Bombings of Pearl, Hiroshima, Nagasaki: Days That Live In Infamy

rafael hiroshima poemPearl, bombing of ships and murdering young sailors. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, bombing of structures and murdering civilians, mothers, fathers, children, elders, young soldiers. Days of infamy, all. Some will still want to take one side or another. They can. And will. They’ve had 73 years to say and say their ‘side’ over and over again.

I’ve heard all the arguments. And more than once. All the stories about the naming of bombers after one’s mother, and bombs with ‘cute’ nicknames, and the twisted wreckages of Pearl and Nagasaki and Hiroshima, carriers and carriages, helmets and tricycles, ammo and burnt kimonos, dog tags and dust of those who once walked as human beings before ‘the hits’ -no matter the hitter, no matter those taken down. Heard it and heard it. Sorrow and sorrow and sorrow is what I hear underlying all. Including anger. Still from underneath, seeps sorrow.

Our young however, know more about Iraq and Afghanistan, and Israel and Palestine, and Congo and Somalia and Mexican drug cartels– and the innocents murdered therein, than they know about Pearl, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. In many cases, they do not recognize these latter names at all. So perhaps it ought be that only we who were there, or whose female and male relatives were there, be the ones to do the remembering and honoring.

Above in the image, is a translation of the following poem, written by Rafael Jesús González, in our time, 2013. The translation and the Japanese brush calligraphy was done by Prof. Naoshi Koriyama.

In Japanese, it says this:

It’s said that if you
fold one-thousand paper cranes
your wish will come true.
For peace I would gladly spend
the rest of my days folding.

I’m old. I know that most of the time, rowing with just one oar on only one side of the coracle is literally madness, making one go in circles rather than making small and large progress forward through currents and cross-currents to and for better. I sense too, for a long time now, that holding matters above the waterline that otherwise would sink beneath and be lost, can often be a challenging and worthy endeavor… for those who need to be heard, for those who hope to listen deeply.

For this day, I would just hold this above the waterline:
May all elders, all mothers and fathers, all sisters and brothers,
all children rest in peace no matter how they lost their lives,
and/or how the lives of loved ones were lost
in the conflagrations called World War II.
May all from each and any ‘side’ be comforted.
May all who suffer now in wars not of their making,
be kept safe, be protected, tell their stories to the world someday.
There are never ‘only two sides’ to a war.
There are millions. As many millions as there are people.
May more and more stories be told in dignity..
May those who have ears to hear,
listen with more than ears alone.

Author: DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

10 Comments

  1. Still from underneath, seeps sorrow.

    Perhaps it was your intention, and perhaps not, but this reminds me of my own visit to Pearl Harbor.

    My parents and grandparents had lived through the war. I hadn’t, and my daughter’s only knowledge of Pearl Harbor was the Hollywood movie she’d seen that made her insist that we absolutely had to visit Pearl Harbor when we went to Hawaii.

    She had no idea. Instead of a Hollywood movie set, she was treated to the real thing. The Arizona Memorial. A silent, solemn tomb with sorrow seeping from underneath. She didn’t know it, but I watched as she walked into that room at the end of the monument. Watched as she read the names on the wall. Watched as the color drained from her face when she realized she was at a graveyard that had a daily funeral for over a thousand lost souls.

    Our infamous days fade from memory, and there are precious few places where the next generation can confront what has been done in their name.

  2. Cjjack, thank you so much for your story from your life about you and your child. What a dear child, now no doubt a woman?

    My elderly neighbor where I grew up, one day in her parlor that went on with a view of the fields outside that went on and on too, had called me into her house as she saw me wavering down the road crying. She listened as I spoke about the hurt one child had lashed out on another child… and we sat in her parlor as she tried to explain human nature to me and comfort me thusly I think.

    Her parlor had so many pictures of this young man in service uniform, I asked who he was [for I'd never seen him on the road] and she quietly told me about her son who died at Pearl Harbor. I was horrified and could barely understand, but cried and cried, because she and her husband had had this ‘miracle only child’ late in life, in their early 40s, unheard of in those days, and he grew up wanting to serve, and was stationed on the Arizona at Pearl.

    Cjjack, I was probably seven years old, and I tried to plan out how I would go scuba diving down to the sunken Arizona and find my neighbor’s boy, and bring him back alive to his mother. I thought of it day and night, trying to figure out how to get to Pearl, even though I’d never been past the cornfields.

    As a child I had been to many many funerals post-war, but could not conceive of my neighbor, a kindly schoolteacher’s only son being dead for reasons I heard but could not understand how such a terrible thing could happen and come out of the sky without warning and kill so many young people, seemingly out of nowhere. I know now I wanted as much to restore this dear weeping old woman, as much as wanting to restore her son to her.

    I wasnt able to. I still think of it all these 60 some years later. The not being able to. And having learned as a child by begging and begging to be taken to the library 20 miles away from our hamlet, and once there practically scraping the library like a bulldozer looking for a book about Pearl. Finding it. Finding that most of the bodies of the men on the Arizona were not recovered. The not being able to: and then, later, somehow living through r –agonizing losses of children in our own family during my young adulthood and later years, learning first hand, what a mother and father bear, so bowing down grief-bearing for years/decades on end, after losing their child. And I remember my dear neighbor lady telling me my tears helped to comfort her. I didnt understand then. I understand better now. More and more. There is comfort sometimes when sorrow meets sorrow, kindly.

    Thanks Cjjack. Really.

  3. Thanks Rudi, I appreciate your saying this part of your life. And your thought about last resort. You and my dad are right: My dad, Jozsef Pinkola, who witnessed through incessant warrings about Hungary and Austria, Romania, Transylvania and former Yugoslavia, said his opinion was “If you never want war, never give a king an army.” Best blessings on your dad and your dad’s son: you.

  4. No, Dr. E…thank you.

    You were seven? That’s quite an age to be faced with such things. At the risk of turning this into a round of trading family war stories, my mother was around that age when she got a letter from her father who was serving in the Allied invasion of Italy. She’d got other correspondence from him – postcards and pictures sent via “V-Mail,” but this was different. There was a big operation coming up, and this was his “in case I don’t come back” letter to his youngest child.

    It was at once touching and chilling. A young man, clearly afraid, telling his little girl to be brave from half a world away.

    He came back. Wounded but alive, and my mother says she can still remember the smell of his uniform as she leaped into his arms upon his return.

    Yes, we all have our war stories. You, me, Rudi, and others here and elsewhere. They are sometimes shared and interwoven, with threads like Pearl Harbor running across decades and through families. Every generation since WWII has had their stories, too. Down the street from me lives a Korean War vet. I have older friends who served in Vietnam, and my best friend was in the first Gulf War. My daughter’s generation will, unfortunately, have many stories to tell as well.

    Not so the Japanese. Every year on this long anniversary historians and pundits drag out the same justifications and condemnations regarding the use of these terrible weapons, but almost everyone misses one very big fact. For us, Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked the end of WWII. For Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked the end of ALL war.

    One might argue that our subsequent occupation of the islands was the sole reason, but history shows us repeatedly that even nations long occupied or officially disarmed will find a way to make war should they so choose.

    The Japanese chose not to, and as a result have no more war stories to tell. The generation that sank those ships at Pearl, killed that brave young man you spoke of, and a few years later watched as a terrible thing came out of their own skies is slowly fading away. In a decade or two…perhaps a little more for the long-lived Japanese…there will be no one alive in their country that has a first hand memory of war.

    We sure taught them a lesson, didn’t we?

  5. While my dad was still alive, he received excellent treatment at the VA hospital in Tampa Florida. A few times I saw young men in elevators that sent a chill down my spine. What is even worse is what I didn’t see. These two facilities treat these TRAMATIC injuries. Injuries that were fatal in previous wars.
    Traumatic Brain Injury
    Spinal Cord Injury

  6. Just this week I had a long deep conversation with my cousin who is struggling with her father and his lack of connection to her. She called me knowing that I had gone through similiar ….our fathers are brothers. Of my grandmothers 4 sons, three were serving our country at the same time one in Korea two in Vietnam…she was pregnant with the fourth. I shared with her the few stories that I knew regarding our fathers experiences while they were away in these other far away lands. I knew my stories couldn’t come close to the reality of it all. But, I also spoke to her about what it looks like not to have treatment for these traumas…and now they are well into their 60s. The suffering started even before the war as 8 year old shepherds on mountain tops far from home and progressed to their boats being hit by bombs and how they were left to float in The South China Sea for three days and nights being stung by Man of War Jelly fish…
    Our fathers, they can not connect…they don’t even know how to anymore.
    I told her the story of how a call came through to the house telling my grandmother one of hers sons was dead.. pregnant 8 months she fell on the ice breaking her ankle trying to get to my grandfather’s arms. It was a prank…anti-war teenagers “making love, not war” created heartache and anguish..families suffered at home while sons were away….suffering…
    suffering in ways that I’ve only heard stories about.

    But I listened and I try to understand…it helps me understand them.

    And how my cousin can maybe a little more …understand …and …love him through it all and that it matters and that it’s not her …it’s not “him” it’s the result…of

    and so I stand along side you and with man others to “hold above the waterline” in each our own way.

    Thank you for writing this here.
    Itzpapalotl

  7. Thanks Dr. E. this moving piece brought reflection…

    My first awareness of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came through a song that Pete Seeger adapted from a poem, I come And Stand At Every Door, by a Turkish poet called Nazim Hikmet. Must of been first or second grade when my oldest brother bought the record… The bomb it’s violence and the number of death was beyond any kind of comprehension as a child.

    I remember asking my oldest brother how it was possible to have a war and to kill others and not see their faces?…I must of gotten stuck at six or seven for all these years later i continue to hold a very similar sentiment when it comes to war.. How can another life be taken without the honor of seeing their face and gazing into their eyes. Even when we have to put an animal down, we look into their eyes… If ever there is a time to proceed with honor it is in war. The targeting of innocents is shattering to any countries National soul.

    Fully realize that view does not resonate with modern warfare, but with this one i will continue to hang out with the ancestors…

    Lyrics to I Come And Stand At Every Door :

    I come and stand at every door
    But none can hear my silent tread
    I knock and yet remain unseen
    For I am dead, for I am dead.

    I’m only seven, although I died
    In Hiroshima long ago.
    I’m seven now, as I was then -
    When children die, they do not grow.

    My hair was scorched by swirling flame;
    My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind.
    Death came and turned my bones to dust,
    And that was scattered by the wind.

    I need no fruit, I need no rice.
    I need no sweets, or even bread;
    I ask for nothing for myself,
    For I am dead, for I am dead.

    All that I ask is that for peace
    You fight today, you fight today.
    So that the children of this world
    May live and grow and laugh and play!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCfk-oLQ3fs

  8. thank you sparrow for the story from your life and for the poem/song, so dear. Just as you ever are seated in that Greater Heart. I’m glad.

  9. Thank you Itzpapalotl… I know many of the fathers and uncles and cousins and grandfathers–and the women who went to war too, could not speak, could not bring themselves to speak of these things. They were told they were many things, and many many had no one to speak to who could usefully help. For many, I think from my work with war vets stretching all the way back to when wwI vets were still alive to the middle east and surrounds, now…theirs was often a way of strength not to speak, lest the wound ever lay open right out loud.

    That their children and grandchildren and younger relatives like you can speak of and for them with understanding and compassion, is just what is useful … for this generation now, for their generation in memory, for generations to come.

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