic bomb was dropped. This time, 64 years ago, a small handful of Americans knew that in 8 hours and fifteen minutes, something terrible would occur in Hiroshima. This time, 64 years ago, 140,000 people were sleeping, eating, working, and living, not knowing that in 8 hours and fifteen minutes their lives would end in a feat of violence like none we have ever experienced.
"There is just no reason."