By Lauren Hashiguchi
Right now I am reading a book about President Truman (Truman by David McCullough) and I have just read the section about the bombing of Japan. I am left feeling very angry. Again. I have felt this way about the bombing of Japan since history lessons in 5th Grade. Every single teacher I have every had has taught us that “it was necessary” to end the war. That “the war would have gone on for years if America had not bombed Japan.” I don’t buy it. It was a display of power that looked at a massive loss of human life as necessary collateral damage. Japanese people, both foreign and American, were disposable, second class, solidly un-American people. In Truman’s inaugural speech he talked about how the developed world should use its technology to help those in developing countries bring those living in poor out of poverty. But months later all he had to say about the human toll of the bombing was “I myself certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the pigheadedness of the leaders of a nation.” The necessity. I suppose that is one way to look at killing 90,000 people in an instant. The political decisions he made had horrifying effects. But, he has not been the first men to view huge number of civilians as “enemies” rather than people. It is happening today in the Middle East. I react strongly to these particular incidents of non arbitrary violence against human beings because I am a third generation, Japanese American. My family and hundreds of thousands of other people have dealt with the effects of America’s xenophobia. Internment, racist statements, vandalism, the list goes on. We are only one of many groups of people throughout history who have been marginalized by the policies of governments and the xenophobia of civilians; compared to most other victimized populations, people of Japanese decent have not suffered near the level of brutality that countless other groups have suffered because of hatred and ignorance. The frenzy of war, the inundation of news footage of suffering people, the relativity of numbers…all of these things allow us to view people as masses. Americans celebrated the destruction of Japan’s might. The bombs were used to, in Truman’s words, “shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.” It is not wrong to want to preserve American lives, but 90,000 Japanese people died instantly, and 60,000 died in months to come from burns, shock and radioactive poisoning. Of those, only 10,000 were Japanese soldiers. Ultimately over 200,000 people died. Yes, the atomic bombs were a catalyst that ended WWII. But at what cost? To end a war, it was decided that it was justified to kill over 200,000 foreigners. Truman later said that “my object is to save as many American lives as possible but I also do have a human feeling for the woman and children of Japan.” But he also said, after learning that the bombs had great success, that it was “the greatest thing in history.” That is one way of looking at it. Our world leaders cannot continue to look at their neighbors as the US did in 1945. Iran threatens Israel with nuclear destruction while genocide and femocide occur around the world. To be a world leader imposes the burden of balancing the infinite value of the human person against the interests of national security and economic stability. They need to remember that countries, buildings, cities, and the rest are inhabited with precious human life. These aren’t just numbers. It’s not that simple, and it unjust to deny it in order to further the needs of one nation.