Sunday, May 29, 2016

President Obama Apologizes to Japan




 Recently I have read a lot of arguments that President Obama did not apologize to the Japanese for the bombing of Nagasaki or Hiroshima during WWII.  I listened to that speech as he was giving it, and it sure sounded like an apology to me.


 Instead of the usual, “Yes he did!”, “No he didn’t!” discussion between simpletons, let’s get a little more in-depth on the topic.


 Let’s begin by looking at one definition of what an apology is...

According to dictionary.com, an apology is


a written or spokane expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another: He demanded an apology from me for calling him a crook. 2. a defense, excuse, or justification in speech or writing, as for a cause or doctrine.


 Now that we have a foundation to begin this analyzation, it’s time to dissect some of President Obama’s actual words.


How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause. 
Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.
 Nations arise telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats. But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.


 This is a little disturbing in that it seems President Obama is comparing the defense of ourselves as a “license to kill” based on our faith.  This most certainly falls within the apology definition since it is an expression of remorse for our attack on Japan.


 The United States did not drop bombs on Japan based on a religious crusade, we dropped them during the course of war, to stop the aggression and war-making ability our enemies possessed.


 Later in his speech, President Obama goes on to say,


Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.


   Here we see that President Obama acknowledges that the United States shares in the blame for the suffering of the Japanese people. This also falls within the definition of an apology.


 Still further he continues,


We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story, one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.


 I fully understand he is referring more generally to all war and battles, but he is at this location, speaking to the Japanese, so indirectly this can also be interpreted as an apology that he regrets the mistake the United States made when they dropped the bombs.


 Did President Obama come right out and apologize for the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? No. But I think the argument is there that some of the wording in his speech is clearly doing just that.

Why not apologize for dropping the bombs? President Truman explains,

Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans. ("Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S Truman, 1945", pg. 212). - From doug-long.com



 Don’t get me wrong.  I believe the President gave a great speech, and I believe his message was a great one.


My own nation’s story began with simple words: All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens. But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family — that is the story that we all must tell.
 Here’s hoping that eventually this world can get along with one another, and stop bloodshed on a global level forever.


 We’ll never be able to prevent all death, because there will always be individuals that are evil. Unfortunately, until large groups of people stop trying to exterminate one another, war is inevitable. The answer we unleashed on Japan was horrifying, but it helped bring a quick end to a world that was in conflict.

 I fear this same answer may be the only way we can stop it in the future.  I hope I’m wrong.  If we continue to let others dictate their hateful way of life across this planet, the only response left will be massive destruction.