Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hiroshima & Nanjing!

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Photo by US Army

On a Monday in August 1945, Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima by the crew of an American B-29 bomber Enola Gay. Around 80,000 people were killed immediately. By the end of that year another 100 to 150 thousand died from radiation. It was estimated though that at least 43 % of the cockroach population survived.

For nearly 300 million years, most species of cockroaches (and there are nearly 4000 of them) did not evolve at all and the chances are that they will be around in another 300 million years.

The ability of cockroaches to survive a nuclear winter has drifted into urban mythology, so much so that the Discovery Channel found it necessary to 'bust' that myth.

Yes, the cockroach, being an insect, can withstand at least 6 times the radiation a human can. It is still no match for the fruit fly, one of the most studied insects in biology.


Nanjing

77 years ago, the people of NankingChina's ancient capital city, were in the midst of one of the worst atrocities in history, the infamous Rape of Nanking. The truth of what actually happened is at the center of a bitter dispute between China and Japan that continues to play out in present-day relations. Many Chinese see Japan's election last month of ultraconservative nationalist Shinzo Abe as prime minister as just the latest in a string of insults. And it was recently reported that Japan is considering rolling back its 1993 apology regarding "comfort women," the thousands of women the Japanese army sexually enslaved during World War II.

In 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army, captured Nanking on Dec. 13. No one knows the exact toll the Japanese soldiers exacted on its citizens, but a postwar Allied investigation put the numbers at more than 200,000 killed and at least 20,000 women and girls raped in the six weeks after the city fell.
It was the mass rapes in Nanking and the brutalization of an entire populace that eventually convinced Japanese military leaders that they needed to contain the chaos. Japanese soldiers began rounding up women and forcing them to serve as sex slaves in so-called comfort stations.

This is what most historians believe. But not in Japan, where a large faction of conservatives, led by Abe, denies that the Japanese military forced women into sexual slavery. They maintain that any suggestion to the contrary is simply anti-Japanese propaganda and probably spread by China. At the furthest end of the spectrum, the minimizing turns to flat-out denial; one professor we interviewed at a top Japanese university adamantly insisted there were no killings or rapes in Nanking.

Not surprisingly, all this minimizing and denial enrages the Chinese and others in Asia. But this is a familiar pattern.

Nanking Poster: THINKFilm


On July 2, 1996, the anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s own suicide, Margaux Louise Hemingway, his grand daughter was found dead in her studio apartment in Santa Monica, California at age 41.

On November 9, 2004, Iris Chang (張純如), who was propelled into the limelight by her 1997 best-selling account of the Nanking Massacre “The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II”, committed suicide. Earlier she had a nervous breakdown and was said to be at the risk of developing Bipolar illness. She was on the mood stabilizer divalproex and Risperidone, an antipsychotic drug commonly used to control mania. There was a detailed report in San Francisco Chronicle.

Now back to the Japanese atrocities in the Nanking Massacre in 1937, one of history’s worst but relegated to obscurity. The impact of Iris’ book and her tragic death was such on Ted Leonsis, Vice Chairman of AOL, that he went on to produce a film on the subject. The film, Nanking, premiered in Sundance Festival last year, was shortlisted in the documentary feature category of the Academy Awards, and won the Humanitarian award for documentary in the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Mariel Hemingway, younger sister of Margaux, read the words of Minnie Vautrin in the film. Minnie Vautrin was an American missionary renowned for saving the lives of many women at the Ginling Girls College in Nanking, China during the Nanjing Massacre. In 1941, Minnie Vautrin committed suicide.

In July, 2007 the film premiered in Beijing. The 
BBC said:

“It is doubtful, though, it will ever be shown in Japan, where historians claim the massacre has been exaggerated.”

Experts estimate the Japanese killed 150,000 to 200,000 people and raped more than 20,000 women and children, but a group of MPs from Japan's governing party recently said no more than 20,000 were killed.
 


Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

HOLY SONNETS. XIV John Donne (1572-1631)


Doctor Atomic Metropolitan Opera House

At the end of Act 1 of Dr Atomic (premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York this season - composer: John Adams), Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic bomb, faces his own personal crisis alone in the desert, recalling this sonnet by John Donne.

Gerald Finley as J. Robert Oppenheimer in "Doctor Atomic." Terrence McCarthy
This opera was first performed in San Francisco in 2005. You can read about that here.

The Cockroach Catcher and his wife were at the Met’s performance on the 13th of November 2008, a review of which you can read 
here.

I am not here to discuss the rights and wrongs of the Atomic bomb and its derivatives. There are now 50,000 such weapons worldwide. What is clear is that it has always been humans who hold the key to mass destruction. In 
Nanking. the Japanese grew bamboo through living Chinese as a means of destruction. It did not take an Einstein to work that one out nor an Oppenheimer to execute it.

In Dr Atomic, at the high point of the final countdown to the test firing of the bomb, there was a tape recorded voice of a Japanese woman repeatedly asking for a glass of water. 



5:29:45 am Mountain War Time on July 16, 1945 Los Alamos National Laboratory
What would the effect have been if images of Japanese atrocities in Nanking or in Hong Kong were projected on stage at the same time? Or perhaps Pearl Harbour, for an American audience?
After all there have been recent attempts by Japan to change their history textbooks. Guilt must in the end find its proper home.


That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

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