Sunday, August 15, 2010

From Eliot to McPhee

Today is the sixty-fifth anniversary of the ending of the war in the Pacific, often called VJ Day and that image is what many Americans, even the unborn at that time, think of when we speak about the end of World War II in the Pacific. If you're of Japanese ancestry your visual is more than a little different but the beginnings are of more consequence, if less visual than the endings. 

My mother and father raised six children in the aftermath of the Second World War (the first having been fought as the War to End All Wars fell a little short in that regard) and their children, my brothers and sisters, in turn, had children of their own, some of whom now also have children (I'm getting a little dizzy from the math of it all) as well. In the years immediately following the end of World War II there was little reason for optimism to believe your children's children's children would be alive in a world with a mushroom cloud. 

Little more than a week ago, there was a bit of a buzz, media and otherwise, when the United States sent an official representative to the annual Hiroshima Memorial for the victims of the first atomic bomb. A lot of words over the years have been written about whether the USA should apologize for having used atomic weapons-how that debate divides people is similar to what image in paragraph one you associate with the war's end. I'd point out that a lot of Japan's neighbors (= conquests from 1934-1945) would like an apology as well, in this case from the Japanese. 

Perhaps of more significance is despite some close calls (Korea 1949; Hungary, 1956; Cuba, 1962) there's not been a third use of atomic weapons. Historians argue that the seeds of the next war are always planted in the waging and conclusion of the previous war. Perhaps that means we learned something, maybe not much, from the calamity and destruction we unleashed upon one another during World War Two. It's certainly not a bright and shiny world in which we live in the ever-dwindling days of the summer of 2010, and sometimes it seems the LWH, Lunatics Who Hate, are multiplying like hobgoblins.

More and more of the world, despite our efforts to the contrary, are born, live and die without a chance.  We must, as a civilization, apply the same ingenuity and steadfastness of purpose that created Little Boy and Fat Man to shift the shape of the society in which we all live if not for humanitarian, than for the most pragmatic of, reasons--those who have nothing to live for soon find something to die for. And then they want everyone else to die for it, too. 

Between the desire and the spasm; between the potency and the existence; between the essence and the descent falls the shadow. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
-bill kenny

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