Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dear Obama: Please come to Hiroshima

Atomic bomb destruction in Hiroshima. Genbaku Dome is in the back right. (Source: www.atomicarchive.com)

The New York Times ran a touching op-ed today from a Japanese fashion designer who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Issey Miyake was 7 years old when the bomb dropped, and his mother died from radiation poisoning. Like many hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors), he has kept silent all these years about the horror of that experience — until now.

Miyake felt compelled to write after hearing Obama call for the eradication of nuclear weapons. He urges Obama to come to Hiroshima for the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing on August 6 to show the world that his goal is to work toward nuclear disarmament.

There has indeed been a movement to invite Obama to visit. I know that English students at some schools were assigned to write him letters asking him to come, and the Hiroshima newspaper also organized a letter-writing project.

The media never fail to note that no sitting U.S. president or vice-president has ever visited the atomic bombing memorial (although Jimmy Carter came after leaving office and Richard Nixon visited between terms as vice president and president). It seemed like a a significant gesture to the Japanese when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi paid her respects at the site last September during a trip to Japan to meet with representatives of the G-8.

Maybe Obama, with his message of hope and change, could become the first president to accept the invitation to come. Nowhere would his words be more appreciated, more embraced, than right here.

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