By Amitabh Pal on September 23, 2012

Every once in a while you hear a speech that completely blows you away. My colleagues and I experienced that feeling on Friday afternoon here at an editorialists’ conference in Orlando.

The speaker was Koko Kondo, a Hiroshima survivor. Kondo was all of eight months old when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on her hometown on August 6, 1945. Her father was a minister, and her mother was talking to some parishioners that fateful morning when the building they were in completely collapsed. The mother fell unconscious, and when she regained consciousness, she realized with horror that the baby she was hearing cry was her own. She managed to dig out a hole and emerge from the rubble with her little girl.

Kondo said that, of course, she learned all these details only later from attending her father’s sermons and lectures, since her parents never spoke to her directly about what happened. (Her family’s story is featured in John Hersey’s classic “Hiroshima,” though Kondo is misidentified as an infant boy in the book.)

As a three or four year old, she remembered seeing teenage girls at her house whose eyebrows or lips were melted. Kondo said that she was filled with rage and determined to take her revenge from that early age by finding the pilot of the plane that dropped the bomb.

In an incredible coincidence, she did. In 1955, Kondo was invited with her father to appear on the popular American TV show “This Is Your Life” alongside Captain Robert Lewis, the co-pilot of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

Lewis’s attitude toward the Hiroshima bombing was quite different from that of Paul Tibbets, the chief pilot of the plane, who was unapologetic till the end of his life. (I wrote about Tibbets when he died in 2007.) Lewis reportedly recorded in the official plane logbook the lament: “My God, what have we done?”

“I saw his tears as he recalled the moment,” Kondo said of their meeting on the show. “He held my hand with his warm hand.”

Kondo said that the encounter with Lewis changed her life because it ended her anger and instead made her determined to work for peace. Her one lifelong regret has been that she didn’t visit Lewis while she was a college student in the United States decades later and he was hospitalized in ill health.

But Lewis did set her on her life mission. She has been to countries such as India, South Korea and Iraq (right before the Gulf War) in her attempts to spread a message of peace and disarmament.

“I understood,” Kondo concluded tearfully, “that nuclear weapons need to be abolished.”

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Japan to Join No Nuke Club."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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