Remembering Hiroshima

(Disclaimer: this post solely represents the opinion of the author.)

On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, the climax of the gruesome struggle in the Pacific between the US and Japan. Approximately 90,000 people were killed immediately, and another 50,000 died within two years. Added to that was the toll paid by the survivors, and their descendents: radiation sickness, cancer, leukemia, mutation, genetic damage, and birth defects decades later add an incalculable amount of human suffering to the toll. Three days later, this Boschian tragedy was re-enacted, at Nagasaki.

It’s almost cliche, now, to dutifully go through the debate: the Japanese started the war, Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Manila, execution of prisoners, refused to surrender. The Bomb not only saved a million(?) Americans, but actually saved Japanese lives as well, by obviating the need for an invasion of Japan.

And so forth. For every one, there is a riposte, every charge, a justification. These justifications-and that’s what they are-are necessary, because they help obscure what the nuclear attack on Hiroshima was:

A massacre. A slaughter of the innocents. I don’t know what else you can call hitting an undefended city, containing few if any targets of military value, with a nuclear weapon.

You can call it justifiable if you want-I’ve given you the basic outline of the usual main points. Many do. But remember what you are doing: you are justifying the massacre of civilians, on a previously-unimagined scale. If massacres are justifiable, then where does it stop? It doesn’t, until it reaches its logical conclusion: justifiable genocide, as promoted in the Times of Israel last year.

Hitler and Stalin both thought massacres were justifiable, as seen in places like Babi Yar, Katyn Forest, the gulag archipelago, and the German concentration and extermination camp system. “Bomber” Harris was a big fan, as seen at Cologne, Hamburg, Dresden, and a hundred other incinerated cities. So was Curtis LeMay, whose firebombing campaign against Japan-hitting a major Japanese city every other day-made Harris look like a bush-leaguer. And of course, the Japanese officers who ordered the rape of Nanking, created IJA Unit 731, and killed hundreds of thousands in China, Korea, the Philippines, and Okinawa thought they were justified too. And Truman, who promised Japan “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on the Earth”, went to his grave justifying his decision.

Nobody escapes the truth. Either these acts are universally wrong, or they are not. And if the massacre on a vast scale is justified, then why not genocide? After a while, they start to become indistinguishable from one another. If it is morally acceptable to nuke a city, then what is forbidden? And why? Is there still something worse, where we can draw a line and say “We won’t do that”?

So, amidst the jingoistic chest-pounding and nationalistic roars on one side, and the solemn memorial of the dead divorced from the acts of the leadership who brought this horror upon them on the other, remember Hiroshima, sacrificed on the altar of the justifiable massacre as an offering to the gods of vengeance. A vast, boiling, multi-colored monument to the failure of human beings to rise above their base, brutal, bloodthirsty programming. Remember the dead, the hibakusha, and the downwinders. And remember, even after all this time-it could still be you, your kids, your family.

We are all downwinders now.

What’s goin’ on?

Things we’ve been reading:

First, a friend of mine shared this.

I lightly broke it down (do read it) with this response:

1. Referring to yourself and/or group of friends as “bro” seriously might as well be a sign you’re a douchcanoe.
2. “Midnight or after, if you have been talking for awhile and they’ve had a couple drinks, ask if they want to dance. If you see an untalked to group or a solo girl, go up to her and ask if she wants anything to drink. If she says yes, get her a drink and then ask if she wants to dance. If she says no, ask her to dance. DANCING IS FUN!!!!! Always try to dance. If she does not want to dance and is with friends, say “aw thats no fun” (or something like that) and then ask one of her friends.”
I thought the stereotype was that guys don’t like to dance, which made the all caps insistence DANCING IS FUN massively humorous. But is DANCING FUN with creepy guys who call each other “bro?”
He really does need to learn about the body though. There’s a lot in between “just under the boob” and “fingering her.”  Just sayin’.
3. “If she starts putting her hair over her ear, THAT MEANS SHE WANTS A KISS.”
I had no idea this was part of the mating ritual of humans. I’m sure my husband is stewing “That feminist bitch I married never puts her hair over my ear, dammit.”
WTF is he talking about? Well, he sure is fond OF ALL CAPS.
4. ” 6. Ejaculate (should also be self explanatory) ”
No, I’m sorry, I don’t follow, care to explain? Preferably in ALL CAPS, AMIRITE BROS? How many women do you think this “bro” *shudder* has so cleverly used this MASSIVELY AWESOME ADVICE ON, [name of friend]? Success rates count.

Also, why are people so stupid to think emails won’t be leaked, etc? Geez.

In other news:

A 3 hour tour: What’s the matter with Texas?

I sometimes worry, “maybe I write too much about abortion on this blog.”
I quickly overcome this concern:

I wouldn’t have to write so much about abortion/reproductive rights if these basic human rights weren’t under such blatant and constant attack.

Last night, I opened up my facebook feed, expecting to catch up with friends, and instead, I see this story and that lead me to read this legislation. (Yes, I *do* follow the links in blog posts.)

There is an excellent book called What’s the Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Frank. (A must read, and do support indie bookstores,  such as the one linked!)

The title is certainly catchy . . .  and it came to mind when I read over the new proposal some legislators in Texas are supporting. The bill in question would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo a three hour “adoption education course” before having an abortion.

texas-flagTexas has been in the news over abortion this summer. This is also the state that brought us  Roe v. Wade (listen here to the oral arguments. And yes, please, do take some time to listen not just to this case, but others. In Roe, listen to  Wade’s attorney make a sexist joke about Roe’s attorney and listen to the awkward, appropriate silence from the all-male court.)

So what’s the matter with Texas? Why is a government purportedly pro-small government and individual liberties forcing government into the lives of women of reproductive age, which (hopefully obvious to you, dear reader) affects men and children too.

Texas already has multiple restrictions on abortion.

The following restrictions on abortion were in effect as of May 1, 2013 in the state:

  • A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided.
  • The parent of a minor must consent and be notified before an abortion is provided.
  • Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • A woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion; the provider must show and describe the image to the woman. If the woman lives within 100 miles of an abortion provider she must obtain the ultrasound at least 24 hours before the abortion.

(Via)

We can add to these overly burdensome restrictions that a woman cannot seek an abortion after 20 weeks in Texas. This 20 week ban is unconstitutional, but didn’t stop the small-government, liberty and freedom loving state legislature or Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. (See Idaho and Arizona.)

Abortion is expensive. It is increasingly and unnecessarily time-consuming. For a simple procedure, many women (not just in Texas) must take days off from work to get this basic procedure. That’s money not paying their rent, feeding the children they already have, etc. That’s money they may not have.

That’s time off they may not have.

Time is money.  Texas, and many other states, are wasting our money.

So already, as I write this,the state of Texas is unnecessarily burdening women.

The proposal on the table about a three-hour “adoption course” is now that pro-small government folks in Texas think,

Hey, it’s great if you want to continue your pregnancy. Don’t look to us for support. Liberty! Freedom! Personal responsibility!

But we don’t fully trust you if you decide abortion is the best option for you. SO we’re going to make you sit through a three-hour adoption “course”, you know, because you little ladies maybe didn’t think about that.

Whatever happened to trusting women? If we expect a woman to raise a child, then why can’t we trust her to make her own damn life decisions and know what’s best for her?

Choosing to have an abortion is being “personally responsible”.

I have experience with abortion. I gave women neutral (no politics were discussed) counseling post-abortion–as a volunteer–for over 5 years.

I didn’t meet a single woman whose life scheme included “having an abortion.”
I didn’t meet a single woman who “wanted” an abortion, at least not in the way I “want” someone to help me buy a car, or the way my children “want” to play outside.
The word I would use to best describe the decision is that the woman “needed” an abortion.

And folks, your pro-life stickers, plates, signs–they’re not changing anyone’s mind.

If anything, you’re most likely hurting or angering a person who has had an abortion or knows someone who has had an abortion and is open about it. (Given that about 35% of American women have at least one abortion by age 45, you probably do know someone who has had one.)

From the bill, it seems that the adoption course material hasn’t been designed that.

I’ll be happy to help you out with that Texas.

It seems fitting to end this with a good sea ditty sitcom opening theme:

“Excavation is Destruction”

372px-Map_Akrotiri_1600_BC-en

Map of the site where I worked and studied in the summer of 2001, more than 3000 years after it was destroyed in one of the most violent volcanic eruptions

During college, I spent three summers studying in Greece.

(Where else would a Classical language and Philosophy major study?)

I was fortunate to have scholarships all three times.

So. . . . to take a break from politics in this blog–I’m not going to explore how austerity in Greece has really hurt this and many other archeology sites–I thought I’d torture share a poem I wrote while working on an archeology dig in Santorini, during the summer of 2001.

Ancient Akrotiri is sometimes postulated as Atlantis, but better known as the Greek equivalent to Pompeii, is on the southern end of the crescent-shaped island, and we (students) would spend our breaks mesmerized by the Aegean, trying to make out Crete in the distance.

During one of the breaks, I sipped water, ate my τυρóπιτα, or tyropita, and scrawled this in my notebook,  quoting the kindly director of the project, who was also our professor:

Lost in Excavation

“Excavation is Destruction” –Archaeologist Cristos Doumas

Sunburned-dust covers animal bones,
golden beads from a necklace,
and shards of brightly colored tinted glass,
shells from a nourishing ocean feast

And the haunting human bones…

We will be nameless,
Unknown to our children.  Defined as
Merely bones and genetic codes,
males and females in
sickness and health.

Who will remember,
who will remind the children—
our children!—
that these human bones
once simultaneously bore
the beauty and  burden of living flesh?

that the remnants of bones
breathed in the heat, the intoxicating perfume of summer,
saw the clear waves of heat roll across the sandy beach
and the first frost of winter
glisten on the olive leaves?
heard the chiming crickets and squealing donkeys?

Who will remember,
who will remind them that these
dry, brittle, marrow-less bones
smelled the refreshing salt tang of the Mediterranean
and savored the first bites of
harvested grapes in autumn…?  and our
feelings—the vicissitudes of life—cannot be fully discovered,
fully appreciated,
through nucleic acids…

Forgotten loves, fears,
melancholia, euphoria—all are
buried and lost,
for the paper
the clay,
on which we attempt
to record these emotions
disintegrates in the harsh climate.

Shall these heights and depths
of previous lives
remain unrevealed,

or will the child,
while gently scrubbing our bones,
removing  the caked soil and grit,
be a little more gentle, considerate—
perhaps even a little more contemplative—
while laying our long life-abandoned bones to dry
in the rays of the same sun

that was once dimmed by flesh…

Modern Indentured Servitude: the “Student Loan”

“We were so young, so in love, and so in debt.”

(Michelle Obama)Photo88792

Do we raise the interest rate on student loans or do we keep the interest rates down on on so-called student loans? In the past couple weeks, lots has been discussed–and it seems once again that those “the student loan issue” is being discretely brushed off.

Congress is still facing this issue that directly impacts 37 million Americans and indirectly effects us all.

Student debt is nearing one trillion dollars. 37 million Americans owe around $1,000,000,000, 000.00

I started college in the late 90’s. I had a scholarship that covered a more than half of my tuition, my parents assisted how they could– but wasn’t enough and so the dreaded FAFSA was filled out, submitted, and approved.

I was going to get student loans. It sounded…practical.

At 18 years old, taking out a loan was new thing. And it scared me. Sitting in on the first (required by the lenders) informational–well, hell, what do I call it? Class? Info session? Whatever you call it, those who get student lines have “counseling” (yes, the industry calls it that) sessions about student loans.  I held on to every last word.

In my adulthood, this. Was. Serious. I remember learning that my loan payments would essentially be put on hold as long as I was in school–graduate school included. I entered college already assuming I would be attending grad school (although I admit I hadn’t thought how to pay for that), so I thought something along the lines of, “Okay, I’ll be a professional when I need to pay this back. That should be okay. It might delay buying a house or having a baby, but only for a year or two.”

salliemaeIsn’t it hilarious how naive I was at 18?

I could just turn that into a sharing post–“How naive were you when you were 18?”

Really. Laugh. I am. It’s so sadly funny I seriously thought like that. I’m rather disappointed in my 18 year old self for not thinking things like:

  • What if the economy crashes?
  • What if you can’t find a job easily?
  • What if you’re discrimated against?

Et cetera and so on.

I mean, I actually believed student loans were helpful to students. I didn’t realize how corrupt they are. How wrong it is to make people go into debt to go to school. The idea that universal education at the higher levels should be free hadn’t crossed my mind–yet.

Mind-blowing quote:

“Making all public higher education free in the United States would cost between fifteen and thirty billion dollars.

That’s roughly what this country spent on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.”

Let’s pause and use our educated minds to think back to the Jamestown colony, and whatever else you may remember about the history of early settlers in what is now the United States.  Bound_300x200

Many of the colonists (i.e., of British or European descent) came over to the “New World” as indentured servants. For the cost of the voyage over (which was approximately the equivalent of the 4-5 years pay), the servant was provided with food, accommodation, clothing and training as they worked for the next 2-7 years (depending on the contract) as they worked off their debt. For their work, the servant received not wages, but credit toward paying down the cost of the voyage over.

Don’t forget this was a time when debtor’s prisons were around, so it’s not hard to figure out what happened to those servants who didn’t uphold their part of the bargain.

Indentured servitude is often called “white slavery” and to much extent, the comparison is apt.

Via:

The Company clearly felt that [beaten workers running away] threatened the continued survival of their enterprise, for they reacted forcefully to this crime. In 1612, the colony’s governor dealt firmly with some recaptured laborers: ‘Some he apointed to be hanged. Some burned. Some to be broken upon wheles, others to be staked and some to be shott to death.’

[Don’t you just love olde-tyme spelling?]

While this sort of physical torture is not occurring over student loans, (that I’m aware of), there remain multiple similiarities between historic indentured servitude and modern-day student loans, or “modern day indentured servitude.”

Similarities:1343878168318_8335741

  • Indentured servants fluxed in numbers, but up to 2/3 of (white, European) immigrants came to the New Land as such. Approximately 60% of American students any given year will rely on student loans to further their higher education.
  • Indentured servants were predominately young and also of the working class or just  plain ol’ poor.
    Many students (but not all!) who receive student loans are young. And many are working class or poor. (But this is America, so we don’t like to talk about class.)
  • Indentured servitude and student loans rely on the idea/myth of mobility. It seems this country was fed the lie of the boot straps from the very beginning!
  • Given the nature of the debts, neither historic nor modern day indentured servitude were/are secured by property. Both were/are debt secured by personhood.
  • Indentured servitude and student loans both take a small (relative to the lender) amount and augment it thanks to rounding error  works some black magic to make this initial amount into a significant burden that will follow the person around for 30 year.
  • Both have extremely limited legal recourse.

And let’s talk about the limited legal recourse, shall we? Most debt is dischargable or at least worked into a more suitable payment plan during a bankruptcy proceeding.

Sutdent loans? Nope. Or rather:

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Student loans are immune to bankruptcy. You cannot discharge your modern indentured servitude by filing bankruptcy.  This means that student loans don’t

“have a natural protection for the consumer receiving credit (a protection, the original synthetic put option, that our Founders were aware of enough to make sure it was provisioned for in the Constitution).”

Washington, we have a problem. A very serious problem that could break the economy (again).

It’s already (figuratively) killing the young.

More reading:13426-312-Infographic on Student Loans_r6

What I’ve been reading

I don’t usually get my news from CNN, HLN, MSNBC, Fox, whatever.

So here’s what I’ve been reading about the past few days, while recovering from a minor illness–and these are some stories I think all citizens of this country (should read about too. Agree with the story or not, it’s always good to exercise one’s mind!

State Terror in the Twentieth Century, I: The Century of Terror

This is the first in a series of essays that will explore the use of terror by states in the 20th century. This week will begin with a brief overview of twentieth-century state terror in theory; subsequent essays in this series will look more closely at how states all over the world applied terror to specific problems, in both foreign and domestic policy. In the US, since the spectacular mass atrocity of 9/11, consciousness of terror in both concept and practice has become a dominant element in public discourse, yet overall knowledge of the topic is still lacking. The subsequent decline and fall of the post-World War II international system, wars, and the normalization of terror as overt public policy in the West all followed. Obviously, it is difficult to overstate the potential power of a well-conceived and well-executed terrorist attack; therefore, it should not be surprising that a weapon of such potential power has also long been embraced and used by states.

Most terrorism studies cast the terrorist in an anti-state role, in an ascending hierarchy of terrorist-guerilla-soldier. This convenient shorthand does roughly describe many of the terrorist campaigns of the twentieth century, especially in the wars that followed the breakup of the colonial empires, and as this narrative makes useful grist for state propaganda, it is often repeated as conventional wisdom. However, the reality is far more complex. While protracted terrorist campaigns have been fought against states by independent organizations, in many if not most cases, these organizations were bankrolled and supported, if not created and organized, by states; in other cases, independent terrorist organizations were infiltrated by state agents, who then used the supposedly independent terrorist organizations as proxies. As commercial enterprises, drug cartels are in a different category, self-supporting but largely apolitical. In general, state terror in the twentieth century took two forms: terror as a method of governance and internal security, and terror as a foreign policy option. Terror in foreign policy can further be subdivided into two more subcategories: terror as a weapon in time of war, and state-sponsored terrorism against nations with whom the sponsor publicly claims to be at peace.

Terror in time of war in the twentieth century, again, was carried out with one or more of three general goals in mind: terrorizing an enemy into a quick surrender, terrorizing an enemy into passively accepting occupation, and/or terrorizing an enemy’s population into fleeing entirely, a process called ethnic cleansing. Terror as a weapon of war is almost as old as warfare itself, yet even here the twentieth century put a characteristic spin, both through the force-multiplication effects of the industrialization of technological warfare on the capabilities of the individual soldier, and through the development of the twentieth century’s most characteristic form of wartime terror, strategic aerial bombing of civilian populations. We will look at examples and implications of both, including the nuclear weapons and nuclear testing regimens that grew out of the strategic bombing doctrine of the Second World War.

State terror was practiced by almost every major nation in the twentieth century, from beginning to end, a fact that may come as a surprise to some. It should not; the evidence is ubiquitous and overwhelming, from the Herero genocide in Africa at the beginning of the century, or the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans at its end. In the use of terror, twentieth century states are united. What differentiated them from one another was the degree to which they were willing to use internal terror against their own citizens, since practically every international power used terror in the conduct of its foreign policy. The extremes were seen in the Soviet Union, which used mass terror as a central organizing principle of its domestic policy, and in the Western democracies, where uses of internal terror were usually covert and were most often denied, justified, or explained away as something other than the exercises of state terror they were.

This need for secrecy was dictated by the need for the US to maintain the perception that it did not engage in state terror. The overt use of terror, antithetical to the Constitutional and human rights laws and traditions that are the bedrock of the US’s founding principles, established traditions, and settled law, undermined the very ideology the US claimed to be defending. Secrecy therefore became paramount in Western state terrorism, both internal and external, a problematic notion at best. The resulting conflict between Western ideology and propaganda and their observed behavior required the creation of a massive, subsidiary propaganda apparatus, to manage perception and “manufacture consent,” and to maintain the fiction that democratic governments don’t do this sort of thing.

I’m looking forward to this series. I hope you find it informative, and that it helps throw into sharper relief how our world got to be how it is today, well into the second decade of the 21st century. Next week, we’ll take a closer look at regimes who made terror a defining characteristic, and especially Stalin’s Soviet Union. See you next week-