Perspectives on nuclear abolition in connection with the Survey on Nuclear Weapons, Part 4

Comment by respondent to the survey: “Who will tell the stories of the atomic bombings after the survivors are gone?”

Arthur Binard, 41, poet
Hiroshima is near at hand, you yourself must tell the story

Interviewed by Tsuyoshi Kubota

Hiroshimas are occurring all over the world. Every time the United States uses depleted uranium shells in the Iraq War, Hiroshima is repeated and someone is exposed to radiation. Hiroshima is near at hand.

The notion that you cannot convincingly call for a ban on nuclear weapons unless you have experienced an atomic bombing firsthand is nonsense. If you can’t understand something unless you experience it, then there is nothing left for humankind but annihilation. It is a question of whether or not we can squarely face the times and exercise our imaginations.

Total global military expenditures are estimated at 140 trillion per year. Of this amount, military expenditures by the U.S. amount to $547 billion (about 59 trillion), more than 40% of the total amount. A tremendous amount of the U.S. national budget is going to the defense industry.

Nothing ended with the dropping of the atomic bombs. Powerful people made unimaginable profits off the manufacture of the atomic bombs. Even now people are profiting from nuclear weapons, missile defense systems, and depleted uranium shells. The system has not changed at all. The government is using everyone’s taxes to wage war in the Middle East. You are a party to that. The Maritime Self-Defense Force is using taxes to run a gas station that is giving away free gasoline for the war.

The survey conducted by the Chugoku Shimbun highlighted concern about the proliferation of nuclear weapons while at the same time indicating a belief in the theory of nuclear deterrence.

The atomic bomb survivors have continued to tell people about the reality of the atomic bombings. If people want to avoid a “nuclear winter” and come up with a strategy that will allow the human race to survive, they must go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two cities are the staging ground for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Conveying the facts without exaggerating or downplaying them is an important role.

But something needs to be done to spread this first-hand information more widely. For example, when unfortunate events occur, such as when students kill themselves as the result of bullying at school, the principal talks about the “preciousness of life.” Upon hearing that, very few students think to themselves, “Yeah, that’s right.” Sound arguments don’t get through to people so easily. How is the argument expressed? If we work to come up with the right language, change our perspective and improve the way in which we convey our message, we’ll be able to get people to listen.

The 1954 incident in which a Japanese tuna fishing boat, the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5), was covered with nuclear fallout from a test of a hydrogen bomb on Bikini atoll by the U.S. sparked the movement to ban atomic and hydrogen bombs. The boat’s crew members were exposed to radiation and returned home with “ashes of death.” This incident alerted the world to the horror of nuclear weapons apart from the thermal rays and blast.

Thanks to them the world was saved from a “nuclear winter,” but there are powerful people who are trying to get us to forget that incident: the people who are profiting from nuclear weapons. They hire first-rate advertising agencies to come up with catchy copy and hide the terror of nuclear weapons. Efforts to match theirs are required.

Of course, our role and the role of the atomic bomb survivors do not need to be the same. We need to figure out how the experiences of the survivors and the reality of the world intersect.

I am often asked if nuclear weapons can be abolished. How can they ask that so casually? Nuclear weapons will only lead to the annihilation of the human race. There is nothing for it but to abolish them. They were made by people, so people can eliminate them. It is far simpler than global warming, for which we must contend with nature. The next question is how to express the inexhaustible, high-quality subject matter that is to be found in Hiroshima. First, you must become the teller of the story.

Arthur Binard
Born in Michigan in 1967. Began writing poetry in Japanese after coming to Japan in 1990. Received the Chuya Nakahara Prize in 2001 for his anthology “Tsuriagete wa” [“Catch and Release”] published by Shichosha.

(Originally published on July 29, 2008)

For the complete results of our Survey on Nuclear Weapons, please click here.