Sunday, March 30, 2008

from hiroshima, with love.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I was recently reading a Slate article, called "Has Hiroshima Become Too Normal?" The writer, Ron Rosenbaum, does not seem to know which direction in which he wants to progress. I understand this approach--sort of a "I just don't know what to think" feeling--but I just can't agree with it.

Rosenbaum notes the hotels and touristy stalls at the memorials as well as the KFCs and Starbucks in Hiroshima and asks just how the city could be re-built in such a fashion. He then complains that there are too many memorials and that all of the memorials are filled with too many knick-knacks, but then he goes on to say that the 9/11 memorial creators are getting it wrong because there is no one way to mourn so many losses of human lives, since people grieve and remember and mourn in different ways.

Then, he goes on to ask just who gets to be remembered--the Japanese memorials are for those killed in Hiroshima, but they make no mention, Rosenbaum says, of the millions of Chinese that the Japanese war machine killed via twisted experiments and conventional as well as biological and chemical warfare.

To this point, the response is simple: we don't really want to announce our wrongs, and the Japanese are no different. They don't like talking about Pearl Harbor at all--it's a sensitive topic we were told not to ask Japanese exchange students about when they came to visit our high school. Additionally, how out-of-place would a wing a museum for Japanese war atrocities be in the memorial of those lost in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima? The two events are not intertwined in any fashion other than the fact that they were by-products of World War II.

And to Mr. Rosenbaum's first point--what? You complain that the city isn't exactly the way it was, yet you detest the memorials? What is going to make you happy? In my eyes, the biggest testament to the people who perished is the fact that Hiroshima is a modern, productive city that was rebuilt--and, incorporated in this new city, there are reminders of the city's past.

The piece is worth reading, but it feels little more than an essay done by a high school student who does nothing more than sit on the fence. It's a lot of writing that actually produces very little--the writer's feeling on the city seems to be one of "damned if it does, damned if it doesn't". This piece does not push the conversation forward in any way--which is quite disappointing.