War and peace

“On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Chicago, it is difficult to put ourselves in places that are not so beautiful,” says Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, to a crowd of nearly 60 peace activists gathered in front of the Henry Moore sculpture Nuclear Energy on Ellis Avenue. They’ve congregated for the annual Hiroshima Day commemoration, sponsored by Illinois Peace Action, remembering 61 years since the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Rothschild, the keynote speaker, parallels the 1945 events to current international hostilities. “This government of ours today is more eager to drop a nuclear weapon than any government in United States history since the early days of Ronald Reagan,” he says. “We must do everything we can to make sure that another 61 years go by without another nuclear bomb going off on a population, so that our children’s children’s children can look back and say that this is the generation that overcame madness.”

Some activists, such as Hyde Park resident and U.S. Pacifist Party member Bradford Lyttle, AM’51, caution against casting blame solely along partisan lines. “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue,” he says. “It’s a human issue.” Lyttle, in his late teens in 1945, recalls that the attack inspired him to pursue a political-science degree and join anti–nuclear weapons development efforts. “There are one of two things that can happen,” he says. “Either the human species is going to end war, or war is going to end the human species.”

The audience includes a couple in their 20s who’ve never before visited the campus monument. Recent immigrants from Hiroshima and self-described “rough English” speakers, they have no trouble understanding the messages behind each speech.

“I am actually really surprised that American people have such a ceremony for the victims of the A-Bomb,” says Tuji Uchida, who moved to suburban Northbrook with wife Kaori. “I thought that the issue of the A-Bomb is not that big an issue for American people, but now I know at least some people take this issue seriously.” Their home city, they recall, commemorates the August 6 anniversary at 8:15 a.m. local time, the exact moment of detonation. All of Hiroshima stands still to remember those who perished.

Hassan S. Ali, ’07

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Photos (left to right): Matthew Rothschild keynotes the event; the crowd at the sculpture; the Uchidas mark their first Hiroshima Day in the States.

August 9, 2006