Hannah and I got to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial as dusk was turning to night. The domed building almost immediately under the site of the explosion of the first nuclear attack in history was saved by the physics of the blast, but everyone inside and in the surrounding areas were killed instantly. It is a beautiful and haunting monument to the horrors of war and the hope for future peace.
As a Japanese-American and history major, the spot has a special but problematic significance for me. The argument for the use of the bomb in the years following World War II was that it had saved millions of lives by forcing Japanese surrender and preventing a bloody invasion of the Japanese home islands. However, scholarship since then has questioned whether it was even the bombs that prompted the Japanese surrender, but rather the entrance of the Soviet Union into the war.
Justified or not, effective or not, the destruction of Hiroshima is a testament to the terribleness of war. When warmongers and politicians speak lightly of "taking them out" or "flexing our military muscle" it trivializes the incomprehensible loss that can be so easily delivered by human hands. Despite experiencing two significant wars in my generation, two wars which have killed and maimed thousands of American soldiers, destroyed two countries and ruined or ended countless lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have only affected the majority of Americans in a minor way. Total war, in which entire cities are wiped out, fire and death rain down not on a television screen but above our own homes, and where the existence of our very civilization is placed in doubt - this is still a very real risk.
The dome is surrounded by a beautiful park, and the lights of the new Hiroshima sparkle in the distance, easing some of the worry I have for humankind.