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Brain Diving: Legacies of Hiroshima


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BassKuroi



Joined: 31 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 6:22 pm Reply with quote
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Resisting or refusing such invasive tests was not an option. Nakazawa lashes out at the people who did this, writing, “I think America has no right to censure the Nazis for their cruelty—Auschwitz and other concentration camps—to the Jews. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America carried out a cruel experiment on living people.” While I would agree that of course the bombings and subsequent experimentation carried out by the U.S. government were horrible, I don't think that this means I cannot criticize other atrocities where I seem them. One could say to Nakazawa that the Japanese have no right to feel persecuted because it was their government that initiated and imperial expansionist war in East Asia and are responsible for such atrocities as the Rape of Nanking and Unit 731, which carried out human experiments with biological and chemical weapons in China during the war.


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When Nakazawa writes that he feels “America's humanitarianism and democracy were a sham, shallow and suspect,” it is difficult to point to many of his experiences to try to prove otherwise. The main thrust of this book is not an anti-American polemic, though. As I mentioned above, he pulls no punches with his fellow countrymen either. He is particularly vehement about the Emperor, who he sees as being directly responsible for the destruction incurred by the country.



A masterpiece of cynicism. The point is that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were both fascist, dictatorial and non-democratic regimes. USA is (and was) a democratic country. That changes everything, because USA fought both regimes in the name of Freedom and Democracy.
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rinmackie



Joined: 05 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 7:17 pm Reply with quote
BassKuroi wrote:
Quote:
Resisting or refusing such invasive tests was not an option. Nakazawa lashes out at the people who did this, writing, “I think America has no right to censure the Nazis for their cruelty—Auschwitz and other concentration camps—to the Jews. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America carried out a cruel experiment on living people.” While I would agree that of course the bombings and subsequent experimentation carried out by the U.S. government were horrible, I don't think that this means I cannot criticize other atrocities where I seem them. One could say to Nakazawa that the Japanese have no right to feel persecuted because it was their government that initiated and imperial expansionist war in East Asia and are responsible for such atrocities as the Rape of Nanking and Unit 731, which carried out human experiments with biological and chemical weapons in China during the war.


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When Nakazawa writes that he feels “America's humanitarianism and democracy were a sham, shallow and suspect,” it is difficult to point to many of his experiences to try to prove otherwise. The main thrust of this book is not an anti-American polemic, though. As I mentioned above, he pulls no punches with his fellow countrymen either. He is particularly vehement about the Emperor, who he sees as being directly responsible for the destruction incurred by the country.



A masterpiece of cynicism. The point is that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were both fascist, dictatorial and non-democratic regimes. USA is (and was) a democratic country. That changes everything, because USA fought both regimes in the name of Freedom and Democracy.


True, but we've committed our own share of atrocities and while we're supposed to be a democracy, we're not beyond becoming "fascist, dictatorial, and non-democratic".
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littlegreenwolf



Joined: 10 Aug 2002
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:15 pm Reply with quote
I attend an art school with a comic major, which means our library is quite lovely to browse through if you like comics. The first couple volumes of Barefoot Gen have a place right next to Maus and Persepolis there, and they're constantly being checked out. I hear it's required reading in one of the History of Comics classes here for the comic major, so maybe that's why, but that didn't stop me from having an amazing conversation on the books with some of my fellow illustrator students the other day, and I'm glad it's becoming more well known here, even if it's only among people in the illustration/graphic novel community.

Personally, the imagery in all it's classic early manga-cuteness gave me nightmares (I could not eat for a while after reading the end of the 1st volume, and much of the 2nd - and flies, don't get me started on flies and maggots), but that imagery, and how a boy's normal, simple life is completely ripped apart by war will forever stay with me, and I'll be sure it's something my kids (when I have them) will read.

Sure, we can delve into the politics behind all of it, but when you get down to it there's nothing more horrifying than what we can to to fellow humans in the world, be it our own neighbors or an enemy country, and it's a lesson everyone should know.
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Xanas



Joined: 27 Aug 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:36 pm Reply with quote
BassKuroi wrote:

A masterpiece of cynicism. The point is that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were both fascist, dictatorial and non-democratic regimes. USA is (and was) a democratic country. That changes everything, because USA fought both regimes in the name of Freedom and Democracy.

You should think more about this "fought in the name of Freedom" when we ourselves had a policy of internship for Japanese Americans. FDR's government took many actions designed to push for war rather than avoid it.

The existence of Nazi Germany was almost entirely due to the Treaty of Versailles, which would have been impossible without our involvement in WWI.

I used to think like you do, but the truth is that many people die because of neo-conservative ideas of "advancing democracy" and other such nonsense. The freedom they are given is largely diminished by having to be in constant fear of being collateral damage from one side or the other in conflict.
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BrianRuh



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:28 pm Reply with quote
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USA is (and was) a democratic country. That changes everything, because USA fought both regimes in the name of Freedom and Democracy.

Part of Nakazawa's point was that even though Japan was conquered and occupied by the US for years, many of our actions during the occupation were undemocratic. (See what's known as the "reverse course.") Rather than trying to bring democracy to Japan, more often than not the US was looking out for its own best interests. Now, you could argue that that's what we should have been doing, but it certainly wasn't living up to any kind of democratic ideal.
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Rolando_jose



Joined: 04 Jan 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:37 pm Reply with quote
Black Rain (Kuroi Ame) it's a good movie to see what happened to the people of hiroshima, and been a B&W film the gruesome scenes aren't that bad.
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BrianRuh



Joined: 17 Dec 2003
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Location: West Lafayette, IN, USA
PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:45 pm Reply with quote
One bit that I didn't mention was that before Nakazawa wrote Barefoot Gen, he wrote a manga about Okinawa before its reversion. (Unlike the rest of Japan, where the American occupation ended in 1952, the US directly controlled the islands of Okinawa until 1972. It's noted n the book that in order to travel to Okinawa, a Japanese citizen like Nakazawa needed a passport and visa.)

Nakazawa saw an island where farmers had their lands seized for use as military bases, poor children had to struggle to learn amid the noise of airplanes taking off and landing, and racial tensions among US servicemembers sometimes became violent in the streets. After his manga was published, Nakazawa was astonished how little mainland Japanese knew about what was going on in Okinawa.

Of course, even after reversion to Japanese control the bases stayed on the island. It's a constant source of tension, and if there were a democratic vote on the bases, they'd certainly be voted off the island (as it were). But this was a decision made by Japanese politicians nearly a thousand miles away in Tokyo.
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vashfanatic



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 10:07 pm Reply with quote
BassKuroi wrote:
A masterpiece of cynicism. The point is that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were both fascist, dictatorial and non-democratic regimes. USA is (and was) a democratic country. That changes everything, because USA fought both regimes in the name of Freedom and Democracy.

Yes, it does change everything. It means that while the blame of events in Japan and Germany can be placed on their totalitarian leaders, all Americans can share the blame for what we did in Hiroshima! Oh, and for those camps we had where people like George Takei spent their childhoods...

Also, Japan was a democracy during WW2. Universal suffrage for men over the age of 21. It's just that the military had so much veto power that the legislators they elected were completely ineffective.

The vital point, though, is that you can fight whatever you like "in the name" of freedom and democracy, but if you aren't actually doing things that promote freedom and democracy, then it's "in name only." And any government that ignores the rights of its citizens forfeits the right to be called a democracy (paraphrased from Yang Wenli).
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Dark Paladin X



Joined: 20 Aug 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:06 pm Reply with quote
For the most part, it is very sad that the Japanese were the first only people to experience the effects of nuclear warfare. And what's even scarier is during the Cold War years, United States and Soviet Union developed stronger and more destructive nuclear weapons than Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Which is why when it comes to the issue of nuclear technology, Japan only use it as means of generating electric power (international treaties are partially the reason, the main reason is the horrors of the atomic bombings that the Japanese experienced). Which is pretty much why when anime and manga writers have to feature a nuclear like explosion, they normally put it in a different name or phenomenon (Akira, Code Geass, Neon Genesis Evangelion). Even if many anime/manga writers look into the issue of nuclear weapons issue, they want to convey the message of the consequences of unchecked superweapons like the atomic bomb.

At the same time, however, what really pisses me off is there are still many Japanese who deny the war crimes committed by their own government and military during and prior to WWII (Rape of Nanking and Unit 731 as mentioned in the article). In particular, the uyoku dantai (right-wing groups) are well known to completely deny the war crimes committed by the military and justify the expansionist policies. The Japanese government does officially recognize and admit the atrocities, but downplay the severity. In fact, during the mid 2000s, the Japanese government approved several controversial textbooks that downplay and deny their own war crimes during World War II. For the most part, the atrocities that imperial Japan had committed during the war was mostly seen to be unforgivable by many Chinese and Koreans; which is mainly why China and both Koreas still have some sour relationships with Japan. The Nanking Massacre was seen to be very unforgivable to many Chinese just as how 9/11 was seen to be very unforgivable to many Americans, which is turn, negatively impacted the Sino-Japanese relations after World War II. I even personally joked to my parents, some of my anime club members, and one of my teachers (who happened to be Chinese) that the Chinese government would probably want to launch a military invasion on Japan as means of revenge over Nanking Massacre.

Also, bear in note that United States isn't a saint for most of its history. The U.S. does have a fair share of history of their own atrocities like slavery, the treatment of American Indians, racial segregation, and internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Even during the Cold War while United States had the foreign policies of "promoting democratic values," the United States government was willing to back corrupt dictatorships as means of combating communism or fitting into American interests (Batista Cuban regime, the Shah of Iran, the government Junta of Chile, South Vietnam, Saddam's regime, etc., hence the terms "lesser of two evils" and "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" comes from). It is the the war crimes committed by Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany that got a lot of notability.
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littlegreenwolf



Joined: 10 Aug 2002
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:19 pm Reply with quote
vashfanatic wrote:
BassKuroi wrote:
A masterpiece of cynicism. The point is that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were both fascist, dictatorial and non-democratic regimes. USA is (and was) a democratic country. That changes everything, because USA fought both regimes in the name of Freedom and Democracy.

Yes, it does change everything. It means that while the blame of events in Japan and Germany can be placed on their totalitarian leaders, all Americans can share the blame for what we did in Hiroshima! Oh, and for those camps we had where people like George Takei spent their childhoods...


You forget that while the Nazis may have been totalitarian fascists they were originally elected into power. Why do the citizens of Germany no part of the blame with your reasoning?

While I don't agree with BassKuroi's blind support of a propaganda cause for war, I can't agree with you that every American citizen is to blame for what happened in Hiroshima while the citizens of Japan and Germany are not.

The blame on the American side can easily be placed on the American government as much as it can be blamed on the totalitarian governments of the Axis Powers. How many American citizens knew at the time what America was doing in terms of nuclear bombs? How many American citizens could even explain what one was, or for that matter, how many voted to drop the bomb? Should they be blamed for their ignorance? Perhaps, but the scientists and the people in power on the day the bomb dropped hold more responsibility.

There are no innocent countries in war. Everyone gets down and dirty during it, and innocent people die. How the country is viewed later on in history and who is blamed always depends on who is the victor. The losing side of a war always has to face the consequences of being part of war- It's something that has been going on since the beginning of time, and every person accepts this as part of humanity because it's what we're taught from history.

I'm one of those Americans that had Grandfather on both sides of the war, and as an American with German heritage I can tell you that my family back in Germany does not separate themselves from the atrocities that happened during WW2, and I myself feel shamed in any role my mother's family may have played. Citizens in Germany are taught that the Nazi party was largely responsible for the atrocities that happened, but so were they. Just about everyone had someone in their family in the army/Nazi party, or was related to someone who voted them in.



vashfanatic wrote:
Also, Japan was a democracy during WW2. Universal suffrage for men over the age of 21. It's just that the military had so much veto power that the legislators they elected were completely ineffective.


Then that is not a democracy. You might as well call China a democracy because their citizens vote on things that don't really matter as well.

Back on the column, I find it interesting that Nakazawa stance on the subject of Hiroshima seems to have changed since when he first wrote Barefoot Gen (he clearly blamed Japan). I'm really interested to read Hiroshima: The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen for myself now to see how his opinion on the subject has evolved over the last 50+ years.
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vashfanatic



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 12:08 am Reply with quote
littlegreenwolf wrote:
You forget that while the Nazis may have been totalitarian fascists they were originally elected into power. Why do the citizens of Germany no part of the blame with your reasoning?

Because I was being sarcastic. I'd hoped that I'd gotten that across in the final paragraph, but sarcasm is the hardest thing to express on the internet. Sad My overall point was being a democracy has no bearing on adding or subtracting righteousness from your cause.

Quote:
Then that is not a democracy. You might as well call China a democracy because their citizens vote on things that don't really matter as well.

Well, they mattered in the sense that the multi-party system remained and legislators and prime ministers were getting voted in and out of office, which is not the case in China. It's just that in the name of the "war effort" they'd handed over too much power to non-elected officials. Fear of "imminent threats to national security" can make people give up lots of rights...

Anyways, I don't feel like assigning blame about things. I've always felt that Barefoot Gen should be read not as an indictment on what America did, but as a warning to never let this happen again. And not just the atomic bomb dropping but everything that preceded: the war, the indoctrination, the secret police, the suicide missions, on and on it goes.

My question that I always had reading the early volumes of the series was whether Gen's father was a socialist. Much of his dialogue resonates with socialist anti-war arguments, namely that it was committed by the wealthy classes for their own advantage.
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doc-watson42
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Joined: 10 Feb 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 12:42 am Reply with quote
For those who are interested, IMHO Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire by Richard B. Frank (Penguin, 1999; also in paperback: ISBN 0141001461; WorldCat) gives an excellent overall account of the bombings and the general conditions leading to the Japanese surrender; it includes extensive Japanese materials. Frank's essay "No Bomb, No End" in What If? 2: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (Robert Cowley, ed.; G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2001; ISBN 0399147950; WorldCat) is a bit more to the point—he gives his opinion that dropping the bombs has turned out to have been the best of several bad options. (Note that the Amazon pages of both books include previews.)

Oh, and I like what I have read of Nakazawa's Hiroshima manga. Very Happy
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BrianRuh



Joined: 17 Dec 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 1:56 am Reply with quote
vashfanatic wrote:
My question that I always had reading the early volumes of the series was whether Gen's father was a socialist. Much of his dialogue resonates with socialist anti-war arguments, namely that it was committed by the wealthy classes for their own advantage.

Nakazawa's book doesn't go into the specifics of how his father categorized himself, or if he did at all, but he emphatically says that he was anti-war and that the theater troupe he belonged to was "left-wing."
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Yamaji



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 2:03 pm Reply with quote
Rolando_jose wrote:
Black Rain (Kuroi Ame) it's a good movie to see what happened to the people of hiroshima, and been a B&W film the gruesome scenes aren't that bad.


I thought the book this movie was based on was better. A lot more detail about the aftermath of the bombing. Absolutely heartbreaking story. I wept for his niece.
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Xanas



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 2:27 pm Reply with quote
Here is a good article http://mises.org/daily/4838 on the detail behind the war crime that was perpetrated by our government in these nuclear bombings.

While I don't think that the people are responsible for all the actions of government I do find it very sad that most people supported Truman's actions due to the lie he told about the saving of lives. How much easier would that all have been had we given up the idea of unconditional surrender. Who should be surprised at how strongly unconditional surrender was resisted with what was imposed via the Treater of Versailles earlier in the century?

vashfanatic wrote:

It's just that in the name of the "war effort" they'd handed over too much power to non-elected officials. Fear of "imminent threats to national security" can make people give up lots of rights...

I'm thinking of President Bush and that nice TSA he created in response to 9/11. Sadly, this becomes only worse with "hope 'n change" and the body scanner lobby looking out for us.
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