It was a somber day in Hiroshima when I visited in March 2019, made even gloomier by the misty rain darkening the mid-century concrete architecture that has grown up around the bombed dome on the Ota river banks. August 2020 marked the 75th year since the atomic bombing of Japan, bringing reflection on some childhood memories. With my parents’ stories of WWII ever-present, growing up during the Cold War was a contrasting jumble of questions. My father was drafted to serve in the Japanese Imperial Army during the war and managed to immigrate to San Francisco in 1952, making me a Nisei. Did Veterans’ Day not apply to him?
My mother was a child living in Pasadena when Japanese-American citizens were hauled off to Manzanar and beyond. Kids sang a taunting adaptation of Disney’s “Whistle while you work… Hitler is a jerk, Mussolini is a wienie, but the Japs are worse.” I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Conflicted. Confused. She was taught how to hide under her classroom desk in the event of a bombing raid, which later morphed into an earthquake drill for California schools, but the threat of nuclear war always hung in my mind. What would happen if we were the recipient of a nuclear attack? Would it be better to die at ground zero or be in the countryside only to suffer from radiation and starvation? Kinda heavy thoughts for a kid. Why is my generation not a psycho mess? (Maybe we are.)
What does an atomic bomb look like? What is the last thing you sense? A silent white flash with a delayed boom and mushroom cloud that you will never witness? Bikini Atoll. Nevada. Nagasaki. Of all the good that America has done, it is also capable of horrible, deliberately ugly things. With the end of Vietnam and tearing down the Berlin Wall, the 80s shed a small light at the end of the tunnel only to become mired in the Middle East turmoil and a global rise of nationalistic threats.
Reclaimed barrel-staves & plywood, acrylic paint
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