Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Atomic Age

Today, August 6th, marks the sixty-fourth anniversary of the American atomic attack on Hiroshima, which lead to the Japanese surrender nine days later and ushered in the nuclear age. The blast instantly killed a staggering 70,000 people, injured that same number, lead to countless deaths by leukemia and other cancers, and destroyed 69% of the city's buildings. Heavy shit.

I crawled out of bed at 8 AM to watch the yearly Hiroshima memorial service on the national broadcasting network, which culminated in the ringing of a bell and a minute of silence at 8:15. Someone who may have been Prime Minister Aso made a speech that, strikingly, ended with a hearty English shout-out for the world to remember the bombing, hasten nuclear disarmament, and Obamafy the nation. I am not making this last part up. As well-intentioned as this evocation of our president may have been, I found the obfuscated verb form shameless and slightly demeaning, and went back to sleep.

Take time out to remember the day. A hell of a lot more people died in this attack than on September 11th.


Randall said...

It's funny, I've actually been thinking about this a lot, for a really strange reason, not even realizing the "anniversary" was on it's way.

I've been watching this cartoon from over in Japan called "Welcome to the N.H.K." which is about this shut-in, or hikikomori, who has this girl next door trying to bring him out of his shell. And there's one episode where, to much hilarity, he discovers how easy it is to get pornography off the internet, and fills his hard drive full of it, backsliding from the little progress he's made socially in the series.

The funny thing, and "funny" I guess is not the word, exactly, but you know, while he's looking, he's also... enjoying himself, and to show when he ejaculates, the screen cuts to an atomic explosion with the comical tag [artist's rendition] underneath. And you know, I just watched this, not thinking about the societal thing, and sort of laughing my ass of, and it was not until later, when I was talking about this part of the series with someone else, I thought: "Huh, weird, this doesn't seem like something, considering history, that would be okay to make light of." I mean, in some ways, I guess it would be no more controversial than a 9/11 joke on Family Guy, but still -- I think, by and large, a lot of people have problems with those too [and anyway, FG isn't the benchmark for anything].

So I asked our friend Heke about it, as she's been there for awhile now, and she told me that no, it wasn't that odd, because in a lot of ways in Japanese culture the days the bombs were dropped is largely... not glossed over, just not something everyone dwells on. She also sort of said it was kind of rushed over in history texts and such, not unlike some of our own dubious American history, which I thought was interesting, since it meant that not only was the depiction in the cartoon not risque, some people in Japan might not even make the connection I stumbled upon.

And honestly, I keep forgetting to ask in our e-mails, and now seems like as good a time as any. So, thoughts, man?

Julia said...

Hey, Ian! Glad to see life's pretty good. I remember when I was about 8, we had an exchange student from Japan, Rie, come to live with us for the summer. And guess what day she moved in?

Mike said...

yeah but it's okay because they were just asians.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was a soldier in WWII. About 45 minutes after the bombing of Hiroshima, he and his regiment were sent down to look for survivors (which is just a fuck-load of bullshit if you ask me). Of course, they found none, but what he did see he never talked about.
To see dead bodies is one thing, but to see people carbonized into nothing but shadows on the walls must of been too much to talk about.
My grandfather died over a decade ago. His body was riddled with aneurysms, he was one of the last survivors of his regiment. All of them died odd deaths like sudden kidney failure or multiple brain tumors. Radiation effects the body in strange ways.