Soul searching


After reading Nora Gallagher’s article, Ghandi’s question has been twisting in my mind: “What has the attack on Hiroshima done to our souls?”

I was born in the seventies and grew up with this event milling about in my consciousness, with the sure and certain knowledge of atom bombs and nuclear weapons. My parents were extremely conservative, and took the strong position that our troops should be supported at all times in war. The line between God and country was always blurry (at least when the Republicans were in office).

But there was that one question that kept gnawing on me when we were in the midst of the Reagan-era arms race, “If we have enough weapons to blow up the entire world several times, why do we need more weapons?”

It was during the first Gulf war that my views changed completely. I was eighteen when I took my usual “support the troops and don’t question the government” stance, while my boyfriend was sick over it. We spent every night, drinking coffee and fighting.

The war was short, over in six months, but it left me aching. The bombs were not as “smart” as we were told. Civilians were dead. And I began to wonder if the protestors were right, if we had done it all for the oil in the region. One thing was clear in my mind: God did not equal country.

So what has the attack on Hiroshima done to my soul? I suppose that it should make me feel as if our country has more power and control over things. I suppose that it should make me feel as if we can win any argument now, because we not only have the weapons, but we have proven that we’re not afraid to use them.

But it doesn’t make me feel any of those things. I feel the guilt and burden of responsibility, along with the helplessness of knowing that I’m out of control. I feel like a small child, living in a violent household. I know there’s a loaded gun hidden underneath the mattress and I have a parent who’s been taking shooting lessons. I become sick about who might be seen as our next threat.

I feel more vulnerable and fearful. I realize that it was not a complicated weapon and the backing of a powerful nation that caused the most destruction on our soil. It was a box cutter.

The question of our nation’s soul is dense and heart breaking. I worry that we need constant distraction from our culpability. Is that why we spend a vast amount of money on vacations, shopping, and entertainment–so that we don’t have to think about it? Is that why we work more and more hours in our country? Is it so we can divert our attentions to something else? Anything else, but our own thoughts? Our own souls?

Is that why our churches have become more entertainment-oriented and program-driven? Is that why there’s a parallel longing for more silence, space, and contemplation?

I understand why women avoid news about the war. I understand, because I’m a mom and that makes me want to avert my eyes. My soul aches most when I think about my daughter.

She was exactly seven months old on September 11, 2001. We were staying the night with a couple of friends, and I held her tiny little body in my arms and rocked her while I watched CNN. I began taking turns holding her with the other mom in the room. Comforting the infant seemed to comfort us.

For a fleeting moment, I had this thought. Please believe me when I say that it was borne out of nothing but love: I wondered if I had made a mistake. “What kind of world have I brought my child into?”

But, my arms were also heavy with hope that maybe another generation can make things better. Maybe there will be a day in our country when children will grow up realizing that it will not be the bombs or the wars that can save our souls.

the photo is of paper cranes created in memory of the victims of Hiroshima by myproblogger


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