Memorial vigil in downtown Bloomington marks Hiroshima, Nagasaki nuclear bombings by U.S.

On Sunday evening, with a guitar slung over his shoulder, Bill Breeden addressed a couple dozen others who had gathered on the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse lawn.

“I wonder how many Japanese words we would have to hear, to make up for all the Japanese voices that were silenced on August 6 and August 9?” Breeden continued, “How long would it take? How long would a flute have to play?”

Breeden’s reference to a flute was to an improvisation that Ally Donnelly had performed for the gathering. She is a sophomore at the IU Jacobs School of Music.

The dates were a reference to the use of nuclear bombs against Japan by U.S. forces in 1945  during World War II.

The vigil to mark the 78th year since the bombings, and in support of eliminating global nuclear weapons, was organized by several local groups, including: Bloomington Peace Action Coalition; Just Peace Task force; Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington Peace and Social Concerns Committee; and the Bloomington Friends Meeting.

Breden’s reference to Japanese words came after Hiromi Yoshida had recited her translation into Japanese of JL Kato’s “Festival of Dolls.”

Kato was also on hand, to recite the original poem, which he wrote from the perspective of his mother. She grew up during World War II and lived in Japan during its post-war occupation by U.S. forces. Here’s an excerpt:

…Once, I stole a sack of red
plums, and Mother smacked my face
before she sliced the fruit

and offered it to Father.
But in Nagasaki and
Hiroshima, a hand

imprinted on a cheek means
nothing to shadows set in
concrete. …

In his remarks, David Keppel turned his focus to the future. “We’re here tonight not principally because of a terrible and tragic event 78 years ago,” Keppel said. He continued, “We’re here because the future is at stake now.”

Keppel put the issue in the context of U.S. plans to upgrade its inventory of nuclear weapons at a cost of around $1.8 trillion. Keppel said he had written to Indiana’s Senator Mike Braun about the issue. He reported that he’d received a reply from Braun that said the purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is “to deter rival states and bad actors from armed conflict against the United States or its allies.”

Responding to Braun’s reply, Keppel asked a rhetorical question on Sunday evening: ”If Hezbollah engages in armed conflict with Israel, is that something that he thinks the United States should use nuclear weapons for?

Keppel encouraged people to visit the Back from the Brink website, and to contact their congressional representatives and senators.

Keppel wrapped up his remarks by saying, “Even though we may not be many here tonight, we are the nucleus of change.” He added: “Don’t ever think that it’s only someone else who’s going to do it. We can do it.”

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