Originally published on August 7, 2019 in the Greenfield Recorder.
Venerable Brother Towbee Keyes, Venerable Brother Gyoway Kato and Sister Clare Carter, from the New England Peace Pagoda, offer chants and prayers as people gather along the riverbank Tuesday afternoon at Unity Park in Turners Falls to honor the victims of the nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9 in 1945. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE
Published: 8/7/2019 9:59:24 PM
MONTAGUE — The nuclear age began 74 years ago this week, when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing between 130,000 and 226,000 Japanese.
The two bombings arguably ended World War II. But they also mark the beginning of our era of global political dysfunction, in which the possibility of lasting peace seems as far away as ever.
Recognizing the atrocity of the bombing of Japan and its ongoing ripple effects, a commemoration ceremony was held in Unity Park in Turners Falls on Tuesday night, organized by the Greenfield-based Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and with involvement of several other local activist and religious groups.
The date of the ceremony, Aug. 6, is the day Hiroshima was bombed. Estimates of the death toll range from 70,000 to 126,000 civilians, plus 20,000 soldiers. Nagasaki was bombed Aug. 9, killing 40,000 to 80,000 people.
“We just wanted to recognize the date,” said Anna Gyorgy, who is on Traprock’s board of directors. “This is like a holy day, Aug. 6, for people who care about peace.”
About 30 or 40 people were at the ceremony. Attendees organized into a circle around a peace sign made of cut flowers on the ground, heard music by guitarist Ben Tousley and monks of the New England Peace Pagoda, and then were invited to share their own thoughts.
Sister Clare Carter of the Peace Pagoda pointed out that next year — the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Japan — coincides with the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower in Massachusetts. There’s a continuity between the two events, she said: they both represent a conquering mindset, which is opposed to peace.
“We can’t afford any longer to not understand this,” she said. “It’s calling us back to the seed we planted.”
Similarly, the mutually assured destruction that characterizes the ongoing international arms race represents an essentially incorrect mindset, said Marty Schotz, who is on the Peace Task Force of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution. The large nations of the world accumulate ever increasingly huge nuclear arsenals, calling it defense; ironically, Schotz said, this justifies other nations to do the same, increasing the perceived need for defense.
“What we do to them is done to us,” Schotz said. “We and the other are not separate.”
In the logic of the arms race, Schotz said, the inevitable end is a nuclear strike, regardless of whether it’s intentional or accidental.
The only sane alternative is disarmament, Schotz said.
“We have to do to them what we want done to us,” he said. “We can only try and set an example.”
It’s basically an ethical problem, which means that even small, local efforts matter, Schotz said. A ceremony of 30 or 40 people may end when they disperse, or some of them may spread the word.
“We have to acknowledge and pay attention,” Schotz said. “If we don’t pay attention, how can we convince other people to?”
Reach Max Marcus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.