Monday, March 9, 2009

War is a horrible thing...

What an understatement. I just read this brief, very disturbing article on Wired. I already knew about these air raids from my various history readings, but each time I rediscover them it stirs up ghosts. Evidently, approximately one million ghosts. Nagoya, which was firebombed twice, is a very short train ride from here. It's home to the Chunichi Dragons, the baseball team my Atlanta Braves just received a pitcher from, and is known for tebasaki, fried chicken wing tips, and the animated Christmas illuminations at its train station. I've been there a few times. Not as many times as I've been to Tokyo, though. My adopted hometown, Hamamatsu, was bombed flat and shelled from the sea by the U.S. Navy.

I've talked to a man whose arm still bears scars he received from the flames when he was a toddler. He was unemotional about it, not a trace of reproach or even self-pity, as he told me the story. I've visited the house and eaten the food of a woman who lived through the devastation and remembers big American G.I.'s tossing candy from a train as they passed through town. Her mother refused to let her eat it, so she placed it in a drawer and just looked at it from time to time. Later, in Tokyo, she fell in love with the English language as she heard it coming from the mouths of actors in American movies. She decided to learn it so she could understand what they were saying without having to read the subtitles, and talk to those big Americans or their children one day. I know a junior high kid who loves WWII planes and builds model kits-- the Zero, the Spitfire and the Mustang. But not the B-29, he told me.

Not far from where I lived in Georgia for many years is a cemetary and park that was once a Confederate prison camp where hundreds of Union soldiers were held, and many died of starvation. I've walked on Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields. I've dreamed of visiting the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. There's a row of zelkova trees running past the station. They're a memorial to the what the city was before the war. I can't remember how it's worded on the plaque, sorry. It's a strange feeling to be in a place where these things have happened. Strange indeed. The streets you walk down in the larger cities here may follow old patterns, but they are all recent streets, none more ancient than sixty years. For over a year, I lived a minute's stroll from a temple gate here, the temple itself having fallen victim to a battle that happened before my country was even founded.

So perhaps everywhere you go there are ghosts. I hope one day we will listen to their voices. They're asking us to stop making war.

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