[Aftermath, Hiroshima, August 1945]
August 6th and 8th, 1945 are the dates on which Little Boy and Fat Man, the two atomic bombs that effectively ended World War II, were dropped on Japanese cities.
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I was thumbing through John Costello’s excellent one volume history of the war in the Pacific over the weekend. We might do well to reflect on descriptions of the event such as he provides from time to time:
An unidentified observer: “Suddenly a glaring whitish pink light appeared in the sky accompanied by an unnatural tremor that was followed almost immediately by a wave of suffocating heat and wind that swept everything away in its path.”
Costello’s own description of the Hiroshima bombing: “Within a few seconds, the thousands of people in the streets and the gardens of the center of town were scorched by a wave of searing heat. Many were killed instantly, others lay writhing on the ground, screaming in agony from the intolerable pains of their burns. Everything standing upright in the way of the blast, walls, houses, factories and other buildings, was annihilated and the debris spun around in a whirling wind and was carried up into the air.”
Colonel Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay: “There was the mushroom cloud growing up, and we watched it blossom…And down below it the thing reminded me more of a boiling pot of tar than any other description I can give it. It was black and boiling underneath with a steam haze on top of it.”
A Japanese journalist: “Beyond the zone of utter death in which nothing remained alive, houses collapsed in a swirl of bricks and girders. Up to about three miles from the center of the explosion, lightly built houses were flattened as though they had been built of cardboard. Those who were inside were either killed or managed to extricate themselves by some miracle, found themselves surrounded by fire. And the few who succeeded in making their way to safety generally died about twenty days later from the delayed effects of the deadly gamma rays.”
The White House release: “It is an atomic bomb. It is harnessing the fundamental power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East. If [Japan does] not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”
A terrible, terrible thing. The kind of thing that defines war.
But we are required also to recall the context within which such an unthinkable thing becomes thinkable: Perhaps a million Americans, and God knows how many more Japanese, would almost certainly have died in an invasion of the Japanese mainland, and the Japanese government and military had made it quite clear up to the two bombings that they were committed to continuing to the very bitter end, despite Germany’s surrender, and notwithstanding the furious fire-bombing of Japanese cities that preceded Little Boy and Fat Man.
Even after the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 8, the Japanese war minister argued the military must fight on to the last man and “find life in death.” Only the Emperor finally saved Japan from that dreadful destiny with these words: “The time has come when we must bear the unbearable.”
And even after this, a group of army staff officers organized a plot to eliminate the Emperor’s advisers and try to get an audience with the “Heavenly Sovereign” alone to convince him to turn back from surrender. There was an assassination of a General who would not cooperate with the plot and a failed attempt to kill the Prime Minister.
This is the moral horror of war. Conflicts whose outcome determines everything else will inevitably run into such awful decision-making situations, in which no options avoid atrocity.
When you are trying to learn a new language as an adult, expect massive pain and frustration.
You sometimes think you have advanced, only to fail spectacularly in some situation—mixing up similar-sounding but wholly unrelated words in front of someone you are trying to impress, for example—and realize you are as far from your goal of fluency as ever. You spend months, perhaps years trying to express grown-up thoughts in the grammar and vocabulary of a kindergartener, which makes it easy for native speakers to dismiss what you’re saying as infantile, because linguistically it is.
At some point, you begin dreaming in fragments of the new language. At first, you don’t understand what’s being said in the dream, though you recognize it as that damned foreign tongue that has been so tormenting you.
There is no more profound joy to be had in the game of languages than that moment when you awake from such a dream and realize you have perfectly and effortlessly discerned the meaning of what was said to you in that previously mysterious tongue, in that mysterious place. Even if it is only a phrase or two, you are now a different person.
A friend sent me this some time back. It is deeply informative about our current culture in many ways.
First, and perhaps most astonishingly, and to his great credit, McEnroe refused under this pressure to back down from the true thing he said, which is entirely uncontroversial to anyone who knows anything about the sex difference and athletic performance. To such people, it is as obvious that the best women’s tennis player in the world would almost certainly lose to many hundreds of the top male players in the world, and that the competition would not be close until you got far down the list of male players, as it is that the Earth is round. Men and women are different, and one of the ways in which they differ is in average strength and speed, two of the physical attributes needed to play tennis at a high level.
That such statements are understood by people in elite cultural positions such as these television hosts as an insult to Serena Williams is a demonstration of one of two things: either they genuinely do not know how significant the difference between the sexes is with respect to the physical attributes required to play tennis well, which would indicate they’d never themselves played sports or seen other men and women do so, or they are saying things they know to be untrue because they believe ideology demands that, which means they are unfit to occupy the professional positions they do.
It is no insult to Williams, or to any female player, to believe what McEnroe stated to be true, and it does not in any sense diminish their accomplishments. As McEnroe said, Williams is a formidable tennis player, one of and probably the best female player we have ever seen. How does it become an insult to insert the “female” in that statement?
The disgusted look on Nora O’Donnell’s face as she listens to McEnroe and the imperious tone in which she poses her question to him (“I’m just waiting…do you want to apologize?”) are worthy of close attention. You can tell by a glance at her here that, if it were in her power to destroy John McEnroe professionally and personally, she would likely do it, and with relish.
Also telling, and perhaps more chillingly: Charlie Rose sitting there smiling, playing the role of an “ally” to the radical feminism that doubtless is driving much of the contemporary inability to understand things regarding the sexes that were transparently clear a generation ago, a compliant toady to the reigning elite ideology, afraid even to respond to McEnroe’s question about how Rose thinks Williams would do against the top male players.
But how sincere is he here? Do you remember what happened to Charlie Rose?
Recall what we learned about about the kind of person he actually is, how he really thinks about women and his relationships with them. He was a serial sexual harasser who made the work environment intolerable for numerous women who had the misfortune to have jobs that put them in contact with him and below him in the professional hierarchy.
This is a message for everyone about men like Rose who eagerly go along with this kind of mendacious nonsense. In many cases, they don’t mean it. They are lying. They are hoping that in agreeing to the lies wokeness imposes on us they can blend in with the background and camouflage their own sins.
Another La City Paris metro ad I remember from a quarter century ago: Scenes of gigantic, looming, ominous but still beautiful young women (aesthetic 100% Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) putting fish food into a bowl that contains a miniature swimming man; or standing in front of a case that looks like that of the Collector I remember from old Avenger's comics but instead of containing Avengers, the case holds miniature men in various states of undress, all looking bewildered and helpless; or capturing a miniature man underneath a glass as if he were an interesting insect.
In France in the 1990s, you could still publicly tell this truth of the gender power situation.
Who really controls relationships between the sexes? The stock feminist line is that men do, since they still occupy most of the positions of political and economic power, even in the West. True enough, though the percentages have moved closer to parity since then.
But does that eliminate the power Jean Baudrillard named in a book that would probably get him canceled today as “seduction”?
What about the power that comes from the simple fact of being the sex in the binary relationship between the pair that gatekeeps sexual activity? (Though, as I’ve noted, that power has certainly been modified by what Mark Regnerus calls the advent of “the Genital Life”). Nearly every man can tell stories of his skillful and merciless manipulation by women whom he desired far more than they desired him.
Another cultural narrative that is nearly impossible to articulate in public in 2022.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren’s father was murdered. Warren subsequently spent his life working in the interests of people like the murderer of his father: to increase and protect their legal rights and to make it more difficult for police and courts to punish them.
The country today is probably split pretty much down the middle on whether he is to be admired or despised for this.
In a movie about a major part of the Catholic and royalist resistance to the French Revolution, Chouans (the title is the nickname given to a family of brothers who were influential in the counter-revolutionary army), there is a scene in a post-Revolution elementary school.
The teacher (Sophie Marceau) instructs her students in revolutionary propaganda. She asks one: “Qui es-tu?/Who are you?”, and he, a child of perhaps 9 or 10, responds, hesitatingly, and clearly without much sense of the meaning of what he is saying:
“Je suis un homme libre et pensant, né pour haïr les rois, n’aimer que mes égaux, servir mon pays, vivre de mon travail et de mon industrie, adorer l’esclavage…” (“I am a free and thinking man, born to hate kings, to love only my equals, to serve my country, to live off my work and industry, to adore slavery…”).
She interrupts: “Non, pas adorer—abhorrer!” (“Not adore! Abhor!”).
He edits: “Abhorrer l’esclavage et me soumettre aux lois!” (“Abhor slavery and submit myself to the laws!”).
It’s not a tremendously sophisticated film overall, but this is nicely done.
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I have been thinking of the anniversary of Little Boy and Fat Man, partly because I just finished reading the wonderful, terrible book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. The book also brought to mind my father, West Point grad of 1940, who spent much of the war on General MacArthur's staff in the Philippines. One of his main jobs, late in the war, was to crunch numbers on estimated casualties in the event of a land invasion of Japan. One day word came through from Washington to "hurry it up!" He didn't know then of the decision that had to be made, but later completely agreed with it. My mother and oldest brother were on the first boatload of civilians to land in Japan after the war, joining my father. The three of them lived in Tokyo as part of the occupation for several years. My mother loved her time there. They brought back a rock from Hiroshima. It has since been disposed of....