It looked just like I remembered it. Having recently read the account of a Hiroshima bomb survivor, I had a hankering to read it. John Hersey’s Hiroshima was my brother’s book, growing up. He read it and told me about it, but I’m not fond of war stories or accounts of human suffering. Still, having read a contemporary account at work I realized how little I knew about what had happened to the survivors. So when I saw this little book at a local AAUW book sale, I picked it up. Even after all these years it’s still a page-turner. In my mind, ever hoping for merciful resolutions, the atomic bomb had killed just about everybody instantly. A lifelong pacifist, I believe war morally unjustifiable (prisons should be for autocrats, not for minor offenses). Those who start wars, such as Vladimir Putin, should be required to read this book.
I wasn’t really quite sure of what to expect. I’d heard that the account involved the interwoven stories of six survivors. It wasn’t quite as complete as I supposed it would be. Of course, it was published in 1946, after appearing as a New Yorker article. As I came to the end, I wondered what had happened to these people. None of the six, a year later, had any semblance of a normal life, and scientists even then didn’t understand the consequences of what might happen to those the bomb didn’t directly kill. I guess, in my mind, the city had become an irradiated wasteland. I didn’t realize it had been rebuilt and that over a million people now call it home. The was a blank in my mind after the dropping of the bomb. Hersey’s book has started to fill in that blank.
My mind tends to trace things to their origins. I’ve always thought that way. Those who enter into politics ought to be required to pass a test on corruption. They should be required to study diplomacy. They should have to read books like Hiroshima to see what the consequences of their selfish acts can do. Considering the real life horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is important to me to see that the cities are rebuilt. It’s like looking up the bio of an actor who dies in a movie, just to make sure s/he is really okay. Why is it so difficult to treat other human beings as human beings? Why do we still allow war mongers to become national leaders? Have we learned nothing since 1945?