"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Monday, June 20, 2011

HIROSHIMA - What it took

Setsu Kuroda Shimizu
     From the day we knew the monument to my mother was going to be a reality, I felt destined not only to be present at the ceremony in Hiroshima but to speak there.
     This generation, the generation of those who actually survived the first atomic bomb, will soon be gone. I knew that their gratitude for and close ties to Barbara deserved acknowledgment and validation, that it was important to do this for them because of what they were doing for her.
     I knew I was the one to give the talk and I knew I wanted to do it in Japanese. Speaking their own language would make my comments more intimate, would comfort and provide closure for them as they remembered my mother.
     I also knew a foreigner giving a speech in Japanese would get the attention of the media. I knew the timing was amazing, that I had the opportunity to link Hiroshima and Fukushima and that would give reporters their lead.
     When I was 19, I had found myself finishing up a grueling 30-unit study of Japanese, in order to take classes at International Christian University, a bilingual college in Tokyo. But I was asking myself, "Why am I doing this? Why do I even want to take classes in Japanese? What will I do with them?" (Then I got saved and switched to Bible school.) Now, forty-something years later, it was as if I finally understood why God had me perfect the pronunciation of a language I would hardly ever need to speak. It was preparation for this coming moment in my life, this talk.
     Being born one year into the nuclear age, growing up in Hiroshima, my father's extensive research on the effects of radiation, our family's acts of protest based on that research, my familiarity with the Japanese language and culture, as well as the fact of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan just three months before--it was all coming together.
     It was my destiny and I asked God to keep blinders on me so I could focus on this talk, this moment in time, these seeds I would be sowing: Seeds of love and appreciation to the hibakusha, seeds of promise that when their generation dies out, the message of their desire to spare all humankind what they suffered will be broadcast by the next one. (That is why Tony's presence was so meaningful.) Seeds of warning that nuclear radiation, not just nuclear bombs, is an enemy and seeds of resistance to that enemy.
     I felt I had been born for this, to be their voice, as Mum had been for years, but to be that voice for one point in time, just long enough to send out new ripples, to revive and continue the momentum of the movement toward freedom from nuclear power.
     I trained for this like an Olympian and I knew I could and would stick this talk. I had an occasional picture in my head of tripping over cords on my way to the microphone or getting there only to find I had lost my voice but mostly I saw myself speaking with confidence, authority, and passion. When Tony told me afterward, "You knocked it out of the park," I knew I had and that I had expected to.
     I'd like to share what--and more than that, WHOM--it took to reach that point.

YOU and your prayers were paramount. I needed every one of you and them and I felt the support your prayers gave me. 

SETSU KURODA, now Setsu Shimizu (SEE ABOVE), of Long Beach, who heads up JCFN, an international network of Japanese Christians. Setsu arranged for a friend of hers up in Orinda, California, to translate my talk into Japanese. Then, in what she and we thought was an unrelated move, she provided housing with us for a man we didn't know, Pastor Toshio Nagai, coming from Tokyo to Long Beach to lead a workshop.
     All the time Setsu was taking care of these details for us she was also taking care of the details for her own wedding to Mao Shimizu, another friend of ours, on June 4 on Waikiki. (We wanted very much to stop and attend their wedding on our way to Japan, but it was just too expensive.) I hope she is now free to enjoy her honeymoon!

HIROKO SHUBUYA of Orinda, California, translated my remarks into Japanese and e-mailed me a version with kana in parentheses after each Chinese character, so I had a cheat sheet for the characters I didn't know, which was most of them.  The Monument Committee had assigned me 15 minutes including translation. Since I didn't need translation, I figured it wouldn't hurt to expand into the alloted 15 minutes.

MICHIKO YAMANE, our liaison in Hiroshima, interfaced between the Monument Committee and me. She wrote me tactfully worded e-mails asking for changes in the wording "to make it easier for the audience to understand or to suit the Japanese custom." I hope she and the committee won't mind my quoting a sample of what was involved in getting this talk right.
     In our exchange of some 80 internal memos, Michiko wrote, "Today we had a committee meeting and they came up with another big issue!  About 'No more genpatsu=nuclear energy!'
     "Although we are all anti-nuclear energy, among invited guests there may be some dignitaries who support nuclear power plants.  For instance, the new Mayor of Hiroshima City and the President of the Municipal Assembly are all pro-business, conservative politicians.
     "It is a sensitive issue and many of our committee members don’t want to offend them by provocative remarks.  So after 'No more Hiroshima!', could you say 'No more hibakusha!' instead of 'No more genpatsu!'?
     I wrote back, "Maybe I should say "No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki! and no more Fukushima!'
     "I don't know what to do. I realize some people have business interests and investments in nuclear energy, just as others have investments in the military and in nuclear weapons. If we try to please those who are important in this world, I wonder if we are disobeying Jesus' words to please God rather than men. So I am struggling with this and praying about it. Maybe I could say, 'I myself personally wish for "no more genpatsu."'
     "It's difficult. I am praying about it. I want to honor the desires of the committee but I also want to listen to that 'still, small voice.'"
     She responded,"We are very sorry we caused you a headache. . . I talked to the committee including Larry [at WFC] about your struggle trying to live up to our desire. We think that 'No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki and no more Fukushima' is perfect. If you want to say ' I myself personally wish for “no more genpatsu”, please add this after '………..no more Fukushima'” Then we think there is no problem.
     "We are very sorry to have caused you uneasiness. . .   
    "Very sorry we are meddling too much!"
     Michiko also arranged the details of the ceremony itself, such as seating ( for instance, the current and past mayor would both be there and their seating assignments were a delicate matter). She handled transporting city dignitaries and foreign visitors (us, mainly) to the Peace Park and finding housing for some of them. And she did it with a light heart and humor.
     I also appreciate her husband Shige for letting this event monopolize his wife's time and for driving us back to the Hiroshima Airport (and for Mr. Tanaka who drove us in from the airport), which we had not realized was an hour away from the city!

(To be continued)

1 comment:

  1. A great team of people helping you make the perfect speech at such a momentous occasion.