War or Peace?
On Saturday, January 13, my husband Barry, our friend Gail from Washington State, and I lounged on our lanai on the warm Maui morning. We watched the birds congregate at our feeder: lots of little red beaked Java sparrows, vibrantly colored love birds, red-headed finches, and an occasional Hawaiian cardinal.
As we sipped our coffee, chatted, and laughed, a warning alert blared from my phone. Usually this means a flash flood warning from rain storms up country or a high-surf advisory. Not at all concerned, I strolled into the kitchen to pick up my phone:
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Was this it?
In the three seconds that it took for me to run back outside to where Barry and Gail were chatting, the following thoughts (in abbreviated form) raced through my mind:
1) Where could we take shelter? We live in a house of single-wall construction, with lots of windows, set on posts and pilings attached to volcanic rock. We don’t even have basements in Hawaii let alone bomb shelters. For a short while during the 1960s when everyone in the U.S. was afraid the Russians would attack, my dad – as a part-time job – sold home bomb shelters that could be built in your backyard. But that was in the Midwest and a long time ago. (I don’t think Dad sold many, and we certainly couldn’t afford one). At school, we practiced crouching under our desks as a way to be protected from atomic bombs!! Ridiculous!
2) I’ve read Japanese author Masuji Ibuse’s Black Rain, a dispassionate but memorable novel based on historical records of the devastation caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and those who survived. I’ve been to Hiroshima and the Peace Museum there where photos show that people were vaporized by bombs much smaller than the ones available today.
The report from the first Western journalist to enter Hiroshima after the bombing notes –
On September 3, 1945, “Wilfred Graham Burchett entered Hiroshima alone, less than a month after the atomic bombing of the city. He was the first Western journalist — and almost certainly the first Westerner other than prisoners of war — to reach Hiroshima after the bomb and was the only person to get an uncensored story out of Japan. The story which he typed out on his battered Baby Hermes typewriter, sitting among the ruins, remains one of the most important Western eyewitness accounts, and the first attempt to come to terms with the full human and moral consequences of the United States’ initiation of nuclear war. It was published in the London Daily Express on September 5 and appears below . . .:
30th Day in Hiroshima: Those who escaped begin to die, victims of
THE ATOMIC PLAGUE
I write this as a Warning to the World
DOCTORS FALL AS THEY WORK
Poison gas fear: All wear masks
In Hiroshima, 30 days after the 1st atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly — people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.
Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller has passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.
In this first testing ground of the atomic bomb I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden. The damage is far greater than photographs can show.
When you arrive in Hiroshima you can look around for twenty-five and perhaps thirty square miles and you can see hardly a building. It gives you an empty feeling in the stomach to see such man-made destruction.
I picked my way to a shack used as a temporary police headquarters in the middle of the vanished city. Looking south from there I could see about three miles of reddish rubble. That is all the atomic bomb left of dozens of blocks of city streets, of buildings, homes, factories and human beings.
STILL THEY FAIL
There is just nothing standing except about twenty factory chimneys — chimneys with no factories. A group of half a dozen gutted buildings. And then again, nothing.
The police chief of Hiroshima welcomed me eagerly as the first Allied correspondent to reach the city. With the local manager of Domei, the leading Japanese news agency, he drove me through, or perhaps I should say over, the city. And he took me to hospitals where the victims of the bomb are still being treated.
In these hospitals I found people who, when the bomb fell suffered absolutely no injuries, but now are dying from the uncanny after-effects. For no apparent reason their health began to fail. They lost appetite. Their hair fell out. Bluish spots appeared on their bodies. And then bleeding began from the ears, nose, and mouth. At first, the doctors told me, they thought these were the symptoms of general debility. They gave their patients Vitamin A injections. The results were horrible. The flesh started rotting away from the hole caused by the injection of the needle. And in every case the victim died. That is one of the after-effects of the first atomic bomb man ever dropped and I do not want to see any more examples of it. . . .
Go to the above link for the rest of the article.
In the Oct. 10, 2016, Popular Mechanics article, Jay Bennett writes:
Also, for those surviving the initial bombing, the radiation sickness caused agonizing deaths. (Also, the birth defects that follow the family of the survivors reach into subsequent generations).
3) I would not want to survive an atomic blast.
4) Even if I did somehow survive the blast, there would be huge problems in Hawaii. Although the Hawaiians were self-sustaining for thousands of years, now “modern” Hawaii imports 90-95% of its food and energy. We are one of the most food vulnerable places on Earth. If there were a catastrophe, we would soon be out of food and fuel. Puerto Rico is still not getting needed help from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017.
In a December 21, 2017 article for Esquire magazine,
Holms reports, It’s been “three months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, unleashing the full force of a Category 4 storm on the American territory. The intensity of the 155 mile-per-hour winds and the ferocity of the rainfall led the island’s residents to believe they had encountered something not of this world. . .
The troubles were never going to recede with the storm. The recovery was always going to be long, hard, and frustrating. But reports on the ground in the ensuing weeks quickly made it clear that the federal government’s effort was unacceptably slow and perilously inept. One month after the storm, one million Puerto Ricans—American citizens—were without water. Three million were without power.”
Puerto Rico is much closer to the Mainland U.S. than we are; we aren’t likely to get much help from our current administration.
5) Where was President Trump – and what was he doing with his “bigger button”?
Such terrifying thoughts raced through my mind as I ran back outside to alert Barry and Gail.
Gail, being the smart Microsoft contractor that she is, immediately opened her computer and checked The New York Times. Lead stories included one on the U.S. economy and one on gay rights. There was nothing about missiles headed toward Hawaii. Barry, the always great researcher, ran to the kitchen and turned on the radio. There was nothing on any channel. There were no continuing disaster sirens.
We decided the alert had been a hoax or a hack.
Besides, we were with people we loved, watching birds, and drinking coffee. Our neighbor came up with his cup of coffee. Our other lovely neighbor was off paddling in the ocean. Our son and his little family were on the U.S. Mainland. If we were to go, it would be quick – and besides the crisis didn’t seem real.
Another alarm signal came 38 minutes later saying the first had been a mistake. Later we learned that our president had been playing golf in Florida, so he didn’t overreact to the “news.” The whole situation reminded us that we must check our sources, but it also reminded us that we haven’t really worried about nuclear threats since the early 60s.
At home on our lanai, our little gathering did have a heightened sense of appreciation for the beautiful day, our relationships, our lives, and we poured another round of coffee.
A few days later, the following letter (written by my friend Melinda whom I’ve known for about 20 years) was published in The Maui News:
Nuclear war is neither acceptable nor inevitable
As an interviewer and researcher who lived in Hiroshima for over 10 years, I learned that any survival is a fluke. The small bombs that were detonated in Japan vaporized people in an instant, leaving only their shadows. Skin melted off, neighborhoods disappeared, people who were in shelters were sucked out by an intense force and those who survived for a while died horrific deaths from radiation poisoning.
The warning signal is a cruel lie. Nuclear war is neither acceptable nor inevitable.
Did you know that in 1929 a law was passed making war illegal? It’s called the Kellogg Brian Pact. It was put forth by our secretary of state, Frank B. Kellogg, and his French counterpart, Aristide Briand.
Did you also know that Hawaii is the first state to recognize the KBP law thanks to Mayor Alan Arakawa’s signing a proclamation making Aug. 27 KBP day? And that Gov. David Ige recognized KBP in a Peace Day proclamation at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in September?
Instead of sirens we need to find a way to de-escalate the path toward nuclear war. Could it be through legal action such as fines for incitement since KBP outlaws war?
If the Koreas and USA can negotiate a cease-fire, surely we citizens of aloha can find a way to prepare for “No More War.”
Surely, we can all work for peace and toward peace.
Religious leaders of all faiths advise peace and love:
Prophet Muhammad, said : “None of you have faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself” (Sahih Muslim)
The wise words of Buddha from the Dhammapada further reminds us where we could be putting our thoughts – and actions:
The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its way with care and let it spring from
love, born out of concern for all beings.”
Gandhi said, “The real love is to love them that hate you, to love your neighbor even though you distrust him. Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man. I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. . . .
And what did Jesus say? “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Let’s put our focus and energy on understanding and loving everyone. Our survival and that of the Earth depends on it.
Banner photo: Birds in the papaya tree off our lanai