Friday, May 27, 2016


Media coverage of President Obama's visit to Hiroshima was not untypical.  But the historical significance of the first American President to officially visit, and especially the nature of what President Obama said, reveals that coverage as disgraceful.

For days ahead of the visit, the media buzzed about whether President Obama was going to apologize.  No one in Japan or anywhere else had asked for an apology, there was no statement by the Japanese government, no petition signed by thousands of Japanese.  It was all stuff they just made up, with a hefty assist no doubt from Republicans.  The media is increasingly controlled by corporations with political reasons to cover things in a certain way, and in order to compete for the assumed short attention spans and superficiality of their audience, they go to conflict even if they have to make it up.  Both tendencies were on full display in this coverage.

And as is very often the case these days, the blitz of nonsense before the event moved on to something else without paying much attention to the actual event, and especially the speech itself.  By Friday evening in the US, not even NPR was even mentioning the speech in their news headlines, which led with the utterly unsurprising story of yet another protest in yet another city where Donald Trump was appearing.

So do yourselves a favor and devote about 15 minutes of your life this Memorial Day weekend to actually listening to the speech--which is embedded above.

Then you might want to return to contemplate the following thoughts from the speech--or read the speech here.

"The World War that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet, the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes; an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints. In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die -- men, women, children no different than us, shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death.

There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war -- memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism; graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity. Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction; how the very spark that marks us as a species -- our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will -- those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.

How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth. How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause."

"The wars of the modern age teach this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution, as well."

"Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering, but we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again."

"But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them. We may not realize this goal in my lifetime. But persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe."

"We must change our mindset about war itself –- to prevent conflict through diplomacy, and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun; to see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition; to define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build.
President Obama embraces an Hiroshima
atomic bomb survivor

And perhaps above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race. For this, too, is what makes our species unique. We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story –- one that describes a common humanity; one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted."

"The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious; the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family -– that is the story that we all must tell. That is why we come to Hiroshima."

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