Stories of war – part 2
Mark and I were discussing the Columbine shooting, and the conversation somehow expanded to the wars. I do not remember the context, but I said the US shouldn’t have dropped the atomic bomb. The righteous passion in his face morphed into a condemnatory fury, and he told me Japan shouldn’t have attacked Pearl Harbor. I had believed the creation and the detonation of the atomic bomb was a crime against humanity. Instead, it was a rightful retaliation against the unlawful strike by Japan. Since then, I heard the same justification repeatedly that Japan deserved the outcome, i.e., Japanese people brought it upon themselves. It horrified me when the loss of the Japanese women’s national soccer team to the US in the 2015 FIFA World Cup after the historic win in the previous World Cup was compared to the Pearl Harbor attack, bombing, and consequential surrender. D sat next to me and sneered at the association. I turned to ask him if he genuinly thought the analogy was ok. Only then he became serious and told me the nuclear weapon was the most inhumane invention.
The justice of the atomic bomb wasn’t a narrative limited to impassioned soccer fans. In his standup gig aired on Netflix, a progressive, white male comedian said it was a necessary evil because killing 130,000 civilians might have saved 200,000 lives. An Asian American writer I respect tweeted, “we were taught the second bombing of Nagasaki was necessary,” implying she believed the first one was justifiable while condemning the disproportionate sanction. Even inside Japan, the head of the Ministry of Defense remarked that the suffering of people in Nagasaki was inevitable.
The world fears nuclear war. Powerful nations have been building nuclear bombs to protect themselves from each other. There are movies, books, and videogames set in a post-nuclear war world, where no life grows any longer, and various kinds of “I”s survive the horror of mutated creatures, but the ultimate evil is another human.
At some point in my childhood, I dissociated genbaku from the rest of nuclear weapons. Genbaku was reality, history, punishment, and shame. The nuclear weapon was abstract, future, power, and fear. Outside Japan, the righteousness of the anti-nuclear narrative excludes Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When The Crown on Netflix used the footage of genbaku, it symbolized the end of the war, not the start of the geopolitical war. When Michael Moore showed the US military’s use of mass weaponry in his documentary, Bowling for Columbine, genbaku wasn’t one of them.