If Hiroshima spoke, it would say "peace."
That was the consensus of a panel of faculty members and a Japanese student gathered at an April 28 program entitled "Hiroshima Speaks and We Respond," as part of the "Hiroshima Speaks" exhibit at the Penfield Library.
The panelists suggested the exhibit of photos and DVDs featuring survivors of the atomic explosions in Hiroshima is about peace, not war; it stresses the need to settle disputes nonviolently.
Nola Heidlebaugh, Oswego's coordinator of civic engagement, moderated the discussion. Panelists included Kosuke Kisaka '09, a Japanese student from Hiroshima province; Alok Kumar, professor and chair of physics; Greg Parsons, assistant professor of history; Stephen Rosow, professor of political science; and John Kares Smith, professor of communication studies.
Heidlebaugh gave the framework for the discussion, pointing out how many of the issues of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still unsettled and that the posters in the exhibition give a concrete and haunting reality of the brutal reality of war.
Panelists shared views and stories, like that of Sadako Sasaki, a 12-year-old girl who contracted leukemia in 1957 as a result of her exposure to the radiation from the Hiroshima blast 10 years before. She and her classmates folded more than 1,000 paper cranes in hopes of a cure. Since her death, citizens of Hiroshima fold cranes as symbols of peace.
Kumar spoke on Hiroshima, reminding the audience that the exhibition is not about war or blame or even forgiveness. He gave a succinct explanation of what goes into atomic bombs, what are the catastrophic effects of their use and how much more dangerous the world is now because of the proliferation and ongoing development of nuclear weapons.
Parsons, an expert on both world wars, discussed the historical forces surrounding the development and use of atomic weapons; after giving several revisionist historical insights, he concluded that nuclear weapons are essentially useless as strategic responses and as a means of settling difference. Peace is not only the right way to settle disputes, he concluded, but the only way.
Japanese student Kosuke Kisaka shared the personal impact that dropping the bomb had on his family. He narrated a story of his grandmother and how she confronted the effects and repercussions of radiation on herself and her family.
Like Parsons, Kisaka concluded that peaceful means are the only appropriate means to settling conflicts. We should not just avoid the use of nuclear weapons in war, he said; we should work so that war of any kind is never a choice, he said.
Rosow concluded that nuclear weapons have never served the function of being a suitable weapon of war. A nuclear war makes the world unsafe for victors as well as victims, pointing again to the alternative of settling differences nonviolently.
The audience at the panel discussion included students and faculty, community leaders and administrators, private citizens and the curious.
Among the many distinguished guests were Joan Loveridge-Sanbonmatsu, professor emerita, poet, writer and author of Imperial Valley Nisei Women, which narrates the oral histories of second generation Japanese-American women from Imperial Valley, Calif., who spent time at a Japanese Internment Center in Arizona during World War II. Also in attendance was her husband, Akira Sanbonmatsu, retired professor and survivor of the American internment of the Japanese during World War II.
Prior to the panel discussion, nearly 100 attended an opening reception for the "Hiroshima Speaks" exhibit April 24 in Penfield Library's Lake Effect Café.
Several faculty members and guests recounted their experiences at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the reception that also featured authentic Japanese food.
There is a memory book outside the Lake Effect Café for visitors to make comments and observations.
The "Hiroshima Speaks" exhibit continues through the end of June.
-- John Kares Smith
Professor of Communications Studies
Hiroshima native and visiting Oswego student Kosuke Kisaka '09 discussed his family's experience with nuclear warfare in Japan at an April 28 panel discussion, "Hiroshima Speaks and We Respond."
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