Enola Gay's polarizing effect

Social historians define several traditional categories into which beliefs fall regarding the use of atomic weapons in Japan. Brian Wimer's more apologetic approach [January 8 letter: "The bomb bombed morality"]occupies one end of the spectrum, the vitriolic approach of Chicago Sun-Times' Neil Steinberg [December 11 essay: "No apology: Japan deserved Enola Gay's visit"] the other.

The tendency to categorize the United States government as either all bad or all good in the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki is as simplistic as the tendency to describe the Japanese as all bad or all good. More accurate, albeit not fancy, is an old Bruce Springsteen comment, "There are good folks and a-holes on every corner" (or something like that).

Wimer posits that the U.S. might consider an apology to those who died at Hiroshima, but fails to address Steinberg's points regarding the Rape of Nanking and U.S. soldiers who suffered under the hands of the Japanese. There are many things for which most nations should apologize. However, if people don't learn to see eye to eye, an apology doesn't amount to a hill of soybeans.

Wimer also fails to mention the current issue– the exhibition of the Enola Gay at the Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport without any discussion or imagery of its impact. The Washington Post quotes the museum's chief as explaining that the decision to withhold photos is part of the museum's tradition. However, right now the Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington shows photos of injured and dead following a blast by a German V2 missile.

Both Wimer and Steinberg ignore the benefit of an exhibit that might include discussion of both issues– Japanese war atrocities as well as images of victims near the epicenter of the A-bomb.

Failure to present this information in an educated format is a mockery of what a forum for knowledge such as a museum should be.

There's no question that the images are horrid, but allowing visual examination promotes a more informed picture than continual repetition of the words that often fill U.S. textbooks: "...it saved millions of lives."

Ya'll get off your high horses, quit the puffing, and figure out that you're both right and both wrong, and that a museum that tries to deny that something monumental is associated with that airplane is just as asinine as all the bickering and back-patting of Steinberg, Wimer, and the like.

Katrina Kernodle
Charlottesville
katrina_kernodle@hotmail.com

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