Friday, May 12, 2006

Hiroshima

Ground Zero. The original, not the Manhattanite imitation

(Editorial note: Historical background in this post will be limited to the events of August 6, 1945; There will be no discussion of politics and motives, or revisionist versions thereof, behind the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; nor will I tolerate asinine conspiracy theories in the comments section. If you're of the conspiracy-mongering bent, put your tinfoil hat on, crawl back under the rock you came from or into your mom's basement, whichever is nearest, and fling your electronic feces somewhere else. --R.A.H.)

This hollowed and scaffold-reinforced shell is practically all that remains of the horrors unleashed on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. A crude (by today's standards*) nuclear fission bomb was dropped by a USAAF bomber crew, detonating 1800 feet above and 150 yards southeast of this building, the "Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall", a sort of convention center for the products of the city and its local area. 80,000 people died instantly in the blast, heat, and radiation; 60,000 more would die in the coming months, and the remaining survivors bear the scars and ill effects to this day.

A rebuilt and thriving city of 1.1 million inhabitants, the people of Hiroshima have left this remnant as a reminder to themselves and to the world of the worst of what we do to one another, and as a memorial to those who lost their lives and their health on that day and ever since.

If not for this decaying dome, it would have appeared to me to be any other pleasant, tree-lined city park by the river on a pleasant, clear spring day. However, standing there, close enough to this tottering edifice to reach out and feel the pits in the concrete left by the blast, one feels dampened. Knowing beforehand that this is the memorial of 140,000 lives taken in a flash saps the cheer out of you very quickly. I suppose Auschwitz elicits the same reaction in most visitors, unless they happen to be thrill-seeking, sadistic ghouls.

Beyond the shock of standing in the remains of such a massive killing field, I also felt indignation for the people of Hiroshima at the way the term "Ground Zero" is so carelessly tossed about by those who describe special events, i.e. "Ground Zero for Saturday's party" or the sites of disasters, from hurricanes to modern-day acts of war, for example the WTC site in New York. Yes, 9/11 was a shocking loss of life, but not on the scale of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Stop cheapening the losses suffered by Hiroshima and Nagasaki and find another description for the tragedy.

The other source of my indignation is a tendency people have to describe the power and intensity of a weapon, or a force of nature, as "being the equivalent of (X) Hiroshimas". HIROSHIMA IS NOT A SCIENTIFIC MEASUREMENT OF ENERGY!!! Show some feeling, to say nothing of intellect, and express the energy as joules. Let your readers look it up and stop dumbing down society by adapting your expression to the meanest understanding. Anything less casts pearls before swine. Nobody can be told to learn; at some point people have to seize the initiative and learn by themselves, or else blunder through life as inattentive sheep.

*--Little Boy, the weapon used on Hiroshima, was a notoriously unstable and unsafe (hmm. ya think?) atomic bomb variant employing what was known as "gun" or "impact" fission. A small explosive charge forced a 26.5 kilogram uranium-235 projectile through a cut-down gun barrel into a 38.4 kg U-235 "target" to create the critical mass needed to initiate fission. The design was retired very quickly, owing to the scarcity of U-235 and the weapon's instability and danger of accidental detonation in case of a crash or of water seeping into the weapon and shorting out the firing circuits.

5 comments:

kissyface said...
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kissyface said...

We are so careless with our words. The use of "Final Solution," sometimes gets used, and inappropriately so. Even common phrases like "rule of thumb," because their historical context is forgotten are pretty horrifying (in case you don't know, comes from English common law that stated a man could beat his wife with a switch no thicker than his thumb).

Wasn't Ground Zero used before Hiroshima in the Trinity site tests? Still, no less awful.

As to the twin towers, I feel they should not be rebuilding them. Seems like some sort of obfuscation of the event. I don't believe we should dwell in sorrow, but we musn't forget.

Really moving what you wrote. I took the tin foil off to read it.

kissyface said...

Sorry that posted twice, erase the first if you wanna!

Citizen H said...

Yes, Ground Zero was first used to describe the Detonation of the Gadget in the Trinity test, but that test did not result in the loss of lives.

TheVeryReverand''VeeNeedANewVeehicle'' said...

are ya real sgt?