October 22, 2011

Hiroshima Peace Park

There are places on earth that are hallowed.  The moment you set foot there, you know it: you are changed the moment you breath the air and your feet grace the ground.

For me, Hiroshima embodies the horror of a war that had engulfed the world.  It is almost impossible to grasp the immensity of suffering, loss, and death that ravaged the world during world war II.  It's scale is unbelievable.  The vicious nature of the war in the Pacific is hard to believe.  Hatred, malice, and greed had consumed the world.  Then, in a moment, the world was changed.  When the first scouts from Tokyo arrived to investigate why they had lost radio contact with their posts in Hiroshima, they couldn't believe what they saw.  The immensity and totality of the destruction was unprecedented.  It was indescribable.  One second in time saw the destruction of a city, the loss of tens of thousands of lives, and soon the end of a war that threatened to leave Japan in total ruin.  

What stuns the senses in Hiroshima is not what happened that morning, it is what has happened in the years since.  The ability of nations, of people, to move past their hatred and malice and come to a reconciliation is humbling.  Hiroshima reminds us that when we strive to satisfy our pride and our vain ambitions, only suffering and destruction will follow.  But when we set aside our pride and strive for understanding, patience, and peace, prosperity and happiness will follow.  There is something to be said about the fact that within my father's lifetime, four blond, blue eyed American kids can play happily on the swings and slides with some Japanese kids 1 block from where the atomic bomb was dropped.  No malice, no hate, only smiles and friendship.  There is something to be said for the message of peace that resonates from the solemn ring of the bell at Hiroshima.  It is a message that needs to ring louder now than ever.