Willful Remembrance

August 6, 2020
Rhianna Tyson Kreger and Masako Toki

The following was originally published in the Monterey Herald.

Of the many imperatives the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us, the need for international cooperation — research, information-sharing, joint training, emergency preparedness, focusing on human security etc. — is paramount. It is all too fitting, then, that this lesson is foisted upon us in 2020, the year we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Thus far, anyway.

In 2020, we are closer to using nuclear weapons than ever before, with the lone exception of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The arms-control regime that kept nuclear war at bay for 60 years is all but moribund, and prospects to revive it are bleak. Both the US and Russia are engaged in expensive, widespread modernization of their nuclear arsenals while pursuing ever new, destabilizing weapons systems. There have even been hints that the United States may conduct a nuclear-weapons test, despite the overwhelming deleterious consequences for the environment, public health, and international security. All the while, North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs continue apace, and the prospects of nuclear calamity by Tweet are horrifically, increasingly plausible.

Yet before we allow ourselves to drown in today’s overwhelming crises, let us willfully remind ourselves of the horrors of nuclear war, and the humanity that is trampled upon by nuclear use. The stories of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) have more resonance today than perhaps on any of the previous anniversaries of the tragedies that befell them.

“The hibakusha’s deep suffering continued for a long period, even to this day — the loss of their loved ones; survivors’ guilt; the scenes, sounds and smells of the day burnt into their memories; diseases of unknown causes; economic difficulties; prejudice and discrimination in society; and many buried dreams. Those who were under the mushroom cloud, irrespective of their race, nationality, age or sex, were forced to die or to continue to live as hibakusha.”

These are the words of Masako Wada, who was 22 months old when the bomb destroyed her hometown of Nagasaki, speaking at the 2020 Nonproliferation and Disarmament Summer School for Diplomats.

Continue reading at the Monterey Herald.

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