Marcus Yao: Nuclear weapons, massacre, and desensitization of death

April 13, 2017 GMT

I would like to address some of the thoughts that have been on my mind ever since I visited Japan, Malaysia, and China this past summer.

I first visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan, memorializing the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on the Japanese city in August 1945.

Later in my trip, I visited the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum in Nanjing, China, memorializing the murders of tens of thousands of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers in Nanjing.

I also have been hearing stories of Japanese atrocities in Malaysia from my grandmother, who experienced them firsthand. These viewpoints brought a swarm of conflicting ideas and feelings to me.

When first presented with the notion of nuclear bombs and the destruction of tens of thousands of human lives with a single device, the thought is just horrible. No group of people should possess that much power.

The material damage is magnified beyond belief, with the entire city of Hiroshima being flattened, but the human damage is even worse. At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the images of women with their kimono patterns burned into their skin and the keloid scars splayed across people’s backs was a lot to handle.

One artifact that struck especially deep within me was a piece of concrete where a man had been sitting before the blast, directly under ground zero. The piece was still mostly intact, but there was a visible black outline of a man’s seat print. In the explosion, the man had been literally vaporized. One life, gone into nothingness in the blink of an eye, with no name, no body, no grave to remember him by.

When I visited Nanjing, I saw and heard of the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army — the overall murder of 100,000 civilians through mutilation, firing squad, beheading, torture techniques, anything that you might name. The rape of 20,000 women and girls, ranging from 4 to 60 years old. Babies with their heads smashed open, fetuses bayoneted in the womb. The bodies piling high in the streets, with no room left to bury them.

While a bomb might have a higher capacity for death, these atrocities were worse than just a quick death. They were absolutely horrible to see or even think of.

When considering these atrocities, I find myself guiltily wondering at times whether or not the Japanese people really did deserve the horrors caused by the atomic bomb. Then I remember my original viewpoint and consider the fact that 95 percent of those who died in the atomic bombings were innocent civilians who took no part in these atrocities.

In light of all these events and the back-and-forth slaughter of innocents, I have come to the conclusion that the death of innocents in war is not OK in any way, shape or form. It is regrettable that war itself is necessary in extreme situations, but extreme destruction of human life does nothing to benefit anyone.

Massacres rarely benefit the side that commits them, and when they do, such as in the cases of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the scale of massacre is so large that people recognize that such acts should never be performed again.

In this day and age, I find that people in more fortunate part of the world, such as the United States, have become increasingly desensitized to incidences of death. With children learning about the wars of the past through the textbook and only looking at numbers and not actually seeing and experiencing the horrors of war, very few today truly know the meaning of massacre.

We have activists advocating for helping civilians in the Syrian Civil War, but the general population seems to be unconcerned with the developments in the region. It’s a dilemma that has occurred to me a lot over the past year or so.