Mother’s Day and the Enola Gay
Mother’s Day is essentially a celebration of life. On this day we honour the person who gave us life: our mother. For most people, the idea of motherhood epitomises feelings of love, safety and nurturing.
Also sacrifice and protection.
However, for those who have lost their mother – to death or dementia – or who never knew their mother, this day can be one of sadness. Amid the flowers and festivities of a conventional Mother’s Day celebration, it is important to offer these folk support. A simple check-in can make a huge difference.
Likewise, if the birth of a child is like bringing a new colour into the world, the death of a child feels like all colour is gone. Perhaps because despite our constant babble about success, sovereignty, scandal and other worldly concerns, the purpose of life is life itself: making life, sharing lives. What point life if the world we create for our children will not nurture them?
The Test of Parenthood
Becoming a parent is a mixture of life-changing love and strangely enough, fear. There are many tough decisions that parents must make. There are so many ways in this world that our children can be hurt. On Mother’s Day, spare a thought for those who have lost a child.
Symbolic of this terrible conundrum is the story of the Enola Gay. Name sound familiar but you’re not sure why?
The Enola Gay was the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped the first atom bomb on the city of Hiroshima in Japan, 6 August 1945. This, and the second bomb on Nagasaki, led to the surrender of the Japanese, thus ending World War 2. The bomber was flown by Colonel Paul Tibbets and named after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets, as a gesture of love.
Yet the Enola Gay represents the antithesis of motherhood – the sole purpose of an atom bomb is to destroy life. There is no so-called ‘honourable’ physical engagement between soldiers, no personal danger to those who order the bombing and great loss of non-combatant men, women and children. The detonation of this bomb took the world into a nuclear age, bringing with it the capability for mass annihilation. Today, the mushroom cloud is used as a symbol of death.
The Hiroshima atomic bomb killed about 80,000 people; the second bomb on Nagasaki killed approximately 45,000 people. Both bombs caused great physical damage to the cities and subsequent radiation sickness.
But by the same hand this bomb forced the surrender of the Japanese, saving hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of lives on both sides. This includes both soldiers and civilians. It saved Allied soldiers from the invasion of the Japanese mainland. It ended the Japanese belief in never surrendering.
Previous bombings of Tokyo by two American B-29s killed 25,000 people in one raid and 100,000 in a second. Multiply these existing figures by an estimate of the bombing raids necessary in an invasion of Japan and the American action is justified. Dropping the atomic bombs on Japan was a horrible decision to have to make, made from the place of fear that is war. Tibbet himself said, “Morality, there is no such thing in warfare.”
The atomic bombing of Japan is still the greatest ethical debate of the 20th century.
A Cry For Peace
War is inhuman. War means death, no matter how it is delivered. Acts of atrocity committed under the cover of war affect generations and the dread of nuclear war hangs over us still. Think of the mothers who have lost their children in war, who have seen their sons and daughters go to war, who wait hourly for news of their deaths.
On this Mother’s Day, take a moment to wish for peace in our world, for all.
Want to do something? Donate to Medicins sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross, who provide crucial medical aid in warzones around the world.
“I shall write peace upon your wings,
and you shall fly around the world
so that children will no longer have
to die this way.”
― Teshima Yusuke 手島悠介