Monday, August 6, 2007

Hiroshima Day

I am not quite sure how to react to the fact that the only news report I have seen this morning about the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was a Reuters story filed by Toru Hanai from Hiroshima. In fairness, however, I should report that HBO has chosen this evening for the first broadcast of the documentary it produced, White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, based on interviews with survivors of the attack. This is yet another example of HBO venturing into territory that most of us would prefer to ignore, possibly out of what I have previously tried to analyze as "cultural blindness." In this case, however, the blindness involves a failure to grasp the consequences of the use of atomic and nuclear weapons. Back in the fifties, when these weapons were still being tested above ground, one of the wiser generals in the Pentagon proposed that, once a year, every member of Congress be invited to such a test to get a gut-level understanding of what was at stake when they were debating military policy. Today policy is being made by those who were not yet born on August 6, 1945, living in a culture that no longer feels this date has a position in its own cultural memory. Japan, understandably, takes this memory more seriously. (Even Kurosawa incorporated it in one of his last films.) Like it or not, we may have to rely on Japan to act as our conscience when future questions about the use of such weapons arise.

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