To look at the city of Hiroshima today, one would never guess it was the first city to be devastated by an atomic bomb, nor that the 58th anniversary of that attack is just about two weeks away.
It's the same day as my nephew's birthday, Aug. 6.
On that day in 1945 Hiroshima native Keiji Nakazawa was 7-years-old. He turned his experience into a series of "manga" comic books and an animated movie called "Barefoot Gen."
I watched that movie recently with my wife and some friends of ours. I was horrified, and as a result I think the movie should be mandatory viewing in every high school across this country and any other that possesses or seeks to possess nuclear weapons.
That's not because the movie is anti-American. Nakazawa's message is not one of guilt and accusation, or at least the accusations made in the movie apply to both sides of the war that led to the destruction of the artist's hometown.
The message is similar to that of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., never forget. Never forget that war is bad.
And I don't think we're getting that message, nor are most of the other people in countries outside the only one that has first-hand experience with nuclear destruction.
In fact, recent events in Japan seem to indicate even they are forgetting that hard-earned lesson. Japanese troops are being sent to a combat zone (Iraq) for the first time since World War II.
Sure, they're going to help, not fight. In fact, I can't necessarily argue against the need for Japan to improve its military prowess a little more in light of recent threats from North Korea and the ever eroding welcome our troops have in that country.
Because here's the problem with the message of "Barefoot Gen."
It's one everybody has to learn and live by at the same time!
It's exceptionally difficult to be a pacifist when you are surrounded by vicious predators and callous, arrogant empires.
It's hard for one nation to put down its weapons when the result will most likely be its destruction.
But that doesn't mean the lesson of "Barefoot Gen" is pointless, and it certainly doesn't mean the lesson is wrong.
The movie is relentless in its depiction of the individual horror faced by the actual human beings who, like Nakazawa, lived through the most destructive manmade force on Earth. Those are the images we should have in our minds every time the President says "I hate to do it, but we just have to bomb somebody else."
As the only country in the world to actually use an atomic bomb, we owe the human race that much. We should never, ever have the luxury of enjoying war like any other product of Hollywood, nor should we think the suffering is only felt by our soldiers.
Those are human beings underneath our military's boot heel.
Those were human beings we blasted apart in Iraq. Even Hussein's sons were human beings, albeit not very good ones, and even their deaths are not to be vaunted as an accomplishment. They are, at best, to be suffered as the horrible necessity brought about as a result of our own choice to start a war that was not a last resort and was not necessary.
It may be far in the future before "Barefoot Gen" is finally heard and understood by all. Until then, the least we can do as everyday people in the world's biggest nuclear power is rent a copy and force ourselves to watch it.
Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at email@example.com.