Monday, August 9, 2010

"How Will War Ever End?" Remembering Hiroshima

The First Congregational Church of Long Beach (the most liberal church in the South Bay, and proud of it!) is sponsoring a series of peace events this month. What a wonderful church this is--the embodiment of the liberal spirit, thanks in part to the leadership of Rev Jerry Stinson. A sign on the pastor's study says: "Don't believe everything the pastor tells you. Think for yourself!"

I took part in the Hiroshima Day vigil, which took place last Thursday and attracted over over 100 people. It was an interfaith event with messages by a Hindu, two Muslims, two Buddhists and a Christian Quaker (yours truly).

This coming Sunday (July 15) at 2:00 PM, the First Congregational Church of Long Beach will sponsor an event featuring Captain Paul Chappell, a graduate of West Point who was a US army officer in Iraq. He will speak about United States Security in the 21st Century. Captain Chappell is the author of How Will War Ever End? and The End of War. He is currently serving as the Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Here are the message I gave at the Hiroshima vigil this past week:

Tonight, we are gathered together to remember what most Americans prefer to forget: we were the first, and the only, nation to use nuclear weapons. Sixty five years ago, in August 1945, we dropped two atomic bombs, one on the city of Hiroshima and the other on Nagasaki, that killed over two hundred thousand people. Tens of thousands of others died slowly and painfully of illnesses caused by radiation.

I say we Americans prefer to forget this fact because I have been to the Museum of Nuclear Energy—what used to be called the Atomic Museum—in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and I can testify that there is absolutely no indication that atomic weapons ever hurt anyone. There are no pictures of the victims, not even pictures of the ruined cities, on the website or in the museum, even though it professes to be “objective.” I asked about this and was told that such images might upset the children who go there.

Unlike the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Japan, the Nuclear Energy Museum in New Mexico doesn’t promote peace, except for the “peaceful use of nuclear energy.” What our museum does is encourage children to become “little Einsteins” and develop new uses for nuclear energy.

As a result, children who go to this Nuclear Energy Museum think that atomic bombs are cool. I know this for a fact since I have read the guest book and seen the comments by children who fell in love with the bomb thanks to this “objective” museum funded by our tax dollars.

As a Quaker, I have protested at the nuclear test site in Nevada and been arrested along with other people of faith who passionately oppose nuclear weapons. I have also protested at the nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, at an event sponsored by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Abolishing nuclear weapons, and indeed, abolishing war, is one of the goals that we Quakers share in common with people of good will in all faith traditions. Friends, we need to remember, and to remind our fellow Americans, that over 200,000 human beings—precious human beings, made in the image of God, just like you and me—were killed in one of most horrific holocausts of human history. We Americans are responsible for those deaths.

Many of those killed were children. Even those who survived the inferno of the blast, suffered lethal consequences. We are here under a cloud of paper cranes to remind us of one such Japanese child, a twelve-year-old named Sadako Sasaki who died of leukemia in 1955. She was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped near her home by Misasa Bridge in Hiroshima. Her story poignantly reminds me us of the human cost of war.

We are here today not only as an act of remembrance, but also of repentance. We are here to say: “Never again..” We are here to pledge ourselves, before God and before each other, that we will do what we can to end the scourge of nuclear weapons.

Now is the time to take action. President Obama has called for nuclear disarmament, and has signed a treaty with Russia aimed at reducing our nuclear stockpiles, but we must not rest until all nuclear weapons have been abolished.

I’d like to close this reflection by reciting the words of a song by Fred Small called “Cranes over Hiroshima.” For the sake of our children, and our children’s children, let’s take these words to heart:

The baby blinks her eyes as the sun falls from the sky

She feels the stings of a thousand fires as the city around her dies

Some sleep beneath the rubble, some wake to a different world

From the crying babe will grow a laughing girl

Ten summers fade to autumn, ten winters' snows have passed

She's a child of dreams and dances, she's a racer strong and fast

But the headaches come ever more often and the dizziness always returns

And the word that she hears is leukemia and it burns

Cranes over Hiroshima, white and red and gold

Flicker in the sunlight like a million vanished souls

I will fold these cranes of paper to a thousand one by one

And I'll fly away when I'm done

Her ancestors knew the legend - if you make a thousand cranesFrom squares of colored paper, it will take the pain awayWith loving hands she folds them, six hundred forty-four

Till the morning her stumbling fingers can't fold anymore

Her friends did not forget her - crane after crane they made

Until they reached a thousand and laid them upon her grave

People from everywhere gathered, together a prayer they saidAnd they wrote the words in granite so none can forget

This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world

(This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world

No more Hiroshima, no more Nagasaki

This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world

This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world

Sing a song of peace, dream a dream of peace in the world

This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world

1 comment:

  1. Anthony,

    YOU ARE AMAZING!! Reading this made me cry. Thank you brother.

    Love, Laura