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U.S. atomic bomb test unreported
Its around 11:00 AM on August 30, 2006. Im in Hiroshima, Japan. Inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, I see a gaggle of media people with TV cameras filming and there is someone talking beneath an old clock on the wall. People are milling about, seeming excited. I leave the museum and head in the direction of the International Conference Center. Two college-age women smile and move towards me. They are wearing press passes from NHK TV.
Where are you from? one of them inquires.
America, I reply.
Do you know what happened? she asks.
No, what happened? She appears so pleasant that I dont think anything serious happened.
Your country tested a nuclear bomb this morning.
What? Im taken aback. When? Where? Is that why all the TV cameras are here?
Yes, the museum is turning the peace clock back to Ground Zero time, she explains. Ground Zero time was 8:15 AM, August 6, 1945 when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later.
Soon we are joined by two male reporters. They confirm what she told me and tell me that a demonstration will soon take place. The test happened early this morning in Nevada, they tell me.
I notice a group of people assembling under the suspended West Building of the Peace Museum. They are mainly elderly men and women.They are hibakusha, one of the reporters tells me. Hibakusha is the Japanese word for atom bomb survivors.
The hibakusha cover the wet pavement with jackets and raincoats that they sit on.
Do you think theyll mind if I join them? I inquire of the reporters.
Its okay. Go, go, they encourage me.
I find a space near the back of the group. The front row of hibakusha display a large white banner with red characters calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Some of the hibakusha are scarred and deformed, but most look healthy. All seem surprisingly relaxed. They chat incessantly with each other as though they are at a college reunion. A younger woman offers me a piece of newspaper to sit on. She is curious about me. I am the only non-Asian at the demonstration. She tells me in broken English that her parents were lost in the bombing of Hiroshima.
Why are you in Hiroshima? she asks.
I explain that I came to make a documentary film about hibakusha. A middle-aged man addresses the crowd. One-by-one hibakusha go to the microphone to express their opinions. The Korean woman translates for me. They are telling of their experiences and how important it is to continue the struggle to abolish nuclear weapons. You go speak, she urges me.
Its not my place, I say.
Yes, you speakgo! I decline again.
The Korean woman goes to the man who is moderating the demonstration. She gestures towards me. The man glances at me, then nods to the woman. She returns to sit next to me.
You will speak, she declaims.
Have I a choice? Two more hibakusha go to the microphone. While they are talking the moderator comes over to introduce himself to me.
Its good, the Korean woman says. You go speak.
I follow the moderator. He introduces me. My stomach is flip-flopping, my heart is racing. I take the microphone. Two years ago, I begin, Nakanishi Eiji, the youngest survivor of Hiroshima came to America. He said that it was always his dream to come to America to apologize for Japan starting World War II. I am in Japan to make a film about hibakusha. I would like to say, personally, that I apologize for America dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The hibakusha give me a warm round of applause. Many thank me. I go to sit down. Four hibakusha shake my hand and pat me on the shoulder. I recognized them as the group that I had interviewed in Boston this past April. They are happy to see me. One of them, Miyoji Kawasaki, a retired English teacher, takes me to the museum bookstore and buys a large format book, The Spirit of Hiroshima, which he happily presents to me. Gift giving is a tradition and an art in Japan.
Most of the hibakusha I interviewed are very active in the peace movement. They are committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons and to Article 9 of their constitution, which was re-written mainly by U.S. occupation forces with some Japanese input after World War II. The heart of the constitution, Article 9, forbids Japan to ever make war again, but aspires instead to an international peace based on justice and order. Since the constitution was ratified in 1946, Japan is the only major industrial nation to have become an economic superpower without going to war. They have lived in peace for 60 years, a phenomenon by current political standards and a beacon of hope for the future.
So committed are the hibakusha to this philosophy that they travel worldwide to tell their personal stories to schools, colleges, libraries, anti-nuclear groups, churches, political parties, and at the UN. They constantly lobby for improved medical care, not only for themselves, but for hibakusha from Korea, the Philippines, China, and Australia. Until recently the Japanese government refused to give medical treatment to hibakusha who were not living in Japan. Now hibakusha from those countries may receive medical care without having to return to Japan.
Shortly after the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, teams of medical experts descended on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to study the effects of nuclear warfare on the surviving population. The trauma experienced by the victims was horrific. Whole families and neighborhoods had been obliterated in an instant. The long-term effects of radiation, although well known by American scientists, did not become common knowledge to Japanese citizens until months after the bombings. Hibakusha suddenly became mysteriously ill with keloids, leukemia, kidney failure, and other radiation-caused illnesses. Fetuses in-utero were often stillborn while survivors near the hypocenter in early stages of pregnancy gave birth to children with abnormally small heads. This condition, called microcephaly, is often accompanied by stunted growth and mental retardation. They cannot survive daily life without assistance. Another part of the trauma is psychological. This is common to conventional types of bomb victims, but both psychological and physiological trauma are magnified in victims of atomic bombs because of the fear of long-term radiation effects on themselves, their children, and generations to come.
Tadahiko Murata, deputy director of Hiroshima Council of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, speaks of the anguish he felt when his wifes parents refused to allow her to marry a hibakusha. I also lived with the fear that my children would be stillborn or not be healthy if they survived. When they were born healthy I felt so happy. Still, you live every day wondering if your children will grow to live normal lives.
Many victims of the atom bomb were discriminated against by a large percentage of citizens. The victims were perceived as contaminated and a threat to the survival of the Japanese people. Those most traumatized psychologically are the gaikokujin or foreign victims of nuclear warfare. Pak Su-nam is a successful Korean filmmaker living in Tokyo. She speaks sadly about the plight of Koreans who had been forced laborers in Japan before the war. They suffered a double tragedy. First from the A-bomb, then because they lost their identity. No one wants them, not the Japanese or the Koreans. They dont know where they belong.
Kang Soe-ryoeng, a 23-year-old Korean employed by the Japanese army in Hiroshima in 1945, was heavily burned. I had eleven brothers and sisters. Just two of them survived. I used to offer flowers and incense at the place where my brothers and sisters had died. But last year the city built a new building there and I cant do that anymore. The peace conference? All that nonsense has nothing to do with us. No matter how much we protest, America will do whatever they feel like anyway.
Yet nothing stops the hibakusha. Ranging in age from 64 to their early 90s, they know their mission. They may be dying within from dreaded radiation diseases, but their spirit drives them on. On any given day you may find hibakusha teaching, speaking, demonstrating, urging young people to take up the cause, to press for the mutual survival of all living beings.
The August 30, 2006 U.S. nuclear test report is broadcast on the Hiroshima nightly news. And probably in Nagasaki too. Later I learn that it never makes the news in Tokyo or the U.S. This raises serious questions for all concerned with human survival. Why were people living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki the only ones informed about the test? And by what moral perspective does the U.S. government defend its right to continue producing nuclear weapons while at the same time criticizing rogue nations for developing their own nuclear programs? When will governments worldwide come to realize that the proliferation of nuclear weapons can eventually only reach one conclusionmass suicide?
Which government has the courage and the resources to abolish nuclear weapons, thereby setting an example in leadership for other nations to follow in a true quest for world peace?
David Rothauser began his career as an actor while living in Paris, France. His film and television credits include The Longest Day, Kennedy, and Spenser: For Hire. He is founder of Memory Productions, an independent film company which produced his original screenplay, The Diary of Sacco and Vanzetti. He currently teaches American Theater and Public Speaking at Showa-Boston, a branch of Showa University for women in Tokyo.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
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MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
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HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
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POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
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VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
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OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
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COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
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HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.