Image Source: Grave of the Fireflies
It’s Tuesday, August 6 from one end of the continental United States to the other. However, on the other side of the globe, it’s presently the early hours of Wednesday, August 7. I’m specifically thinking of Hiroshima, Japan, where the 69th anniversary of the Atomic Bomb catastrophe was remembered in an annual public ceremony. A year ago at this time I gave a public lecture titled “The Land Tells Us Who We Are: Manifest Destiny and the Aesthetics of Indigenous Resistance,” which I delivered at the main branch of the Minneapolis Public Library. While my talk was about how American Indian survival from and resistance to American settler-colonial imperialism was reflected in the works of an ongoing art exhibit, I took a moment to reflect on the intersection of Japanese and American Indian history as targets of American political-military aggression:
“As I’m writing these words I’m listening to Mamoru Samurogochi’s first symphony, which he titled “Hiroshima.” As I’m speaking these words to you tonight, it’s the sixty-eighth anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. For the Japanese the bombings unleashed a horrific devastation, killing countless thousands of non-combatants. For the international community, the bombings initiated a cold war, an arms race, and the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation. For the Americans, the bombings were a strategic and moral necessity, which signified more than victory over Japan; they ushered in an era of American dominance as a global economic and military super power. But what of the American Indians who fought bravely on behalf of the US? As has been well documented, the end of World War Two inaugurated an epoch of termination and relocation, as tribal sovereignty, in addition to language and tradition, saw a precipitous decline, which would take at least a generation to slow down.”
Samurogochi, as many know now, was not the composer he claimed to be, which is unfortunate. Nonetheless, the music still evokes a point in time, August 6, 1945, when America unleashed a wave of devastation that was felt far beyond Hiroshima, and Nagasaki three days later, and far beyond the war it brought to an end. We’re still living in a world defined by Cold War political and technological paradigms of domination, complete with heavily armed nation-states oppressing the needs and rights of minority and tribal groups.