Lest we forget

Today is the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. I visited Hiroshima in September of 2005, about 15 years ago. It was a very sobering pilgrimage, in more than one way. The museum wasn’t more graphic than it needed to be, but it didn’t put a gloss on things either.

The recent explosion in Beirut was traumatic, so much so that even with the video footage it is almost impossible to wrap our minds around what the experience was for the people there. Yet it was tiny compared to what Hiroshima experienced.

My grandfather fought in WWII in the South Pacific, and his unit was preparing to invade Tokyo when the bomb was dropped, likely a nearly suicidal mission. Since the bomb ended the war and Grandpa was in my life because he didn’t get killed, I was raised believing that the bomb was a good thing, at the very worst a necessary evil. I had never connected it to the human carnage and horrific trauma. I have felt since my visit that every world leader should take that pilgrimage. One of my concerns about current leadership is that so many of them are sociopaths and couldn’t learn from that.

This is a good time for us to remember what was at stake in World War II and the tyranny and fascism that allowed people both near and far to be viewed as less than human. We are experiencing that sort of autocratic thinking.

As over 160,000 US citizens have died from COVID19 we see an administration that stopped trying to do anything much about it because it was raging first in states that did not have the same political bent, then gave up entirely when statistics began to demonstrate that minorities were more effected. It has a very familiar tone to the lead up to the holocaust:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemoller, Lutheran pastor.

The phrase “lest we forget” comes from a poem written in 1897:

God of fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine–
Lord God of Hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

from Recessional by Rudyard Kipling

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