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Journal. August 6, 2007.

Lanterns, Hiroshima memorial - last Saturday by Bill Sell

I never miss this event. I remember the day the atomic bomb was announced, as having devastated a part of Japan. As a boy, I was wide-eyed with wonder that everything can be gone in a flash. A perfect bomb. As time went on, I learned of the tragedy underneath all that power. And that it did not have to happen. The war was over and overtures of peace were being heard in Washington. I learned how General Leslie Groves, who was in charge of developing the bomb, worked feverishly to make sure the bomb was used on a city pristine and untouched by previous bombings. I took his meaning that he wanted a laboratory of people not mice. Leaders listened to him, and they favored the arguments that the bomb was “necessary” even while they were listening to the code talkers report that the emperor was ahead of his warlords, but trapped in an archaic system of decision making that prevented the Japanese government from doing what it was really discovering it had to do. We knew. Our Secretary of State knew. Our Secretary of War knew and objected to the use of this bomb, but he was apparently outflanked in the presidential circle by cries to bomb.

Today we feel distant from all that.

We are repairing a major bridge connecting two major cities.

Milwaukee is trying to save an archaic bus system, and to find a political road on which to build a modern transit.

But how distant are we?

Like Japan then, we are trying to end a war that we should not have started. We are beginning to feel like we are stuck in an archaic system of decision making where no one part of our government is willing to take the next practical step to end the war which America has lost but is unable to admit that it has lost. The Japanese had the common sense to surrender, to admit defeat. This is a country where defeat is accompanied by harikari. And some warlords did that. But we pride ourselves on being so modern that we would not commit to such brutality as to fall on a sword. But the children of Iraq continue to fall, and our face is saved.

Our punishment for this crime seems to be that we are condemned to use military force to prove to the world that we are a moral people.

But Saturday we settled for innocence not moralism, with our hands…

We built and colored lanterns. Lit candles, and floated the lanterns on the beautiful Milwaukee River We folded origami. I learned from a child: how to make a star; and a young teen woman showed me a cool shortcut in folding the crane, that peace bird symbol of elegance and long life, icon of Sadako, a child who died a slow death from the black rain that fell after the bomb.

It rained on us a bit, not as much as it is raining now (11:25 pm August 6) - this with the music of the clouds is a clean soft rain that brings us life. Sadako would be my age. She would teach me how to do the frog.

Bill Sell

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