Thursday, October 11, 2012

Explaining When the Towers, and the Bombs, Fell

So last month was the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. It passed without much notice by my students. To be fair of course, it did happen in another country and happened when they were two. Like my sons, they have no memory of anytime when the towers were up.

This week my third year students also finished a unit entitled "A Mother's Lullaby", which takes place in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Given that I was silly enough to open my mouth and suggest a challenge to my teaching partner, I ended up presenting the American takes on the bombings to a class full of Japanese junior high school kids, in English.

Awkward it was, yes, but I want to think it was an important lesson. In my speech I noted that my family is both the beginning, and ending, of World War II. My step-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The sub he was on was damaged and he was trapped on board for three days before he was rescued. On the other end, Beloved's grandfather was a survivor of Hiroshima. He had taken his family, including Jiji, to shelter in a cave outside of the city. While they were protected from the bombing, he went into it afterwards to help and find out information. There he was caught in the Black Rain.

Like most Americans, my family fought in WWII, and like most Japanese, Beloved's family was also involved. All of this history did make it a bit delicate when Beloved and I started to date. I remember her telling me just how scared she was when I brought her to my grandparents' house for the first time as my grandfather was a WWII Navy vet (Just for the record, my grandfather adored her, thought she was a wonderful woman, a great addition to the family, and (probably why he liked her so much) just so much fun to tease the hell out of). I, on the other hand, was more than a bit nervous to meet her family given the above.

That was before I found out that her family not only had no qualms about having an American son-in-law, but proceeded to do their level best to make sure this happened.

But all of it does mean that my sons have it, in a way, both coming and going and one day we will have to explain to them the stories of their family, both sides. It's something that I have been thinking about since I went ahead and conducted a lesson about Hiroshima for my students.

How do I approach this? What can I say to them to help them understand when the times comes? And when is that time?

I think that last part is gonna be the really tricky one. Beloved took me to the Peace Museum at Hiroshima once. Once, and she has made it clear that due to the memories that it invokes, she will not be taking me back a second time. If my family comes over, I get to play tour guide, she'll wait for us on Miyajima while snacking on oysters. In Beloved's opinion, there will be just one final trip to the Peace Park and Ground Zero, and that is when we take our children to it so she can explain about their great-grandfather and what happened to him and how this is a part of their history.

I feel that we should also, in the same year, make the trip to Hawai'i and Pearl Harbor to explain about their set-grandfather's father and about both their blood great-grandfathers and why their father's country dropped the bomb on their mother's. Hopefully we can impress upon them that their very existence shows that hatred can be overcome and nations can be at peace.


Maybe I can also come up with a way to explain 9/11 to them and why there is still hate in the world.

And, maybe, I can also state that there will never be another Hiroshima, or Pearl Harbor, or 9/11.

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