Photo Lake Kawaguchi, Japan by Steven Diaz on Unsplash
I like to believe that the people of the United States are intelligent, principled, truthful, generous, and faithful to the founding values of this country. That certainly is true for many individuals, particularly, those I call friend. And yet it was this country that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities in Japan. It was a new weapon, first successfully detonated on July 16, 1945, in a remote desert location in New Mexico.
The bombings of the two Japanese cities killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 people in Nagasaki; it is estimated that roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day, but many suffered over 4 months before dying. Thousands of people were made homeless and there was concern about cancer rates and genetic anomalies post radiation exposure.
Viewing these bombings through the lens of 1945 within a World at War on two fronts, cautions one to avoid second-guessing the choices of that time without research and study. Certainly, it was a dark time in human history. Statistics indicate that there were 416,800 US military deaths in that war. Yet amazingly, we did not learn from that horrific experience and still today we continue to think of war as a possible and often necessary way to solve problems.
Perhaps, it is time to examine the underlying assumptions that prevent us from learning from tragedies; such as, World War 2 and the use of the atomic bomb. One erroneous assumption is to believe that violence prevents further violence. We seem to ignore the reality that people traumatized by violence often become violent. We act as though violence is the normal outcome of anger, diversity, and/or disagreement. We gloat about military might as though it is the measure of who we are as a people.
Another erroneous assumption is the subconscious belief that we are not global citizens. We believe that our country is biggest and best and must remain that at the expense of other countries. Somehow, we forget that what we do in the world at large has consequences for everyone, including us. Our corporations may damage earth with little concern for the effect on air, water, land, and other people, particularly the poor. Our tariffs may lead to a shift in trade which damages rainforests and crops of neighboring countries. We behave as though we are alone except when we want to use earth’s resources found elsewhere. We fear that sharing will lead to reduction and risk.
Another assumption is that we equate power with worth. We fail to value negotiation, relationship, diversity, kindness as a nation. Unless we are acknowledged as “better than” we become threatened and fail to work for peace and global well-being. It is too easy for us to describe the qualities of surrender and vulnerability using the criteria of winning and losing.
In our documents as a people, we say that we value liberty, equality, freedom and we assert a national and celebrated openness to immigrants, dreamers, refugees. We talk of the “American Dream” as available to anyone who comes to our shores. Clearly, it is time to remind ourselves of who we want to be. Let’s allow the anniversaries of these bombings refuel our desire to be people of hope. Let us resolve to become peacemakers. Let us become leaders in caring for earth, in helping the poor, in honoring diversity, in being good members of a global family – let that be the true “American Dream”.
Karen Rossman, OP