This August 6 – 9th, Max Obusewski and I took part in events to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Twenty-five of us gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House on August 6th from 8–9 a.m. At 8:15 a.m. we became silent as this was the time the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Mr. Toshijuki Mimaki, a Hiroshima Hibakusha (A-bomb Survivor) was pleased that President Obama was the first US President to visit Hiroshima. However, he was disappointed because President Obama did not issue an apology. Nevertheless, he was presented with an Apology Petition crafted by Art Laffin of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and Scott Wright. The Petition had 555 signatures.
“We apologize to the people of Japan – and to the survivors of the bombing, the Hibakusha – for our country’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we ask forgiveness for these atrocities. We repent for the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons at the expense of unmet human needs. Further, we offer repentance for threatening to use nuclear weapons and keeping many of them on a first-strike hair-trigger alert. We firmly resolve, with God’s grace and mercy, to reject the false idols of nuclear weapons, and to embrace the life affirming work of abolishing these weapons of terror.”
After the completion of the vigil, Max and I went over to Lafayette Park to congratulate the two anti-nuclear weapons protestors for their persistence.
The following evening we gathered to commemorate Hiroshima in Baltimore on 33rd Street near Johns Hopkins University and were joined by 40 people who held anti-nuke and anti-war signs. Also protested were JHU’s weapons contracts, including killer drone research.
We then walked to nearby Homewood Friends Meeting House where we listened to dulcimer music performed by Joe Byrne of Jonah House and poetry by Dave Eberhardt. Mr. Mimaki gave a Power Point presentation including photos taken the devastation and suffering caused by the atomic bomb blast. The Hibakusha’s greatest fear is that when they are gone, the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will disappear and nuclear weapons will be used again. After words, we enjoyed ourselves at Niwana, a Japanese restaurant. Max presented Mr. Mimaki with a blue peace scarf from Afghanistan. Mr. Mimaki said he would take the scarf and show it to the mayor of Hiroshima.
On the 9th, I took the MARC train to Washington, D.C. to stay overnight with Sr. Megan Rice and the other sisters at their convent, a lovely Georgian-style house near Catholic University. Before our supper, we prayed together. Later, I shared that this was the 8th anniversary of my ordination. The next morning we were up at 5 a.m. to witness in the free speech zone at the Pentagon from 7 – 8 a.m. Many employees passed by us on their way to work as we recited a Litany of Repentance, the Gospel Transfiguration reading from Mark 9:2-10, and reflection by Marie Dennis. We were not allowed to take photos. I read Daniel Berrigan’s poem, “Shadow on the Rock”:
At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside the museum there’s a rock,
and on the rock, there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
Of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
That is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race in this generation,
Or we will become Shadows On the Rock.
Art concluded our vigil with the poignant ballad, “I Come and Stand”
I come and stand at every door
But no one hears my silent prayer
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead.
I am only seven although I died
In Hiroshima long ago
I’m seven now as I was then
When children die they do not grow.
My hair was scorched by a swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind.
I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweets nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead.
All that I ask is that for peace
You work today, you work today
So that the children of this world
May live and grow and laugh and play.
That evening we gathered again at Homewood Friends Meeting House in Baltimore for a Nagasaki Commemoration potluck dinner. There was a recognition that gun violence is an unrelenting epidemic in Baltimore and the USA. Firmin DeBrabander, a professor of philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art and author of Do Guns Make Us Free, offered some possible solutions to the gun violence epidemic.