I just got back from a working trip to Hiroshima. The work didn’t take long, so I spent some time at the peace museum and park. This is not a happy story.
I had been to the Nagasaki peace museum. I’d seen the personal belongings and photos of those innocents who died so horribly. I thought I was prepared for how it was going to feel. But what I didn’t know was that on that August day, over six thousand kids were in downtown Hiroshima doing demolition work to build, ironically, a breakfront against fires. Many of them were incinerated instantly. Some managed to make it back to their homes only to die in agony hours or days later, while their families watched. There was no medicine, no food, no clean water. There was nothing they could do.
The rationale/propaganda I had been fed was that Japan was never, ever going to give up so the bombs were dropped in the name of ending the war and bringing peace. The truth is that Japan was already done; I am told that it is commonly accepted here that the bombs were dropped as an experiment, just to see what would happen. I don’t think I can accept either of those explanations, not completely.
While I was trying to get my head around all of that, and finding it hard to breathe, a woman came up behind me with a grandchild, I assume. I don’t know; I didn’t dare to look because she said, loudly and repeatedly, “You see? America did this. All of this. This is all America’s fault.” She used that word, “America”. I just stood there listening and thinking, “You know, we can’t really blame Canada or Mexico for this, but I don’t really think it’s fair to blame me, either.” You can’t peg me as American just by looking; I’m often mistaken for German. And don’t forget that Japan and Germany were allies at the time.
As all of this rattled through my brain, I decided it would be prudent to walk away. The old lady doesn’t ever need to know that I understood what she said. I wish I could un-know about the kids.
The question that keeps going through my head, though, is this: Did they know? When they decided to drop the bomb, did they know about the kids? Did they?
I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know the answer to that.