There is a context to U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Hiroshima that is unspoken, but every bit as powerful and necessary as the direct message of nuclear disarmament: that historical woes can — and should — be overcome.

Imagine the degree of hatred one must possess for an enemy to sacrifice one’s life with the aim of killing even just one of the hated “other.” Imagine, too, the severity of hatred that must pervade your mind and culture to knowingly inflict nuclear annihilation upon an enemy. Such was the degree of hatred between Japan and the United States, and the certitude toward which we pursued the conflict with each other.

With the war ended, what of this hatred? Did it linger? Did we carry it on with us for generations? Did we predicate our societies, our religions or our futures upon the preservation of these hatreds?

No. We didn’t. We cast aside the hatred and even became the closest of friends. How? By promoting the latent energies of mutual economic gain — those which far outweighed the gains of political opportunism to solidify a glorious origin story. The details of this narrative are, of course, complex — but the result has doubtlessly yielded both Japan and America a net gain over the past several decades.

And such is the benefit of Obama’s visit to Hiroshima — to commemorate this narrative of reconciliation at a historical site of extraordinary hatred, in a contemporary time of extraordinary hatred. We live in a world today where individual and societal hatreds of such degrees stand to paralyze and overwhelm our globalized society. Hatreds between countries, cultures, religions consume our geopolitical and security concerns at every border crossing and dominate our news cycles.

A fresh retelling and highlighting of this arc — from hatred to friendship — is a worthy tale of visitation.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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