15 August 2010

Remember VJ Day

Perhaps the one thing that most of the post-WWII generations 'know' about VJ Day is something they probably don't know was associated with the VJ Day celebrations - the iconic kissing sailor photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt taken during the first celebrations in New York City. Girls had posters of it on their walls when I was in college, and most of the initial links from a quick Google search of VJ Day 2010 are about the kiss, a statue of it accompanied by a national kiss-in, etc.

The celebrations that followed the Japanese surrender, and a beautifully-staged kiss were both wonderful and memorable. But Victory (Victory over Japan) Day is a solemn remembrance of the many thousands of lives poured out in the second half of a near global struggle, to block the domination of many small and weak nations by one. I find it ironic that sixty-five years after, the only mention of these events in the popular US media relates to a single staged photograph. Of course, here in the US, there is often a sense of guilt mixed in with VJ Day celebrations, tied to Japan's forced surrender following the use of a terrible weapon on her civilian population. While the reasons for forcing an unconditional surrender out of Japan are well-known, and while there will probably never be a complete consensus on the decision to use the atom bomb, it would be appropriate to celebrate the end of the war and remember the dead.

Sadly, President Obama, indeed much of the country, seems totally apathetic about such memorials. Possibly, if forced into a speech about it, the president would find it necessary to belabor American sins, arrogance and pride, without remembering why we came to such a point and what necessitated the war. There is no excuse however, for the near total silence from the media and the population. Leaders in Canada, Great Britain, even Japan (for different reasons obviously) honor August 15th with wreaths, solemnity and remembrance. We would do well not to lightly throw away our own history.

"We renew our promise to never wage war, and we promise to do our utmost to achieve eternal world peace and to never repeat again the mistake of war."

Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan

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