Madelyn Hoffman is the Exec Director of New Jersey Peace Action. Coauthored by Meghan Brophy, NJ youth organizer and Communications Intern for NJPA. Promoted by Rosi.
On April 11, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest ranking currently serving U.S. official to visit Hiroshima since more than 150,000 Japanese died instantaneously when the first of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the U.S. exploded in Hiroshima. There is speculation that Kerry’s visit will open the door to a possible visit to Hiroshima from U.S. President Barack Obama during the G7 Summit on May 26 -27. No serving U.S. President has ever visited Hiroshima and it took sixty five years for a U.S. ambassador to attend the annual memorial service. Peace Action is part of a national effort to persuade President Obama to visit Hiroshima, but to not go empty-handed.
There is still a debate about whether or not the atomic bombs should have been dropped, but the blatant destruction of humanity caused by the bomb is something our government should have recognized years ago. The U.S. has acted like the people on the receiving end of the atomic bombs were disposable and that the sacrifice of their lives was necessary in order to save “more important” lives – the lives of Americans. What it is that allows one group of people to declare themselves “victors” when all of humanity has lost?
However, not all Americans turned their backs on the damage caused by the atomic bombs. Here in New Jersey, we saw incredible acts of generosity from members of our communities. Norman Cousins, born in West Hoboken, New Jersey in 1915, became a writer, editor, political activist and one of the founders of SANE, the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy now known as Peace Action. He wrote a lengthy editorial for the Saturday Review soon after the atomic bombs were dropped, expressing overwhelming guilt that such a powerful bomb was used on human beings.
Ten years later, Cousins helped initiate a project called “The Hiroshima Maidens.” Together with their doctors in Japan and the fundraising assistance of the Quakers, 25 young women from Japan were brought to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York for reconstructive plastic surgery to repair the extensive damage done to their bodies from exposure to the heat and power of the atomic bomb. In addition to providing the vision for this project, Norman Cousins and his wife Ellen adopted Shigeko Sasamori, one of the Hiroshima Maidens, as their own daughter. Thirteen year old Shigeko Sasamori lived less than 1 mile away from the epicenter of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Since then, she has dedicated her life to speaking out against nuclear weapons and war.
New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) is holding its 59th Annual Dinner on Sunday, April 24, 2016 at the Hasbrouck Heights Hilton, 650 Terrace Avenue, Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey to honor this piece of their and New Jersey’s history. This year’s program is called: “Organizing for Peace and a Nuclear – Free Future”. Shigeko Sasamori will speak about her experiences and passionate desire for peace. Kevin Martin, Executive Director of the Peace Action national office and long-time activist for peace and justice will speak about what Peace Action is doing and has done over its 59 year history to organize for a peaceful and nuclear-free world.
During his visit, Kerry laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Park and spoke about the “gut wrenching” destruction of the atomic bomb. While this gesture is definitely a step in the right direction, especially since the U.S. is the only country in history to deploy nuclear weapons, Kerry has not apologized or offered a concrete plan for nuclear abolition. On the contrary, the Obama Administration has supported the expansion of NATO and pledged to spend money on a trillion dollar public expenditure to “modernize” the United States’ nuclear arsenal. At the same time, the U.S. is prepared to wage war on countries that “may” want to develop their own nuclear arsenal.
Tax Day 2016 should make us think of how that $1 trillion in tax money could be spent on improving communities like those across New Jersey and across the country. In 2013, the Montclair Town Council passed a “Move the Money” resolution, asking Congress to move at least 25% of the military budget to programs that address community needs. It is clear that we need a serious shift in priorities. While we have seen sustained cuts to education and social services, the U.S. has continued to allocate trillions of dollars to war. If President Obama visits Hiroshima at the G7 Summit in May, we demand that his visit launch serious efforts to achieve nuclear abolition and “move the money” from war to peace.