Hiroshima and the World: Walking the Path of Peace

by United States Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich

Dennis J. Kucinich
Dennis Kucinich is a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives. He has been serving as the representative of the 10th District of Ohio since 1996. Mr. Kucinich was also candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2004 and 2008 elections. He is widely known in the United States as a champion of progressive ideas and an influential political figure. In July 2001, Mr. Kucinich introduced to the House of Representatives a bill proposing a Department of Peace with a cabinet-level Secretary of Peace. The Department of Peace initiative has since spread beyond the United States to other nations as well. In 2003, he was the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award. Mr. Kucinich was born in Cleveland, Ohio in October 1946. He earned both a Bachelor and a Master of Arts degree in speech and communication from Case Western Reserve University in 1973. From 1977 to 1979, he served as the Mayor of Cleveland. Elected at the age of 31, he was the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city at the time.

Walking the Path of Peace

All thought is conceptive. Thoughts of peace create peace. Thoughts of war create war. The development of the atomic bomb came from a thought of war, wrapped in the existential haze of the doctrine of peace through strength.

When we probe deeper we understand that war arises from a type of thinking which is inherently divisive, Us vs. Them, dichotomized thinking which denies complementary status to another nation or another human being, whom we perceive is unlike us, whom we project is less than human, by definition threatening to us, and as a consequence we are driven to attempt to negate their existence. This thinking leads not only to objective destruction, but subjective destruction, too, because in our efforts to annihilate each other we destroy ourselves.

How is it possible? It is not simply because war dehumanizes the aggressor as well as the aggressed. It is because war attempts to nullify the imperative of human unity. It is an undeniable fact that we are all one, that the world is interconnected and interdependent. This is not simply a metaphysical construct. The Human Genome theory posits that we are made of the same stuff. When we war against another we war against ourselves. When the impulse toward destruction reaches its destination it seeks a new place to repose until at last it meets its maker, and directing itself inward achieves its ultimate casualty of self, the homicide of war leads to suicide.

How is it that we come to accept the inevitability of war? It is because we are the inheritors of thought forms which inform us as to the social construction of our reality; war has been, war is, war shall be. War's powerful cultural affirmation through its ceremony, its pageantry, its pomp, its circumstance, its sacrifice, its martyrs, its heroes, its legends makes of the world a bivouac of the dead and we are left to hold fast to the promise "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" even as nation states mispresent a cause of war or blunder down the war path. There was no other way we are told and we accept this assurance blindly because war has such a powerful pull upon our psyches and our hearts. There is, of course, another way. Yet before we walk the path of peace we must recognize the grand mythologies which decorate our public lives and which leave us at war within ourselves and within the community of nations.

We live in a world of bomb myths, of bombs created to end wars, bombs created for peace, bombs created for security, bombs created for status, but whatever reason for which bombs are created they all generally have the same purpose once they are used: to kill masses of people.

The world today is Hiroshima before the bomb. Cherry blossoms bloom, birds float in the air, mothers and fathers tenderly touch their children's hands, in anticipation of joy, a colorful pageant of life unfolds before us while others of us pretend we can, without consequence, simultaneously reduce nuclear weapons and build them; threaten to use them and not use them, secure them, sanction them, entreat them, fear them, embrace them.

Weapons of mass destruction are a colossal projection of the arrogance which comes when the nature of power is misunderstood. Power resides in everyone, luminosity an innate human condition. The darkness of war may eclipse the beauty of humanity but the poignant climb from out of the rubble, towards truth, leads to the heavens.

The Western world tethered itself to its own fear when it dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and binds itself today.

Why, despite the destruction which was wrought on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, why are there still so many bombs in the world? The bombs do not disappear because the thinking which creates the bombs is still very much alive and it is driven by fear which destroys reason and heart.

How to call the world back to life? Courageously renounce war and all of its preparations. Renounce war and all of its pretensions. That was always the promise of Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution, which was a gift not only to the people of Japan, but the entire world. New structures give birth to new possibilities. We can begin to root out the causes of violence in our own life. War exists in macrocosm because it has been made real in millions of hearts. Seeds of human destructiveness are reflected in domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, gang violence, gun violence, violence against gays. Violence is a learned response. We can teach children and ourselves to respond without violence.

Violence is not inevitable. Peace is inevitable if we are willing to commit ourselves to the painstaking work of self-consciously reflecting on our own conduct. Every thought, every word, every deed can be summoned in the cause of peace just as surely they have been called forth in the service of war. In 2001, two months before the World Trade Center was attacked, I set forth a proposal in the United States House of Representatives to create a Cabinet-level Department of Peace, in order to create a structure to help make peace an organizing principle within our society. Today HR808 awaits action in the United States House of Representatives, where I serve. The bill advocates that we approach peace as a science. It comprehends that peace is not simply the absence of war, but the presence of an active capacity for compassion, awareness, charity and intention to do no harm. As we have learned violence through our social conditioning, so, too. Can we learn non-violent means of relating to each other. The myth of the inevitability of violence has carried with us the lowest expectations of ourselves. It does not comprehend the human capacity for transcendence which enables us to strive towards divinity, that we can be more than we are, better than we are. If we desire social and political transformation, then the evolutionary path begins within our own hearts. We can create new worlds here, now, through walking life's path gently, according all people's dignity, respect and compassion. The individual inspires the group. The group inspires the world.

This is the hope of the Japanese school children who came to Washington D.C. early this year to present me with 1000 origami cranes to give to President Obama. I studied the colorful cranes as they cascaded over one another in a huge box. I thought of the intention of each Japanese child who carefully folded each crane. I thought of the power of small hands working on a common enterprise of world peace. I envisioned the hands of children of the world, at play, folding origami cranes, and I gazed across time and space and I saw them grow up beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. And I saw a world looking back towards Hiroshima, praying to the spirits who hover over us all, blessing them for their sacrifice, thanking them for protecting us with their love.

(Originally published on June 14, 2010)

To comment on this article, please click the link below. Comments will be moderated and posted in a timely fashion. Comments may also appear in the Chugoku Shimbun newspaper.