Today, I interrupt my anime blog to talk about an important historical event – one that isn’t really history so much as it is the dire present.
Today, tens of thousands of people gathered at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park to remember the horrors that took place this day, exactly seventy years ago. They lit lanterns, burned incense sticks, released doves over the Atomic Bomb dome and clapped their hands in prayer, all fervently believing in that same wish for peace: Never again.
Never again should a nuclear bomb be dropped on civilians, destroying countless innocent lives.
Never again should the scourge of nuclear radiation haunt its victims’ lives until the end of their days.
Never again should such devastating human cost be justified in the name of “stopping the war”.
Unfortunately, we as a human race have failed to make good of our promises. Hiroshima and Nagasaki might remain the only two cities to have suffered the direct brunt of a nuclear bomb strike, but nuclear proliferation has not decreased in the wake of this tragedy – it has only increased, and the weapons themselves have become far more powerful.
We live in a world where the cold war never ended, and where hot wars break out all the time. A world where nuclear-related accidents happen because of government and corporate malpractice, but whose victims are stifled and left to suffer the long-term health consequences. A world where wars are fought with the push of a button, where drones kill innocents and in doing so beget more killing.
We live in a world that cannot, must not forget Hiroshima, however much amnesia might seem like bliss.
It is ironic, then, that today’s message of peace came from the grandson of a war criminal. This same man is fighting to restart potentially faulty nuclear power plants and pushing a radical reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution.
“We have to continue our effort to achieve a world without nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today, but I am not sure if I believe in his sincerity.
The fault lines of the system are not just present in Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party. The mere existence of nuclear weapons is politically destabilising. 191 of the world’s 195 states have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but the small handful of nuclear-armed states refuse to eliminate their existing nuclear stockpile. As long as one state has access to nuclear weapons, other states will want them too, if only to protect their position.
Here is one statistic that gets to me: if the equivalent of the Hiroshima bomb were detonated every two hours for seventy years, the world’s nuclear arsenal would still not be depleted.
How is it that so many people can wish for peace but still cling to their weapons out of fear of what might happen if they were to let go? Is this really the nature of life on this earth? Or have we simply gotten used to this manufactured state of fear?
After all, it is not you or I who holds the nuclear weapons. If they were to disappear overnight, none of us would notice it. As far as ordinary citizens are concerned, they are out of sight, out of mind – and yet they still fuel politics. They still fuel fear.
Part of the current problem is a matter of rhetoric, a relic of cold war paranoia. But mutually assured destruction is no guarantee of peace. It is possible and necessary for nuclear weapons to be banned altogether. Other weapons of mass destruction, such as biological and chemical weapons, have already been banned – and one day, nuclear weapons will share their fate. The alternative is too terrible to think of.
Perhaps because I am young and foolish, I want to believe in a more peaceful world. Seventy years might have passed with little progress on nuclear disarmament, but I am humbled by the efforts of those who refuse to give up. When I listen to the stories of those who have suffered and those who continue to suffer as they live in hope, I am overwhelmed by a deep sense of humanity.
I think about those who have already died and I refuse to believe that their deaths were entirely in vain.
Today, I woke up to rainy skies, filled with happiness and a sense of wonderment about being alive. According to the weather forecast, it will rain even harder tomorrow. I looked at the doves that flew across Hiroshima’s skies half a world away and I thought to myself: This is a world worth protecting.