Elie Wiesel: ‘To Forget The Dead ….’

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”–Elie Wiesel, Night

War is a depredation of the human spirit that is sold as the loftiest of livelihoods. To hide the rape and pillage, the degradation and disaster, the training of human beings to become animals in ways we would allow no animals to be, we have concocted a language of mystification.

We could casualties now in terms of “collateral damage,” the number of millions of civilians we are prepared to lose in nuclear war and still call ourselves winners. We call the deadliest weapons in the history of humankind, the most benign of names: Little Boy, Bambi, Peacemakers. The nuclear submarine used to launch Cruise missiles that can target and destroy 250 first-class cities at one time, for instance, we name “Corpus Christi,” Body of Christ, a blasphemy used to describe the weapon that will break the Body of Christ beyond repair.

We take smooth-faced young men out of their mother’s kitchens to teach them how to march blindly into death, how to destroy what they do not know, how to hate what they have not seen. We make victims of the victors themselves. We call the psychological maiming, the physical squandering, the spiritual distortion of the nation’s most vulnerable defenders “defense.” We turn their parents and sweethearts and children into the aged, the widowed, and the orphaned before their time. “We make a wasteland and call it peace,” the Roman poet Seneca wrote with miserable insight.–Joan Chittister, OSB

Excerpted from There is a Season

Mitsuyoshi Toge: ‘How Could I Ever Forget That Flash’

Mitsuyoshi Toge, born in Hiroshima in 1917, was a Catholic and a poet. He was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city on August 6, 1945, when he was 28 years old. After the war, Toge became a leader in the peace movement. He published a number of books opposing the atomic bombing and advocating peace. While hospitalized with tuberculosis at the National Hiroshima Sanatorium, he published the book A-bomb Poetry. When it was sent to the 1951 World Youth Peace Festival in Berlin as one of Japan’s representative works, A-bomb Poetry gained international acclaim. On March 10, 1953, Toge died at the National Hiroshima Sanatorium. He was 36 years old. This poem is from Hiroshima-Nagasaki: A Pictorial Record of the Atomic Destruction (1978).


HOW COULD I EVER FORGET THAT FLASH OF LIGHT

How could I ever forget that flash of light!
In a moment, thirty thousand people ceased to be,
The cries of fifty thousand killed
At the bottom of crushing darkness;

Through yellow smoke whirling into light,
Buildings split, bridges collapsed,
Crowded trams burnt as they rolled about
Hiroshima, all full of boundless heaps of embers.
Soon after, skin dangling like rags;
With hands on breasts;
Treading upon the broken brains;
Wearing shreds of burn cloth round their loins;
There came numberless lines of the naked,
all crying.
Bodies on the parade ground, scattered like
jumbled stone images of Jizo;
Crowds in piles by the river banks,
loaded upon rafts fastened to the shore,
Turned by and by into corpses
under the scorching sun;
in the midst of flame
tossing against the evening sky,
Round about the street where mother and
brother were trapped alive under the fallen house
The fire-flood shifted on.
On beds of filth along the Armory floor,
Heaps, and God knew who they were?
Heaps of schoolgirls lying in refuse
Pot-bellied, one-eyed, with half their skin peeled
off bald.
The sun shone, and nothing moved
But the buzzing flies in the metal basins
Reeking with stagnant ordure.
How can I forget that stillness
Prevailing over the city of three hundred thousands?
Amidst that calm,
How can I forget the entreaties
Of departed wife and child
Through their orbs of eyes,
Cutting through our minds and souls?

Daniel Berrigan: Shadow on the Rock

Shadow on the Rock
by Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside that museum there’s a rock,
and on that rock there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race now in this generation,
or we will become Shadows 0n the rock.

Joseph Siracusa: ‘In One Terrible Moment, 60% of Hiroshima Was Destroyed’

Statues in front of the Catholic Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki after nuclear attack.

Frida Berrigan wrote a moving article a few years ago on the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Here’s an excerpt from her longer essay:

In Hiroshima, Little Boy’s huge fireball and explosion killed 70,000 to 80,000 people instantly. Another 70,000 were seriously injured. As Joseph Siracusa, author of Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction, writes: “In one terrible moment, 60% of Hiroshima… was destroyed. The blast temperature was estimated to reach over a million degrees Celsius, which ignited the surrounding air, forming a fireball some 840 feet in diameter.”

Three days later, Fat Man exploded 1,840 feet above Nagasaki, with the force of 22,000 tons of TNT. According to “Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered,” a web resource on the bombings developed for young people and educators, 286,000 people lived in Nagasaki before the bomb was dropped; 74,000 of them were killed instantly and another 75,000 were seriously injured.

In addition to those who died immediately, or soon after the bombings, tens of thousands more would succumb to radiation sickness and other radiation-induced maladies in the months, and then years, that followed.

In an article written while he was teaching math at Tufts University in 1983, Tadatoshi Akiba calculated that, by 1950, another 200,000 people had died as a result of the Hiroshima bomb, and 140,000 more were dead in Nagasaki. Dr. Akiba was later elected mayor of Hiroshima and became an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.–Frida Berrigan, Tom Dispatches 2009

Y-12 Nuclear Facility Goes on Lockdown After Catholic Nun Breaches Security

Officials at the Y-12 nuclear facility show off “state-of-the-art security technology” (NNSA, 2010)

Joe Newman, director of communciations for the Project On Government Oversight, follows up on the most recent Plowshares action of religious civil disobedience held at the Oakridge nuclear facility in Tennessee. The Y-12 facility “enriched” the uranium used in the nuclear attack by the U.S. on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. (Read more about the Transform Now Plowshares.)

As officials at the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility sort through their recent security breakdown, they’ve decided it might be best to move all of their nuclear materials, including highly-enriched uranium, into their on-site vaults.

The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Frank Munger reported that the “security stand-down” is expected to last into next week. The federal contractor that runs the Oakridge, Tenn., facility made the decision with the support of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Munger writes:

According to the federal NNSA, “This is being done to address additional security training and execution deficiencies identified by the contractor after Saturday’s incident. However, all nuclear materials at Y-12 are in safe, secure storage and we remain entirely confident in the security of Y-12’s facilities.”

Sr. Megan Rice
The Saturday “incident” involved three peace activists, including an 82-year-old nun, Sr. Megan Rice, who cut through three fences surrounding the facility, posted a banner on one of the buildings and poured human blood on the premises, according to the News Sentinel’s orginal story about the break in.The activists were arrested under federal trespassing charges and are expected to appear in court Thursday.

The Project On Government Oversight’s Peter Stockton, an expert in nuclear security, told Munger that the security breach could be a sign of a much bigger problem.

“The DOE’s unprecedented response to last weekend’s break-in, alarming as that incident initially appeared, suggests that it has revealed even more drastic flaws in the security at the Y-12 facility,” Stockton said via email. “At this point we can only guess what those flaws might be.”

The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.–Isaiah 2:4

Tsutomu Yamaguchi: ‘Only Breast-Feeding Mothers Should Be Allowed to Control Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons’

Tsutomu Yamaguchi
Tsutomu Yamaguchi

As weird as it may seem, there were actually 165 people who got blasted twice when the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August, 1945.

A new book by Charles Pellegrino, The Last Train from Hiroshima, tells their remarkable stories. (Dwight Garner gives an excellent review of Pelligrino’s book in the Jan. 19 New York Times)

One of those survivors, Tsutomu Yamaguchi died just a few weeks ago. His obituary and his recollection of his experiences should be read as modern “texts of terror” and studied along side the Prophet Isaiah.

One of Yamaguchi’s conclusions in his long work against nuclear weapons was that the only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers who are still breast-feeding their babies. An excerpt from his obit is below:

Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only official survivor of both atomic blasts to hit Japan in World War II, died Monday in Nagasaki, Japan. He was 93. The cause was stomach cancer, his family said.

Mr. Yamaguchi, as a 29-year-old engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was in Hiroshima on a business trip when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. He was getting off a streetcar when the so-called Little Boy device detonated above the city.

Mr. Yamaguchi said he was less than two miles away from ground zero that day. His eardrums were ruptured, and his upper torso was burned by the blast, which destroyed most of the city’s buildings and killed 80,000 people.

Mr. Yamaguchi spent the night in a Hiroshima bomb shelter and returned to Nagasaki, his hometown, the following day, according to interviews he gave over the years. The second bomb, known as Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, killing 70,000 people.

Mr. Yamaguchi was in his Nagasaki office, telling his boss about the Hiroshima blast, when “suddenly the same white light filled the room,” he said in an interview last March with the British newspaper The Independent.

“I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima,” he said.

Read Yamaguchi’s whole obituary here. Also read Yamaguchi’s first-person account How I survived Hiroshima–and then Nagasaki by David McNeill.

Merton versus The Bomb

thom41Catholic monk, mystic, writer, and justice advocate was very concerned about the rise of atomic weapons. In 1962 he wrote a book called Peace in the Post-Christian Era addressing the immorality of nuclear weapons. He was forbidden from publishing it by his order’s abbot. It wasn’t published until 2004 and has a wonderful foreword by Jim Forest.

Below is an excerpt from Merton to French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain on the topic.

[To Jacques Maritain, Feb, 1963] I do not want to bother you with a multitude of things of mine, but I am putting into the mail a mimeographed copy of my “unpublishable” book on “Peace in the Post Christian Era.” Unpublishable because forbidden by our upright and upstanding Abbot General who does not want to leave Christian civilization without the bomb to crown its history of honor. He says that my defense of peace “fausserait le message de la vie contemplative” [would falsify the message of the contemplative life]. The fact that a monk should be concerned about this issue is thought-by “good monks”-to be scandalous. A hateful distraction, withdrawing one’s mind from Baby Jesus in the Crib. Strange to say, no one seems concerned at the fact that the crib is directly under the bomb.–Thomas Merton

From The Courage for Truth: Letters to Writers, edited by Christine M. Bochen (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993, p. 36)

Joan Baez Serenades O-Talkers in VA

Joan Baez was in D.C. last week promoting “Day After Tomorrow,” her new CD. (Check it out! It’s produced by Steve Earle and Stevie-boy wrote one of the tracks, “God is God.”)

Joan Baez with Obama crew in VA.
Joan Baez with Obama crew in VA.

But, guess what? She also took time to stop by the Obama campaign office in Alexandria, Virginia, and sing a few lines. My friend Nate Solloway was there volunteering and got a great picture with Sweet Joanie.

With her political spirit fully intact, the 67-year-old pacifist endorsed a candidate for the first time. “I haven’t heard an orator like [Obama] since King,” she said. Baez sang “We Shall Overcome” in 1963 to the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington.

As a point of interest, Baez committed her first act of civil disobedience when she was 16 years old. She refused to leave her high school classroom in Palo Alto, Calif., during “practice atomic bomb” evacuations. Instead, she sat at her desk and read her book. I wonder what she was reading?.