An Appeal for Peace

The Angel Wings project by Colette Miller allows people at different places around the world to interact with an image commonly associated with peace.

To my fellow Americans,

For the past seven years I have been living in Japan as an American expat. Within my first year in Tokyo, the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear explosion at Fukushima took place. I remained then despite fears of nuclear radiation, just as I remain in Tokyo now despite the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea. The difference this time is that I feel I cannot share my fears with my Japanese friends, because though I have the option of returning home to my family, where would the Japanese people go? Though there are many days when I feel powerless to influence change, I also feel that we Americans have a responsibility to try.

Unfortunately the Trump administration continues to threaten Kim Jong Un that we will annihilate his country. Recently US bombers flew over North Korea. The South Koreans and Japanese did not join them. This is because South Korea and Japan are so close to North Korea that we would have less than ten minutes to take cover here if a nuclear weapon was directed at us, and they do not want war.

Since the end of the Second World War, by order of General MacArthur, Japan has followed a constitutional policy of upholding peace and not investing in a military. During this period, Japan flourished economically. Ironically, the incentive to uphold peace in Japan was strongly influenced by the memory of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

My grandfather’s experiences of fighting in the Pacific Theatre during the Second World War, and his photos and stories of Japan immediately after the war, influenced my desire to study Japanese. Grandpa Bill was a great lawyer, and he and I used to enjoy debating for many hours. The only time that he lost his cool and walked out on a debate is when we spoke about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As a patriotic member of the US Air Force, my grandfather believed that the nuclear bombings were necessary to end the war. When I imagine the extent of their destruction and the immense loss of human life, I find that hard to believe. I do not want to even imagine the possibility that we may do the same to the North Koreans.

Since the end of the Second World War, and throughout the Cold War, the US has engaged in a worldwide competition of increasing militarization to the point where we now have the capacity to destroy the total earth landmass. Why would we want to do that? Are there no more useful outlets for our vast resources, knowledge, expertise and ingenuity than developing ways to destroy ourselves and all of humanity?

North Korea and Iran, by entering this very dangerous game, have decided that they would like to assert themselves on the world stage, therein highlighting the extent of our folly. If we do not believe that our adversaries should bear nuclear arms, then as a true world leader, why can we not demonstrate this point by de-arming ourselves? Given the current international tensions, perhaps no one will agree with my idealistic suggestion, but then why can we not comprehend why North Korea and Iran would want to have the same nuclear capability, if for nothing else, than to deter their enemies?

In a world where everyone is on social media (including our leaders), and people are constantly pursuing their thirty seconds of fame on youtube or the Amazon bestseller list, it becomes normal that people have lost the ability to make their voices heard.

These days I feel increasingly anxious. Every day I check my smartphone for news of Trump and Kim’s War of Words, praying that it will not blow up into a real war. I’ve had terrible nightmares of being caught with friends under planes dropping explosives, being radiated and burning. Perhaps I am irrational, or perhaps this is a fear shared by others in my generation, in particular in the two Koreas and Japan, and maybe even in the United States.

I believe in peace. I also believe that most Americans, Japanese, Koreans, Iranians, Chinese, Russians and other peoples of the world, even those who work for the military, do not want war.

When the Vietnam War happened, Americans were shocked by images of terrified children trying to escape chemical warfare. My parents’ generation went out into the streets and protested, even if the US was never at risk of being attacked by the Vietnamese, simply because they disagreed with the horrors of that war.

Today we run a serious risk of being attacked with nuclear weapons. We are also putting the countries around North Korea at huge risk, including the country in which I live now. And yet we sit quietly in front of our computers, following the opinions of like-minded people on social media and feeling powerless to stop a seemingly inevitable advance of history.

Today if I were in the US I would like to go out onto the street and start a protest. The American people have no desire to annihilate an already impoverished people living in a hermit kingdom halfway around the world. We need to stop threatening Kim Jong Un and driving him into a corner, from which he will feel that his only hope to defend his family and people is to attack.

We want to be able to sleep peacefully at night in a land of opportunity, to love and not fear for the lives of friends and families. Our country was founded on Christian values. Then why have we forgotten some of the most fundamental teachings of the Bible? “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) 

As Americans, we cannot afford to sit by quietly any longer as two individuals threaten the world with a war so terrible that it is beyond our imagination. Please go out, proclaim peace and show the world that we do not believe in “America first” at the expense of others and in bullying and threats, but in the power of humanity.  

Bryerly Long (29)

As I visited the exhibit at the Marine and Walk in Yokohama by myself, I asked passersby to take these photos. In a big city like Tokyo, it is easy to feel sometimes lonely and anonymous. Interactive exhibits like this one allow us to engage with strangers.

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