Christians in Nagasaki

Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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18 Responses

  1. Notme says:

    Oh yes, those horrible americans. Whine, whine whine.Report

  2. Damon says:

    Americans have never had a problem killing christians. Power, politics, etc. are way more important than religion.Report

    • Notme in reply to Damon says:

      Especially if they are brown non christians.Report

    • Jon Rowe in reply to Damon says:

      I’m not as cynical about America. But I do note that America had its origin (the Revolutionary War) in killing fellow Christians. That’s one of the dumbfounding things about the concept of America founded as a “Christian Nation.”Report

      • notme in reply to Jon Rowe says:

        Does being a “Christian Nation” (whatever that is since we’re not a theocracy) mean that can’t seek liberty or defend ourselves? I’d also say those those Christians that were killed weren’t the same folks running the Japanese gov’t. Maybe if they were, there wouldn’t have been a war in the first place.Report

  3. LWA says:

    So what is the lesson we want to extract, when we look at history?

    If the lesson is “America has done awful things, shame on America” then actually Notme’s response is appropriate. (Not a sentence I imagined myself writing when I woke up this morning).

    Because history isn’t ever about history., its about using the example of history to apply to the present.

    If I were to extract a lesson from the mass city bombings of WWII, it would be that the murky territory of war always, always, causes us to lose our moral compass and do things we swear we will never do. And I use the present tense intentionally.

    When the Fascists bombed Guernica, they killed a few hundred people and some cows, and the entire world was horrified by the savagery. Less than a decade later, we were slaughtering entire cities, men women and children by the hundreds of thousands, without a second thought.

    At the beginning of every war, people tell themselves its about a noble purpose, a higher good, then by the end, it ends up as a savage bloodbath that would embarrass the jackals.

    This isn’t to handwave away war itself as illegitimate, or to despair over our human nature. Its my attempt to try and make sense of things like Nagasaki, and to be suitably cautious about the voices I hear at this very moment shrieking about the need for national “toughness” and how we can and should manipulate events in the world to our liking.

    I think of how St. Augustine said that it may be necessary to kill, but that we should at the very least do it with anguish and regret.

    So in the end, the lesson I take away is that whenever we go to war, we end up being those people who are able to incinerate children and even if it is for a higher good, we still need to accept that this is who we become.Report

    • notme in reply to LWA says:

      Thanks. My only quibble would be that there was some issue with the mass bombing tactics championed by Arthur Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command. As a result he didn’t receive the same level of recognition as some of the other major British commanders after the war.Report

    • Damon in reply to LWA says:

      Your comments about “america doing bad things” and history to apply to the present are good points. My education in american history was a lot less nuanced growing up than the true reality, so I actually find counter points to the “rah rah WW2 was about freedom” and “we were attacked first by the Japs” very enlightening, or did, when I first learned about them.

      Interesting enough, I was recently in Mt. Vernon and my friend made some comments after viewing the slave quarters. Something like “Isn’t america great”. Given her tone, it was snarky, and somewhat understandable. I countered with something along the lines of “no different that the last hundred thousand years of humanity’s behavior”.Report

  4. Kolohe says:

    If I recall correctly, one of the reasons that both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were picked is that they had been largely untouched by the conventional bombing campaign, and so were one of the biggest targets left. And the reason for being mostly untouched was because they were both pre-Commodore Perry centers of foreign trade and thus had a lot more foreign cultural influences (especially religious) and foreign citizens than any other part of Japan.Report

  5. Doctor Jay says:

    I recently read this about one of the last living people to work on the bomb. He said this:

    “I wondered about it for many years. For the first 50 years, I had a very bad feeling about it. Not a bad feeling that we [built the bomb]—because we thought that we were racing Germany. But I had thought how much better it would have been if we hadn’t done it.”

    Whereas, the author of the piece:

    My own second cousin, Barb Mulkey, tells me her father always thanked the bomb for saving his life—he was in an infantry unit on a boat outside Tokyo, waiting for the go-ahead for the ground invasion. The projected casualty rate of his mission was 90 percent.

    My daughter wrote a report in high-school about this. She interviewed the teacher of her Japanese class (she was taking it through community college). The teacher, who was a little girl in Japan at the time, said, “We would never have surrendered otherwise.”

    War is terrible. It is always regrettable. It leads to things like this, that, in context, are completely logical and defensible. I contend it is no more or less moral than any of the rest of warfare, which humans have conducted since before there were cities.Report

  6. Road Scholar says:

    It’s my belief that once the science was in place weaponization was inevitable. If not by us than by some other country. And once the weapon had been built it was inevitable that it would be used against a civilian target in a conflict. If not by us against Japan, then somewhere and somewhen else. This was inevitable and, perhaps, even necessary in some sense. As impressive as glassifying a desert may be, I don’t believe the true existential horror of what had been created could properly be appreciated until an actual city full of living, breathing humans had been actually incinerated.

    Now I don’t have a strong opinion either way on whether the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary, moral, or justified, but I do wonder if maybe, taking the long view of things, whether ultimately it was better for humanity’s sake that the inevitable happened early on and with those relatively small devices. The first use case could very easily have involved much larger weapons being used against much larger cities and with exponentially greater loss of life.

    Can’t ever know of course, but it’s worth considering.Report

    • notme in reply to Road Scholar says:

      As impressive as glassifying a desert may be, I don’t believe the true existential horror of what had been created could properly be appreciated until an actual city full of living, breathing humans had been actually incinerated.

      The same thing happened as a result of the fire bombings so I don’t understand how the atomic bomb was “worse.” It just happedned to be a new and novel weapon. And the japanese have been playing the victim for the last 70 years.Report