"The instant the A-bomb exploded, almost all of the houses collapsed. The scattered pieces of wood and other debris covered the ground, and in some places they were heaped into drifts. Those who were outdoors all died, and those who were caught under the collapsed houses were screaming for help, and those who barely escaped frantically ran around. The town got dark, and, when visibility was regained, the collapsed houses started to smolder and then took fire. While there were mixed outcries of calls and for help, the town turned into a sea of flames."
I came across that account and these pictures on a Japanese web site that came up by simply using the search terms "hiroshima nagasaki photos."
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two of the most heinous war crimes ever committed; the deliberate slaughter of a quarter million Japanese civilians.
The primary justification for those mass murders, that they saved more lives than the number of Japanese people we massacred, is still repeated. President Truman, who had on his desk our military's estimates of 40,000 possible US deaths if we continued with a "conventional" invasion, knew it was a lie when he first told it while announcing the first bomb on the radio, and said it would save 500,000 American lives. We're still shown the same sanitized images -- a beautiful mushroom cloud, a leveled landscape with a bare tree -- that wartime US censors permitted to be shown at the time. Most Americans still haven't seen the pictures of burned and blackened bodies the first photographers on the scene recorded but that were censored, or of the tumors that grew later in those who survived or the twisted mutated babies born later to women who were exposed to massive does of radiation by our bombs.
What's also astounding is that the peace and anti nuclear energy communities primarily responsible for keeping alive he memory of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the US never mention that a few months earlier more Japanese were killed in one firebombing raid on Tokyo than were killed in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. They don't mention the firebombing of the rest of Japan's cities, or of the terrible firebombings of the cities of Germany, also targeting primarily civilian targets, in the months before Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
|Tokyo after "Operation Meetinghouse" firebombing raid|
Maybe they don't know. Or maybe they're thinking about the atomic bombs we have today, which are thousands of times more powerful that the bombs we dropped 70 years ago. Maybe they're overwhelmed by the atrocities our government is committing now, every day, that they can easily read about on the internet now. There's only so much a person can handle, after all. Or maybe they just aren't as concerned about some deaths as they are about others.
No one among us isn't human, nor are we all inhumane. We're all disturbed by the things we consider to be atrocities, but we must fit the things that disturb us into the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. The stories of our lives, our countries, our people. We do acknowledge atrocities, even ones committed by our people, things like slavery and the genocide of the American Indians, but in order for them not to overwhelm our stories we must encapsulate our feelings about atrocities into discreet packages, that we then associate with the image of a mushroom cloud, a beheading, a dead, bloody Palestinian child. We see the picture, bad feelings come to the center of our consciousness and then eventually fade back to the recesses. Our story, the back story for the images that flit across the TV screen of our mind from the time we open our eyes every morning, and which is the basis for our understanding of what all those images mean, takes center stage, and holds it most of the time.
The American public, then and now, has consistently approved of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Polls taken in 1945 showed that substantial numbers of Americans, 13 percent, wouldn't have minded if all Japanese people had been killed. Some 22 percent thought of the Japanese as a subhuman species. Those figures haven't changed much, but we've transferred the objects of our dehumanizing and hatred to other groups; Black Americans, brown immigrants, Muslims.
We haven't changed, nor have the people in charge changed. They're still the most cynical, immoral and dishonest among us, the survivors of the brutal process of making it to the top. You can observe the changes taking place in them as they move up the ladder and learn what it takes to survive among the people more cynical, immoral and dishonest than themselves who inhabit the upper echelons of power in politics, business, religion and the media.
We get a glimpse of that world once in awhile, an insight into the criminality that abounds at the big banks. We hear about the president's glee in making out his weekly drone "kill lists" that he knows target things like wedding parties because they bring everyone together and out in the open. We see how those who run churches cover up, lie and then slide to bed with whoever.
We occasionally think about what a fantasy world the media, the biggest purveyor of government and Capitalist propaganda, creates for the smiling public officials and wealthy elites to operate in, but we can only take so much of knowing that it's an unreal image and that the reality is much darker. For our psychological and emotional well being we have to go back to the stories we tell ourselves about our country, and to our diversions, to the focus on the self, our own daily struggle. We're just trying to get by, enjoy life, survive. The world, well, that's how it is. That's how it's going to be. Not much I can do.
We assure ourselves that we're not in that 22 percent, surely not that 13 percent, who kind of liked it that Japanese people were burned alive, and who rise to cheer when a politician talks about building a wall on the southern border, who always take the side of the police and the military and the government, and who wish the Blacks, and the feminists, would just shut up once and for all. We assure ourselves even as we live among the 22 and 13 percent and let what they say stand uncontested because it acts as a shield against what we also fear but are too politically correct to talk about. Even as we let another anniversary of the mass murder of Japanese people pass knowing even worse weapons are being built every day.
We all have a little bit of the 22 percent, and the 13 percent, in us, but there are more important things to worry about. The payments, the portfolio, our health, our children. What's on TV. What's the weather like. Whatever it is that comes to mind when the images of mushroom clouds, and of stiff, blackened, burned bodies, so stark and disturbing when we see them, fade into the corners of our minds. The problem that resulted in the massacres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki isn't in our leaders, or our systems, or our governments. The problem is in us. It's in our nature. Human nature. Exactly where we aren't going to look for it.