David Swanson / David Swanson.org – 2018-08-14 22:24:15
“I Survived Because . . . “
David Swanson / David Swanson.org
Doves fly over the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in western Japan on August 6, 2012 during a memorial ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
(August 14, 2018) — “I survived because I was walking to a building that was behind a small hill that faced downtown. I was standing in such a way that the building was to my right and the stone garden was to my left. It was my daughter’s wedding day and I was pushing the wedding dresses in a wheelbarrow to the wedding hall.
“All of a sudden, for no obvious reason, I was just knocked to the ground. I never heard the bomb . . . I was about to get up when suddenly wood and debris fell from the sky and hit me on the head and back, so I stayed on the ground. . . . I couldn’t even hear the wood falling. . . .
“When I did start to hear, it was an odd sound. I ran to a hill area where I could look down to the city. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The whole city of Hiroshima was gone. And the noise I heard — it was people. They were moaning and walking like zombies with their arms and hands stretched out in front of them and their skin was hanging off their bones.”
Not everyone was walking. Not everyone was even so much as a prostrate corpse. Many people had been vaporized like water on a hot frying pan. They left “shadows” on the ground that in some cases still remain.
But some walked or crawled. Some made it to hospitals where others could hear their exposed bones clacking on the floor like high heels. At the hospitals, maggots crawled into their wounds and their noses and ears. The maggots ate the patients alive from the inside out.
The dead sounded metallic when thrown into trashcans and trucks, sometimes with their young children crying and moaning for them nearby. The black rain fell for days, raining death and horror. Those who drank water died instantly. Those who thirsted dared not drink.
Those untouched by illness sometimes developed red spots and died quickly enough to watch the death seep over them. The living lived in terror. The dead were added to mountains of bones now viewed as lovely grass hills from which the smell has finally departed.
These are the stories recounted in Melinda Clarke’s small and perfect new book, Waymakers for Peace: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Survivors Speak. For non-readers, there’s video.
There almost wasn’t.
The US Occupation Force forbid speaking of the horror from September 17, 1945 to April 1952. Film of the suffering and destruction was confiscated and stashed in the US National Archives. In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed the Sunshine Law. The Hiroshima Nagasaki Publishing Company was told it would have to buy the film, raised the money, and bought it. Donations from over 100,000 people liberated the footage found in The Lost Generation (1982). Show it to anyone not working to ban nuclear weapons and war.
“I don’t blame America for the bombing,” says one survivor, who has the modern conception of war, if not the law, down pat. “When war breaks out any steps may be used, even the most severe and cruel methods to secure victory. The issue, it seems to me, isn’t That Day. The real question is war. War is the unpardonable crime against heaven and humanity. War is a disgrace to civilization.”
Clarke concludes her book with a discussion of the significance of the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the utility of what I proposed in When the World Outlawed War 2011), the celebration of August 27th as a day for peace and the abolition of war. Clarke includes a copy of a proclamation of August 27th as Kellogg-Briand Pact Day issued by the Mayor of the County of Maui in 2017, a step taken in 2013 by St. Paul, Minnesota.
This upcoming August 27th is 90 years since the signing of the Peace Pact. I’ll be speaking about it that day in Kellogg’s hometown, the twin cities of Minnesota.
If you’d like to learn about the case for abolishing war,
I recommend this website or this newly updated list of books:
THE WAR ABOLITION COLLECTION:
Waymakers for Peace: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Survivors Speak
by Melinda Clarke, 2018.
The Business Plan For Peace:
Building a World Without War
by Scilla Elworthy, 2017.
War Is Never Just
by David Swanson, 2016.
A Global Security System: An Alternative to War
by World Beyond War, 2015, 2016, 2017.
A Mighty Case Against War: What America Missed in US History Class and What We (All) Can Do Now
by Kathy Beckwith, 2015.
War: A Crime Against Humanity
by Roberto Vivo, 2014.
Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War
by David Carroll Cochran, 2014.
War and Delusion: A Critical Examination
by Laurie Calhoun, 2013.
Shift: The Beginning of War, the Ending of War
by Judith Hand, 2013.
War No More: The Case for Abolition
by David Swanson, 2013.
The End of War
by John Horgan, 2012.
Transition to Peace
by Russell Faure-Brac, 2012.
From War to Peace: A Guide To the Next Hundred Years
by Kent Shifferd, 2011.
War Is A Lie
by David Swanson, 2010, 2016.
Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace
by Douglas Fry, 2009.
Living Beyond War
by Winslow Myers, 2009.
David Swanson to Speak in Twin Cities on
90th Anniversary of the Kellogg-Briand Pact
August 27, 2018, marks 90 years since the single biggest news story of 1928, the signing by the world’s major nations of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, outlawing war. The treaty, still on the books, is named, as is Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul, for Frank Kellogg, the only Minnesotan to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
David Swanson will speak in the Twin Cities of Minnesota on August 26th at the Veterans For Peace National Convention and on August 27th at May Day Books (7 p.m. at 301 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis, MN).
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
From: J.E., an American activist living in Japan
Thank you, David, for this excellent piece. That second paragraph starting with “not everyone was walking” — I have never read about the immediate aftermath in one paragraph with some of the most shocking elements mentioned, although I have read twenty or so survivor stories, heard a few survivors give speeches, and spoken to a few survivors in one on one conversations. Something that is never discussed is the fact that the trauma continues today.
It is easy to forget, even for me, that Japan is a culture of silence. The hibakusha and their children were discriminated against for decades. A hibakusha I knew was pretty anti-American but did not speak about what he saw for 50 years, until around 2000, and even when he did speak, he did not give many details about what he himself experienced.
He was at ground zero in Hiroshima about two hours after the bomb was dropped, so he saw the people with their skin hanging off, and he heard people screaming for water. He did talk about that. Almost everyone he knew out of hundreds who were there on August 6th were dead by 2003. (He was sent to Hiroshima with his unit, i.e., sent by the military to clean up the wreckage). He was one of the few blessed with a long healthy life, in spite of being a hibakusha. He was one of the people building the huge piles of corpses that you mentioned. His view of Americans was very much shaped by August 6th, 1945.
I have the impression that there is far less discrimination now, but the stories remain, the pain of the survivors is still there, the anger of the loved ones who were intimate with the survivors is there, anger against blissfully ignorant Americans is still there naturally, always under the surface.
I’m sure that one million Japanese will have had tears flowing down their face at one time this month, even now in 2018, as a direct result of the two bombs. Tears shed in silence, often when nobody is watching. Japanese have been indoctrinated to be pro-American to an extent you wouldn’t believe, and that’s another reason for the silence, the silence about their pain. (Thank you for mentioning the censorship, by the way. Super important point. That’s another cause of the silence). Kind of like the stiff upper lip of the British.
In this feudalistic society, honor is super important, as you know. And there are harsh words for crybabies. It used to be much worse. The men of the generation who were adults at the time of the two bombings were generally the “strong silent type.” Japanese patriarchy would not let them express their pain. They had to be the hero of their family.
The hibakusha men lived in unimaginable, silent pain. And in this patriarchal society women were, of course, silenced even more. I have the impression that they could cry in front of their closest friends and speak more freely about their feelings than men in certain intimate spaces, but in general they were silenced even more than men and, in small towns at least, they could almost never speak in public about anything.
In one small town where I lived, one woman who spoke out about an environmental degradation issue was labeled as a “communist” around 2002. And all she did was ask a question at a city council meeting.
Japan is not a feudal society today. It is definitely a capitalist economy with consumerism, extractivism, individualistic atomization, and lack of loyalty just like the States, but some feudalistic habits still continue. One of those is the discrimination of a caste society. Yes, a caste society. Nobody wants to admit it, but Japan was very much a caste society only 200 years ago, in my opinion. It was not very unlike India.
The status system of samurai at the top, farmers next, then craftsmen, and merchants at the bottom (and the Burakumin below them) locked into their position by law was abolished in the late 19th century, so that allowed Japan to modernize quickly (except legal documents recording who was a Burakumin and who was a member of the imperial house continued to be maintained, as they are today, so three status levels were continued).
But your status 200 years ago was determined by birth even more than in a class differentiated society like America today, and your status had less to do with money than with which family or clan you were a member of. Many samurai were materially poor. The Burakumin of Japan were like the Dalits of India — viewed as permanently filthy because of the work they did.
And in this feudalistic-habit-remaining capitalist society of Buddhism, Shintoism, and the “emperor system” (also a religion of sorts that was developed in the late 19th century), the hibakusha of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and now Fukushima are viewed as dirty or “polluted” and almost “contaminated” by many ignorant people. So they face a discrimination with some similarities to what the Burakumin face. Hibakusha don’t like the word “contaminated.” Their descendants are healthy just like other people’s descendants. There is nothing dirty about their children and grandchildren.
I think researchers are still in the early stages of becoming aware of the repercussions of the two bombs, a catalog of what the negative effects are. Right now is Obon season in Japan, when the spirits of the dead return to visit their families. Think “friendly ghosts.” These are not ghosts from hell. People are putting out food for the ghosts to eat and cleaning their family’s gravestones. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese spirits killed by the two bombs are returning to their hometowns, and the living are remembering those departed souls. Stories will be told about uncles and aunts and grandparents who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
So this is perfect timing for your piece, David. Thank you. I believe that Americans have a role to play in the healing process. Yelling from the mountaintops “Never again! No more Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis” is one way that we Americans can help with healing. Because it demonstrates that these murdered souls did not die in vain, that the way in which they were wronged will not be forgotten, that lessons will be learned.
I will try to find translators to help me translate pieces like this into Japanese, in order to educate young Japanese and to make Japanese aware that there are some Americans who care and think and study and take action after having learned from the mistakes of the past.