|Hiroshima this morning remembers the atomic bomb: "The city set up about 880 seats, less than one-tenth of the usual|
number, and scrapped sections allocated for general admission."
The screen shot above is from a Japanese news story about the commemorative celebrations at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park at 8:15 AM August 6, 2020 (Japan Standard Time). It depicts the preparation of the seating for attendees at the event, which took place at the exact time when the first atomic bomb was dropped, at 8:15 AM August 6, 1945. In a story titled "Hiroshima marks 75th atomic bomb anniversary with call for unity in pandemic" and in the accompanying video, The Japan Times summarized the event, pointing out that the survivors, whose average age is now 83, are becoming a smaller and smaller group (link).
The survivors of the blast, the hibakusha, have always played an important role in envisioning a world without war, especially without nuclear war. Their numbers are now drastically diminished, as discussed in an article in the New York Times today, "Hiroshima 75th Anniversary: Preserving Survivors’ Message of Peace" (link). The widely spaced chairs in the photo tell this story:
"City officials and peace activists had envisioned a series of grand events to commemorate what will most likely be the last major anniversary of the bombing for almost all of the hibakusha (pronounced hee-bak-sha) still living. But the coronavirus forced them to curtail the events, moving conferences on nuclear disarmament online, canceling or postponing related meetings and reducing the number of attendees to around 800, one-tenth of the turnout during a normal year."I see this image of distanced chairs for survivors of the atomic bomb as a chilling reminder that after a lifetime of anticipation that another nuclear war was always a possible threat to humanity, we -- humanity -- now face a new threat that's not at all what we expected. In recent years, besides the fear of nuclear war, new existential threats to our species and our civilization have captured my imagination and my fears. My horror at actions of the currently disastrous leadership of our country also lead me to some pretty depressing thoughts about alternate fates for humanity. But fear of nuclear war, which in a way haunted my youth, persists.
As an American, I have very complex feelings about World War II and the decision of our leaders to drop the two bombs on Japan, with all the disastrous consequences including 75 more years of living with the existential threat to humanity. If only the world would listen to the mayor of Hiroshima who said, "Hiroshima considers it our duty to build in civil society a consensus that the people of the world must unite to achieve nuclear weapons abolition and lasting world peace."
Blog post by mae sander copyright © 2020, photo as credited.