Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Sermon [The Hiroshima Maidens]



Hola mi Gente...
August 7th is the anniversary of one the most horrible atrocities in human history: the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I first came to know the truth about Hiroshima and Nagasaki when I returned to school and discovered the Hiroshima Maidens…
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The Tree of the Knowledge of good and Evil/ Hiroshima Maidens
60"x80" Oil on Canvass/ Wood, 2003

The central image of this painting is a representation of the tree of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The side panels are taken from displays in the Hiroshima Peace Museum showing the aftermath of the nuclear bombing of that city.


The Hiroshima Maidens


The Hiroshima Maidens is a group of twenty-five Japanese women who were seriously disfigured as young women as a result of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945. They have dedicated their lives to telling the story of the Hiroshima bombings and the horror of nuclear war.

My curiosity piqued after listening to their talk while I was in college, I investigated further and what I discovered wasn’t pretty, to say the least.

The accepted rationale for Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that if the atomic bomb had not been dropped, the war would have continued and more lives would have been lost. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many nations have tested nuclear weapons, but only one has ever used them. That nation, of course, is the United States; the bombs it dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945 incinerated more than 100,000 residents and left perhaps twice that number dying slowly from radiation poisoning. However, politicians at the time and conventional historians still maintain that those acts were justified. Short of a full-scale invasion of Japan, its leaders would not have been convinced to surrender, and that, the reasoning goes, would have resulted in an even higher death toll.

How many lives would have been lost in such an invasion is not clear. While President Truman threw around figures from 500,000-one million dead, at least one historian wrote that the figures the military planners projected put the number at between 20,000-46,000. However, the disturbing issue here is not the discrepancy in numbers, but the fact that neither an invasion nor a nuclear attack was necessary to make Japan surrender.

By June 1945, whole-scale bombing of Japan’s six largest cities had substantially wiped out Japan’s infrastructure and countless lives. In March of that year, as many as 1 million Tokyo residents were left homeless from the bombing raids. No oil shipments were getting into the country, which was utterly dependent on foreign oil, and by late that July 90% of Japanese merchant shipping had been destroyed.

While it is true that some Japanese factions were resisting the notion of surrender, the leaders in charge were on the verge of calling it quits. The only point deterring surrender was the Japanese concern that the emperor would be allowed to maintain his title. The US forces, of course, eventually accepted this condition.

A US government report issued in 1946 concluded that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs did cause a Japanese surrender. The report cited documentation that as early as May 1945, Japanese leaders had decided that the war be ended even if it meant complete acceptance of Allied terms. The document cites the conclusion that Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped and even if no invasion had been planned or completed.

Another 1946 document, a recently discovered secret intelligence study by the army’s top planning and operations group, came to the same conclusion: an invasion “would not have been necessary” and the A-bomb was not decisive in ending the war.

This view wasn’t some radical lefty bullshit; key military leaders echoed it. “The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender… In being the first to use [the atomic bomb] we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages,” said William D. Leahy, who was the president’s Chief of Staff and the nation’s senior military officer. The same opinion was offered by Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill.

This isn’t hindsight, these assessments were known by US policy makers before they chose to drop the bombs. In fact, in July, American intelligence had intercepted a cable from Japanese foreign Minister Shigenori Togo to his ambassador in Moscow that referred to “His Majesty’s strong desire to secure a termination of the war… ”

There was no attempt on behalf of the Truman administration to demand surrender. No show of power by, say, dropping the bomb on an unpopulated island. There was no careful consideration. This wasn’t the act of last resort. So, if there was no true imperative to drop the bombs then why?

There are several theories, but the one I adhere to is that the US was about enter an unprecedented position of leadership in most of the post-war world and a demonstration of nuclear might was intended more for the Soviets than anything else. It was a show of power to the Soviets, a nation the military feared. In fact, that the second bomb was made from plutonium, and not uranium as the first one, suggests that the Japanese people were the subject of a gruesome scientific experiment. The bombs were more of an opening shot in a Cold War that would last for decades.

I write all this because we should never forget... We all should know all those innocent men, women, and children didn’t need to die, as those in power would have us believe.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization… 

Resources

Alperovitz, G. (1995) The decision to use the atomic bomb and the architecture of an American myth. (New York: Knopf) [link]
Zinn, H. (1991). A people's history of the United States: 1492-present. New York: Perennial Classics. [link]
Loewen, J. W. (1995). Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong New York: Touchstone Books. [link]

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Sermon [White Fragility]


Hola Everybody...
Another hot day, summer in the city! I need to get off social media, especially the comments sections of articles on race. Wow, just WOW, white people!

It’s a hot-summer-in-the-city day, so I’m off to the beach.


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White Fragility
Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.
 -- Carl Jung


Anti-racist educator, Robin DiAngelo, has defined white fragility as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves… ” These defense mechanisms include outward displays of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and shutting down the conversation/ dialog

It’s enlightening to observe how some white people love me when I write about safe topics -- topics that deal with individual merit or self-actualization, or relationships! But I become the Latino Frankenstein when my topics are uncomfortable. Whenever I attempt to write about systemic issues regarding race, for example, I become a pariah. I am accused, often by white people, of being a “race-baiter” or of “playing the race card,” of being a divisive element in our society. If only I would shut up, white commenters often whine, the world would be a better place.

When I did anti-oppression work, I would tell my workshop participants that staying in a comfort zone would amount to nothing. Committing the same actions and expecting different results is the best definition of insanity. In order to create meaningful change, we first have to get out of our comfort zones and face some ugly truths about ourselves.

People say that I shouldn’t write or talk or agitate against racism. That doing so is the problem and that if I only stopped thinking and talking about it so much, it wouldn’t be so much of a problem. Individuals like me who point out racism, it follows, are the problem! In other words, I should shut up.

I’m here today to tell you that this so-called victim mindset I am being accused of is bullshit Let me state what is probably already evident. To delve into the study of racism is to come face-to-face with the heart of the heart of darkness, to borrow Conrad’s phrase. To look into this darkness is to know despair. I certainly know this journey has been difficult for me. It’s easy to be overcome by the reality of de facto racism -- to realize we haven’t really come that far.

But I will say this much: to know despair, to see injustice and resolve not to do anything about it is the essence of victimization. So, I ain’t shutting up anytime soon. Want to be a vic? Go ahead, keep your head in the sand. Don’t talk about it, don’t do anything about it. Neurosis is never a good substitute for suffering, it’s merely a series of strategies designed to avoid the painful.

If you’re going to engage me, you will surely feel the despair I speak of, you will begin to see some of this darkness. There will be times where you will become angry and defensive and -- really -- I can be wrong at times. That’s OK. the only thing white people need to decide is if they’re willing to shut the fuck up for a moment and actually consider that what I am saying or pointing to has merit. Too often white people will immediately dismiss any attempt to dialog and adopt an authoritative position. Fuck you with that bullshit. The fact of the matter is you don’t know jack shit. Really.

Many will not engage me, many more won’t even come around. That’s okay; I am not here to judge, or to influence people, or make friends, only to tell the truth. I will say this much: Dr. Jung was correct. You don’t evolve into an integrated human being by stubbornly refusing to peer into the darkness. That’s better known as neurosis. It’s the same as looking for a lost key under a street lamp because it’s the only area where there’s light.

If you choose to speak truth to power, it will be a lonely journey at first. People will tell you that you’ve lost your mind, that you’re part of the problem, and you will feel an almost overwhelming pressure to stop. I’m here to tell you that if you succumb to that fear, if you collapse under the weight of that despair, then you’re the ultimate victim.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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