Saturday, April 19, 2008

the mistake will not be repeated

Kyoko Mori was born and raised in Japan but she has lived her adult life in America. On her first return to Japan she visits the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. She wonders, are the horrors in the pictures of the atomic bomb aftermath really making an anti-war argument?

Mori thinks about her stepmother. “To her, the war was like some natural disaster that inconvenienced her family; it had no other implications.”

No one in the stepmother’s family lived in Hiroshima but, Mori says, “In a way, the displays in the museum are no different, however noble their intention. The atomic bomb is still portrayed as a cosmic disaster that befell an innocent people, burning them and destroying their homes. Even the inscription outside, on the memorial stone, is too vague: ‘Please rest in peace. The mistake will not be repeated.’ What mistake? Does the word refer only to the bomb, or the Second World War, or all war? And why does the inscription use the passive voice, ‘will not be repeated,’ as though we had no control over the outcome? Exactly who or what is accountable for the ‘mistake’ that ended up in the tragedy of Hiroshima?”

Mori wonders about the character of the Japanese. “Maybe this exhibit shows a typically Japanese attempt to save face all around, a desire to be polite: by treating the bomb as a cosmic disaster, we eliminate human responsibility – it’s as if the bomb caused itself to be dropped.”

How is war like a natural disaster? How is it unlike a natural disaster?

source: The Dream of Water: a memoir, by Kyoko Mori

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