Friday, August 12, 2005

Bytes that Bite

I think I am shocked. I know I am surprised. The comment posted anonymously at 11:30 p.m. yesterday regarding my August 11 post shocked me by its overtones of racial/ethnic hatred. I really don’t know why it shocked me, because I have encountered the same type of prejudice before. However, that was 15 or so years ago and I suppose I believed that it had died out with the passing of much of the WWII generation.

It was in 1990 or so when I was pastoring a church in a small town located on the banks of the Ohio River in southern Indiana that my family responded to a request to have a foreign exchange high school student live with us. The student assigned to us was a 17-year-old from Japan named Yosuhiro Osaka—or, “Hero,” as we called him. He was a neat, polite young man one year older than my youngest son, Rob.

I was especially happy that Hero was with us because, during my first year in seminary, I had become close friends with a Japanese pastor, Taki, who had studied with us for a year. I was shocked when one of the members of the congregation raised hell and more because we had a boy from Japan living with us. Her overt reason for objecting to Hero’s presence was that one of her brothers had been killed in the South Pacific during World War II.

Of course, this woman was mean-spirited before Hero arrived and the congregation and community recognized her as such. They warmly welcomed Hero and quickly came to love him. Even the woman who expressed so much hatred for him changed her tune as she came to know him.

Thus, I was shocked to find the prejudice and hate expressed toward the Japanese in the comment posted by Anonymous last night. It seems that the same prejudice against the Japanese has been passed on to some of my own Baby Boomers generation. That shocks me.

What surprised me were the emails from two of my fairly liberal peers who defended the use of nuclear weapons on Japan. It seems that both have bought with out question the rationalization that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to end the war. I, along with many of the leaders of our nation at that time, disagree with that justification. For example:

"If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them." ~ Leo Szilard, a scientist worked on the development of the atomic bomb

"In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment, was I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.” ~ President Eisenhower, in The White House Years

General Douglas MacArthur considered the dropping of the bombs to be "completely unnecessary from a military point of view.”

For more on this see: the Debate over the decision to drop the bombs.

When I originally began writing Nick’s Bytes in a church newsletter and then in a local newspaper column and a now defunct website, my purpose was the same as what I learned in seminary the purpose of a sermon is: “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” So sometimes these Bytes may bite people. Sometimes my Bytes even bite me!

It seems that the August 11th Bytes did bite some people, people who are perhaps comfortable with their view of history and ethics.

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