More musings from Mito

Before I came to Japan an old Australian man scolded me for being unAustralian in visiting this horrible country. Why so horrible you might ask? Well for what happened in WWII. See, as we all know,  the Japanese were on the other side of the battle. And, as I have seen at museums in Thailand and Malaysia, they did some really bad things. The old man was too young to be a WWII veteran.  Maybe his father or uncle was. He’s held a grudge for a very long time.

So of course,  I have come to Japan despite the old man. And I think little of that war to end all wars. ANZAC Day comes and goes. I feel little for the day as my Facebook feed is dotted with photos by military personnel who boast about being drunk at the march. One posts a photo of himself carrying a beer while riding a skateboard at the march. There are also many posts about the glory of warriors. About how we should venerate soldiers, sailors and airmen and women for deciding on that as their job. I cannot connect. War only conjures up two images in my mind: hatred of humans and waste of life (and, today in my country, a career choice made in uncertain economic times).

But I do stop to reflect often on other days about our shared history and the lessons not yet learned. In Korea I was moved by the memorials and museums of their ongoing civil war. I saw farmers with backs bent who were directly affected by military action.  Innocent civilians whose farms were destroyed but who I were now harvesting rice. In Thailand the River Kwai bridge and death railway rocked my mind with the horror prisoners of war experienced.  And in Malaysia the Cameron Highlands were not always so peaceful as the many jeeps that remain from the war can show.

But what about Japan? What have I learned here? I just went to a peace museum. A tiny two room display without English translations. It was the same photos from a different perspective.  Some uniforms and ordinance. Military personnel marching and civilians supoorting their countrymen. But then there were five photos of Hiroshima and I felt the tears well up. Our side did that. We created that destruction. We crossed that line to destroy a whole city with one bomb blast.

I look around at modern day Japan. It is peaceful and calm. Every day I pass signs that say “May peace reign on  earth”. Every day. I see no monuments to soldiers lost. No lists of names. No cenotaphs  Just this simple wish written in both Japanese and English. And I see it every single day in parks, at shrines and in random urban locations. And it makes me wonder … which country is Japan currently invading? Are they currently at war? I know my country is. But what about this nation the old man warned me to stay away from? 

I make no apologies for being a pacifist. I believe all people are one regardless of race,  religion or politics. I know there are bad people who do bad things.  But I am also not so naive as to believe what I am told to believe.  As long as we are rich and others remain poor there will be conflict. Perhaps,  instead of creating fear,  we need to look at ways to reduce that poverty. And to step outside our perspectives to see a bigger picture. One in which we all play a role and no nation is innocent in times of war. Seeing the photos of Hiroshima today has changed me forever.  At the very least, lets stop glorifying warriors and start focusing on one simple wish: Let there be peace on earth.

That doesn’t mean lets fight evil. It means let us all create peace on earth through peaceful measures. However small or large they might be.

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7 thoughts on “More musings from Mito

  1. Great post.

    Visiting Hiroshima was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Seeing the tiny tattered uniforms of school children in their early teens who had been conscripted to work on building demolition and were working in the city on that day, and reading their individual stories, was horrendous. These were innocent young people who were only doing what they had been ordered to do. They didn’t choose to join an army and their work was to help save lives, but they paid the ultimate price.

  2. Very well stated! Peace on earth is something we should all work towards. Like you said, being a pacifist doesn’t mean not standing up to evil, but it also means you have to make sure there is a true, real evil before you fight.

    • I think we often forget about atrocities on both sides … both then and now.

      I don’t believe we should just strive for peace on earth I believe we should actively pursue it. I believe we should stop being nationalisitic and insular in our views to start truly seeing the global world as our home. It’s not just in military action either. The media reports about Nepal focused on western climbers and then on Western aid volunteers but largely ignore the Nepalese story. People say “why would you want to travel the world before you see your own country? “. Children in Africa are still starving but we demand our governments stop foreign aid because we don’t see value in our tax dollars going there. Peace on earth cannot exist as long as these beliefs keep us separate from our global family. And almost everyone I talk to when I am home says “oh you are so brave to travel the world because it’s dangerous out there”. You can’t have peace on earth if people are afraid of each other.

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