And They Gave Us Cherry Blossoms

Eyewitness Account of Bombing of Hiroshima – Mary E Latela

Father John A. Siemes, preparing to be a Jesuit professor of modern philosophy at Tokyo’s Catholic University, was there in Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. (Nagasaki was bombed on August 9, 1945) After describing what he saw, heard, felt on that awful day, he reflected a bit.

“We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians. The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good that might result? When will our moralists give us a clear answer to this question?”

After these many years, we are still struggling with wars. It seems that humankind, blessed with the power of rationality, has over and over chosen to fall into war. Our powers of speech, our powers of persuasion, get caught up in the perceived immediacy of the situation, or political expediency, or another presidential election.

The lyrics of a particular folk song of the 1960s and 70s reflect this state of preparedness for war, and of the effects of war on combatants, victims, and their families, and children. It strikingly points out the futility of war. “Where have all the flowers gone?…. When will they ever learn?” Nick, Bob & John: The Final Concert. It was written by Peter Seeger.

I am a dreamer, I admit. I do believe that peace is possible. I have also lived long enough to understand – in my heart – that people only change if they choose to and then, only with great difficulty. I don’t know whether people believe that war – killing enemies and innocents – is just the way of the world. However, I do think that if the thought of a bright light which tore away lives, buildings, two cities, and left any survivors very ill, burned, maimed, should give us pause.

Pacem in terra.

cherryblossomPhoto @berylkingston

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