Homeschool Life, Personal Journey

Getting to the Whole Story: An Example from my Son

School started today, to my son’s horror. We’re finishing our history curriculum from last year because I went through K-12 never learning anything after WWII because we always ran out of school year before we ran out of boring textbook.

A History of US is one of my favorites because it’s a comprehensive, source-driven look at our past and not a boring textbook. Each day Gabe reads a few chapters and writes a paraphrase on his blog. Scroll down to his post. Did you know the bolded information? I didn’t.

There are many significant happenings, the details of which don’t transmit to Joe Public. In the case of my history ignorance, a textbook writer somewhere, sometime made the decision that the bolded piece of intel wasn’t worth the ink. I understand cuts must be made. But I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to trust someone, somewhere to filter my history for me. The way to bypass the textbook revisionist is to read as much source documentation as possible. And to believe: The man who tells the story is as important as the story itself.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by nuclear bombs. Both were destroyed because they were large, industrial cities that supported the Japanese war effort. Days before the bombing, pamphlets were dropped on Hiroshima to warn the citizens that the city would be destroyed, but nobody took it seriously. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed just 3 days apart. Somewhere between 129,000, and 226,000 people were killed in the two bombings combined. The pilots on the 509th Composite Group of the 313th Wing of the 21st Bombing Command of the 20th Air Force were chosen to do a secret mission. They practiced for it, but instead of practicing with huge amounts of missiles, they would practice with a single, medium sized weapon. Soon they were getting bored and even being taunted by other groups. They were taught to fear storms, especially electrical storms, and they never even knew why the whole time, but they still did it. When they flew over Hiroshima and they saw the bomb drop, at first it just looked like any ordinary bomb, but when it hit the city it made a huge explosion and a mushroom cloud. Three days later they did the same thing to Nagasaki, and the war ended. – Gabe, grade 7

What happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was terrible. I was always taught that. Lately, I’ve been told I should feel ashamed of my country’s actions: the decision to drop the bomb. That’s when I start getting uncomfortable, and you should too. There are so many atrocities through the ages that, were we to begin serving penance for the actions of people who lived and died long before us and in a world entirely different from ours– we open a can of Dune-sized worms. Do you feel it, opening? I do. We’re in the middle of a shift; it’s fashionable to measure antiquated actions with a ruler of modern philosophy.

Who am I, in 2017, to decide whether or Truman should have dropped the bomb in 1945?

Truman, for his part, thought he was bringing the war to a swift close. Taken in its time, the decision was the right one… and to judge the decisions of people in 1945 by the standards of 201[7] is not only ahistorical, it is pointless. Truman and his advisers made the only decision they could have made; indeed, considered in the context of World War II, it wasn’t really much of a decision at all (Tom Nichols).

The above quote is why, when we’re done with our history curriculum, we’ll read through every source document provided by A History of US, all organized into the last volume, #12. Then Gabe will read Hiroshima Diary, by Dr. Michihiko Hachiya, who survived the Hiroshima bombing, witnessed first-hand the devastation, and did his best to treat a formerly unknown condition: radiation poisoning.

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5 thoughts on “Getting to the Whole Story: An Example from my Son”

  1. The 6th August, when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, is also the feast of the Transfiguration. Two explosions of light. One from the divine for good, for hope, for love; one from humanity to wreak death and destruction, to end a world war, and always be the trigger for the next war to end all wars. sigh.

  2. The first day of school, it feels so weird to not have anyone to teach! I miss the wonderful history books. Great post that transitions well to every area of our adult lives. How critical is it to read lots of sources and not just one that is popular or mainstream.

  3. I concede that the US saved hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives by dropping Fat Man and Little Boy but we have the ignominy of being the only country to use atomic weapons against an enemy- so far.
    In addition to saving lives I also feel that a great motivator was retribution, retribution for Pearl Harbor, retribution for the over 100,000 US servicemen killed, the 250,000 wounded and the 21,000 taken prisoner. My uncle Bill made two of those lists, he was murdered as a “guest” of the Japanese.
    History, as you said, must be filtered and distilled to be disseminated and each retelling will contain the prejudice and zeit geist of the narrator.

    (If you want to read about my Uncle Bill here’s a link to one of my stories about him: keithakenel.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/unreasoned-guilt-the-death-of-sergeant-bill-kenel/)

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