How Americans remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of the date the United States government/military dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  More than one hundred thousand people were killed in these bombings.  The vast majority of those killed in the bombings were civilians, including women and children.  Read that again: we dropped nuclear bombs on targets that included many innocent women and children.

In Hiroshima alone, “Some 70,000–80,000 people, of whom 20,000 were soldiers, or around 30% of the population of Hiroshima, were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm, and another 70,000 injured.” [Wikipedia]

In 1995, The Smithsonian Museum was unable to open an exhibit that intended to portray the events evenly, not merely discussing the men who flew the bomber and how it ended WWII, but actually presenting artifacts and images of the victims, many of whom were children, and non-military men and women.  Some people did not want the whole story, the entire narrative, to be told.  Think about that.

https://youtu.be/XMsg6I4rKSY

I’d just like to remind you all that there are certain narratives that we like to hold onto as Americans for sentimental or patriotic or other reasons that severely and detrimentally ignore or deny uncomfortable truths.  Many Americans seem to have a selective memory one might say.

Most people are comfortable with the common narrative: “America stopped Hitler by dropping “the bomb,”” and most are more than happy to let the story end there.  But such ignorance (voluntary or not) does a tremendous damage to the truth, and does not properly inform our current historical context as to how, when, or why certain military actions ought to be conducted, or not.

There are many such narratives alive and well in this country.  Narratives that shield us from uncomfortable truths.  Inform yourself, my friends.  Uncomfortable or not, truth is truth.

Let’s not forget the all-too-true maxim: “history is written by the victors.”

800px-Nagasaki_1945_-_Before_and_after_(adjusted)
(caption: Nagasaki before and after the bomb.)

“…and no one’s sure how all of this [war] got started, but we’re gonna make ‘em G**-damned certain how it’s gonna end…”

~ Bright Eyes “Road to Joy”

Lord have mercy.

“I tremble in fear for my country when I reflect that God is just…”  ~ Thomas Jefferson

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Most important read for Americans this year…

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Friends, one of the most important books I’ve read in years: The Divide by Matt Taibbi.  I highly recommend it.  If you read nothing else, the introduction to the book alone is worth the price of the book.

This ambitious book documents America’s unequal administration of justice to rich and poor.

Some quotes from the book:

“Obsessed with success and wealth and despising failure and poverty, our society is systematically dividing the population into winners and losers, using institutions like the courts to speed the process.

“For a country founded on the idea that rights are inalienable and inherent from birth, we’ve developed a high tolerance for conditional rights and conditional citizenship. And the one condition, it turns out, is money. If you have a lot of it, the legal road you get to travel is well lit and beautifully maintained. If you don’t, it’s a dark alley and most Americans would be shocked to find out what’s at the end of it.”

“Twenty-six billion dollars of fraud: no felony cases. But when the stakes are in the hundreds of dollars, we kick in 26,000 doors a year, in just one county.”

“Our prison population, in fact, is now the biggest in the history of human civilization. There are more people in the United States either on parole or in jail today (around 6 million total) than there ever were at any time in Stalin’s gulags. For what it’s worth, there are also more black men in jail right now than there were in slavery at its peak.”

“The great nonprosecutions of Wall Street in the years since 2008, I would learn, were just symbols of this dystopian sorting process to which we’d already begun committing ourselves. The cleaving of the country into two completely different states—one a small archipelago of hyperacquisitive untouchables, the other a vast ghetto of expendables with only theoretical rights—has been in the works a long time. The Divide is a terrible story, and a crazy one. And it goes back a long, long way.”

~ Matt Taibbi, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

Inmates aren’t humans, they’re criminals…

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http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/articles/2014/5/27/whistleblower-arizonainmatesaredyingfrominadequatehealthcare.html

The article exposes examples of neglect and abuse that have taken place in Arizona’s prison system. Please read the article. What follows are my thoughts, written just after reading it myself.

Absolutely disgusting… makes me sick.
That’s how easy it is to neglect prisoners. Society really doesn’t care that much… and those that run the prison system know it. Let’s face the facts. The reason this sort of treatment is tolerated (and believe me it happens far more than you’d ever imagine) is because most of our society is just happy to have criminals out of the way, out of our frame of vision- so that we hardly ever have to remember that such things as prisons and inmates exist- that we might actually be called to minister to them; that we might be obligated to remember their humanity.

“Not in my backyard.”

As long as inmates are out of sight, they’re out of mind. That’s our society’s general disposition towards convicts. God forbid we have to face these people on any regular basis; God forbid we have to look into their all too human eyes, or learn of their all too human stories. God forbid we come to the terrifying reality that they are just like you and me; they too have sinned, and they too have been wayward children of God.

They aren’t humans, they’re criminals.

This is the grand belief that convicts are actually different from you and I. It’s the deluded and desperate belief that they are worse than we are because they are behind bars. This belief is all too common, and I’m here to remind you (and myself) that it isn’t Christian to believe and behave this way.

You see, dear reader, this is the great pretension… and we all are guilty of it. We really think that we aren’t as sinful as the men and women behind bars. I mean, just look at them! They LOOK like criminals! It’s so easy to write them off, so easy to compare ourselves to them and think with some smug pride, “well, at least I’m not a _____________ .”

This is why Christ himself and the Saints that have followed Him are so adamant that we have but one comparison to make: how do our lives match up against Jesus; how does our righteousness compare to God’s righteousness?

Let us measure ourselves by our Master, and not by our fellow-servants: then pride will be impossible.
– Charles Spurgeon

Notice we are not called to compare ourselves to our neighbor, and especially we are not called to compare ourselves to those we deem as less moral than we are. It’s been said that pride is perhaps the human trait that we most vociferously cling to. And here, in this case of prison neglect and abuse of inmates, we see it all too well.

In our pride we’ve discarded our fellow humans, our fellow sinners, our fellow penatents, our brothers and sisters in Christ, because we not only can’t be bothered by the problems associated with their criminal actions, but because we get some deep, insidious contentment in believing ourselves to be above those miserable convicts.

This is why prison ministry is so important, dear reader.

“You can judge a society by how it treats its prisoners.”
– Dostoyevsky

…. our society allows the abortion of babies and dehumanizes prisoners every single day….

Lord, God, help us.

“I tremble in fear for my country when I reflect that God is just.”
– Thomas Jefferson.

Buying testimony to win cases…

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http://m.ocregister.com/articles/cuevas-643108-paredes-informants.html

This article details how Police and Prosecutors paid over $70,000 each to two men inside jail in order for them to “snitch” (give information against other prisoners) so that the prosecutors could have enough evidence to get convictions.

Does this seem right to you?  “Here, we’ll pay you and give you all this special treatment if you get certain other prisoners to give you information.”

Two major points.  These men were “shot callers” very powerful positions within the jail system.  They could have people killed just by giving the order.  Anyone these men talked to would be scared to death and would very likely say almost anything they think they wanted to hear.  So how reliable is this “snitch” testimony?  Not very reliable at all.  Some states even have laws against jail-house testimony because it’s been proven to be so unreliable.

Is this really how we want “justice” found in our nation? Is this really a standard these prosecutors and police should be proud of?  …can we even trust it?

This is happening in our very country, in our very state….

Second, prosecutors were withholding the information from defense attorneys- a blatant violation of the constitution.  Hiding evidence…. 

Inform yourself.

Response of first resort…

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Imprisonment has become the response of first resort to far too many of the social problems that burden people who are ensconced in poverty. These problems often are veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category “crime” and by the automatic attribution of criminal behavior to people of color. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.

~Angela Davis, Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex

Yet ANOTHER wrongful conviction…

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http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-michael-hanline-murder-release-20141119-story.html#page=1

case includes Prosecutors withholding evidence from the defense. 
   
“Several sealed police reports also were uncovered. The reports cast doubt on testimony by Hanline’s then-girlfriend, Mary Bischoff, who was granted immunity and was a key witness during the trial.

The police reports could have been used to diminish Bischoff’s credibility, or suggest that Hanline could have been framed for the murder, but were not disclosed to Hanline’s defense attorneys at the time.”

– DNA pointing to different people

– prosecutors might still try to re-try the case.