Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hiroshima - Day 1

Today was a travel day, and a day of melancholy. I suppose melancholy is not the most accurate word to describe what one feels while walking around Hiroshima after having visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum. It is not in my nature to attempt something vague, poetic, or both, since this place sucks the value out of clever sound bites. So, I will just say that it felt the same as it did last year. The power of that place never really goes away - even on repeated visits. Greater minds convey the meaning in a greater way than I could possibly offer.

Certainly there is lots to say about the place and the things memorialized there, but here I will just say that I am not sure if I feel the same way others feel upon visiting this city. It was just over 64 years ago that the bomb was dropped, and I suppose the fact that Hiroshima is now a thriving city gives people hope.

I think I would have to stay here longer than two or three days - maybe even live here - before I could share the same feelings about the place. It is just too much for me to walk by the river the night after visiting the museum, seeing the A-bomb dome lit-up as it is. It is just too easy to imagine what was happening by the river all those years ago. I cannot decide if I am proud or somewhat ashamed that I dont immediately sense the hope that others seem to feel when they come here. So, I suppose it is a bit of both. Wishing to take ownership of one feeling or another, I sit firmly on the fence.

Still, this was a place I wanted to take my parents. I feel that anyone who can, should come here and see the things the museum wants to show us. Regardless of how it might make you immediately feel, or feel after a day or two, I humbly suggest that the city is worth your time.

One person who agrees is Tadatoshi Akiba, Hiroshima's mayor. Akiba dedicated his 2009 memorial speech to a new term coined after Barack Obama's proposal in Prague this year to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Yes, they are just words - they even feel like a sound bit,I suppose - but it should be noted that no previous US president has spoken so clearly or pointedly about such a contentious topic as this - the turn away from a nuclear deterrent policy. Hiroshima's mayor is taking and looking to make these words a reality by taking them at face value. Good move.

People are pissy about Obama receiving a Nobel Peace Prize so early in the game. Surely though, such a stance is an important one. No sitting US president has ever visited Hiroshima in an official capacity. Perhaps that is about to change. This is what the mayor of Hiroshima since 1999 has to say on August 6th of this year - the 64th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb:

That weapon of human extinction, the atomic bomb, was dropped on the people of Hiroshima sixty-four years ago. Yet the hibakusha's suffering, a hell no words can convey, continues. Radiation absorbed 64 years earlier continues to eat at their bodies, and memories of 64 years ago flash back as if they had happened yesterday.

Fortunately, the grave implications of the hibakusha experience are granted legal support. A good example of this support is the courageous court decision humbly accepting the fact that the effects of radiation on the human body have yet to be fully elucidated. The Japanese national government should make its assistance measures fully appropriate to the situations of the aging hibakusha, including those exposed in "black rain areas" and those living overseas. Then, tearing down the walls between its ministries and agencies, it should lead the world as standard-bearer for the movement to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020 to actualize the fervent desire of hibakusha that "No one else should ever suffer as we did."

In April this year, US President Obama speaking in Prague said, " the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act." And "...take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons." Nuclear weapons abolition is the will not only of the hibakusha but also of the vast majority of people and nations on this planet. The fact that President Obama is listening to those voices has solidified our conviction that "the only role for nuclear weapons is to be abolished.

In response, we support President Obama and have a moral responsibility to act to abolish nuclear weapons. To emphasize this point, we refer to ourselves, the great global majority, as the "Obamajority," and we call on the rest of the world to join forces with us to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020. The essence of this idea is embodied in the Japanese Constitution, which is ever more highly esteemed around the world.

Now, with more than 3,000 member cities worldwide, Mayors for Peace has given concrete substance to our "2020 Vision" through the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol, and we are doing everything in our power to promote its adoption at the NPT Review Conference next year. Once the Protocol is adopted, our scenario calls for an immediate halt to all efforts to acquire or deploy nuclear weapons by all countries, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which has so recently conducted defiant nuclear tests; visits by leaders of nuclear-weapon states and suspect states to the A-bombed cities; early convening of a UN Special Session devoted to Disarmament; an immediate start to negotiations with the goal of concluding a nuclear weapons convention by 2015; and finally, to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020. We will adopt a more detailed plan at the Mayors for Peace General Conference that begins tomorrow in Nagasaki.

The year 2020 is important because we wish to enter a world without nuclear weapons with as many hibakusha as possible. Furthermore, if our generation fails to eliminate nuclear weapons, we will have failed to fulfill our minimum responsibility to those that follow.

Global Zero, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and others of influence throughout the world have initiated positive programs that seek the abolition of nuclear weapons. We sincerely hope that they will all join the circle of those pressing for 2020.

As seen in the anti-personnel landmine ban, liberation from poverty through the Grameen Bank, the prevention of global warming and other such movements, global democracy that respects the majority will of the world and solves problems through the power of the people has truly begun to grow. To nurture this growth and go on to solve other major problems, we must create a mechanism by which the voices of the people can be delivered directly into the UN. One idea would be to create a "Lower House" of the United Nations made up of 100 cities that have suffered major tragedies due to war and other disasters, plus another 100 cities with large populations, totaling 200 cities. The current UN General Assembly would then become the "Upper House."

On the occasion of the Peace Memorial Ceremony commemorating the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing, we offer our solemn, heartfelt condolence to the souls of the A-bomb victims, and, together with the city of Nagasaki and the majority of Earth's people and nations, we pledge to strive with all our strength for a world free from nuclear weapons.

We have the power. We have the responsibility. And we are the Obamajority. Together, we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes, we can.

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