Sixty-eight years ago the U.S. atomic bomb named Little Boy was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, obliterating the city, killing 70,000 people instantly and wounding at least 70,000.
Three days later, on August 9, 1945, the atomic bomb named Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki, killing tens of thousands more. The people killed were women, children and elderly Japanese civilians.
A moving commemoration of these atomic bombings was held by Massachusetts Peace Action in the City of Cambridge.
The New England Peace Pagoda drums beat a solemn rhythm as peace activists and bystanders gathered at the steps of Cambridge City Hall on a beautiful, sunny, clear afternoon.
Shelagh Foreman, Political Director at Mass. Peace Action reminded us that there were still 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world that have to be abolished. She spoke standing in front of a backdrop of white flags held aloft by members of Veterans For Peace-Smedley Butler Brigade.
Others nearby held a flag of planet earth, reminding us with their flag that we are one world and that nuclear weapons threaten our planet, not just nations.
A young Japanese woman named Masaka from Hiroshima asked us to always remember Hiroshima, to commit to peace, to commit to the future.
Cambridge Mayor, Henrietta Davis read from a City Council Proclamation that includes the following:
WHEREAS: The U.S. Conference of Mayors has repeatedly, and unanimously, called on the President to seek negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, in part because cities are the targets of nuclear bombs, and on Congress to reject any program to build new nuclear weapons; and
WHEREAS: The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously supported the program of the Mayors for Peace, calling on the President to immediately remove all nuclear weapons from high-alert status and to announce a no-first-use policy regarding nuclear weapons; and
RESOLVED: That the City of Cambridge proclaims August 6, 2013 to be Hiroshima Day and August 9, 2013 to be Nagasaki Day to honor the thousands of innocent victims of the nuclear detonations on those days; and be it further
RESOLVED: That the Cambridge City Council calls on the President to attend and to address the September 26, 2013 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament; and be it further
RESOLVED: That the Cambridge City Council calls on the President to attend the 2014 conference in Mexico on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons; and be it further
RESOLVED: That the Cambridge City Council calls on the United States government to participate in the work of the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons; and be it further
RESOLVED: That the Cambridge City Council calls on the Congress to cancel the costly, unnecessary, and destabilizing new Nuclear Complex Program and all other new nuclear weapons programs;
Young women from the Japanese school Showa, wearing light blue shirts, performed a dance named Hokkaido, created by Japanese fishermen.
Led by drummers, we marched up Mass. Ave. from City Hall, with signs and banners for peace and calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
At Brattle Square in the heart of Harvard Square, there was a second gathering with speakers.
The Harvard Square Business Association had a table with cookies and water in support of the peace event.
Dr. Ira Helfand, from International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War told us that the people who died at Hiroshima were a reminder and a warning to us – that we continue to face the danger of nuclear weapons. Today’s nuclear weapons are much more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even a so-called limited nuclear exchange would kill 10-20 million people, destroying vast numbers of cities and the soot from the detonation would block sunlight, cause the temperature to drop and cause a decade of climate disruption putting 1-2 billion people at risk for starvation and death.
“This is not the future that “must” be, he said, “but it is the future that will be if we don’t change it.”
Instead of working with other nations towards nuclear disarmament, the U.S. has allocated $200 billion to upgrade nuclear weapons, to design and build new bombers, new missiles, new submarines and new bomb-making facilities.
The nuclear nations do not want to discuss abolishing nuclear weapons or their treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to eliminate their arsenals. In particular, the U.S. is avoiding an international High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament scheduled for September 26, 2013 at the United Nations as well as a 2014 conference in Mexico on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. This situation must be changed.
Brian Corr, Cambridge Peace Commissioner said that the U.S. is a wealthy nation maintaining the largest, most powerful military by far, costing 700 billion dollars a year, but we can’t provide healthcare for the tens of millions of people in our nation who don’t have it. He reminded us of the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, from 1968, “…begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
And he left us with the inspiring words from the 1960 founding document of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC): …Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear; love transforms hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Peace dominates war; faith reconciles doubt. Mutual regard cancels enmity. Justice for all overthrows injustice…
Claire Gosselin, from Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) spoke of the long history of WILPF, founded during WWI to oppose that costly and terrible war. From the Test Ban work of Linus and Ava Pauling to Women’s Strike for Peace highlighting the danger of strontium 90 fallout in milk from nuclear bomb tests, to Randy Forsberg and the Nuclear Freeze, citizen activists and particularly women, have taken steps for decades to address nuclear dangers. “This is not a stable situation, it spurs a desire for others to get nuclear weapons, we need nuclear weapons free zones and we must push our government to abide by our treaty obligations.”
At key moments throughout the event, at Cambridge City Hall and at Brattle Square, Smedley Butler Coordinator, Pat Scanlon, sang songs addressing police spying on peace activists and anthems against war.
Lyrics ranged from “War is not the answer,” to “…no place to hide, kiss your a** goodbye” to a rendition of Bobby Darin’s Sing a Simple Song of Freedom with the crowd joining in the chorus, “Come and sing a simple song of freedom, Sing it like you’ve never sung before, Let it fill the air, Tell the people everywhere, We, the people here, don’t want a war. “
The crowd was attentive, the day was beautiful and the solemn occasion was remembered in a heartfelt way at the same time as we all understood we must continue to work for not only abolition of nuclear weapons and power, but for a world in which conflict is resolved without war and in which all people on planet earth have a basic standard of living that is in a better balance with nature. This is the path to peace and freedom.
The commemoration continued with a showing of a film “Hibakusha, Our Life To Live.” I did not go to the film so perhaps someone who did could write a report on that event. Remember: if we don’t write it up, it “didn’t happen.”