Saturday, November 30, 2013
I had one of those surreal moments in class the other day.
I have a new student, an 84-year-old man who wants to study English to keep his mind sharp. In the course of getting to know each other in the first lesson, the topic turned to hometowns. I asked him where he came from, and he gave me a list of towns he had lived in as a child. This guy really got around, I'm telling you! Then he said that he lived in Maizuru during the war. Hmm, OK, I guess.
Then he paused, bowed, and apologized: "I'm sorry, Sensei, but I worked in a bomb factory."
Brainfart. What do you say to that?
"No problem, we bombed those factories to dust!"
I'm not a war-apologist. I don't apologize for things done during WWII. Hell, my parents were barely in puberty when it started, and I didn't come around until 18 years after it ended. And while there may have been a few incidents, I support the decisions made and actions taken by the US.
But I don't know how to react in these situations. I have had men thank me, on two different occasions, for the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because it meant they wouldn't have to oppose a US invasion of the home islands. Another guy joked and told me how they were paid 1 yen when his grandma was killed in the bombings, and 3 yen for the house. Another man joked about sitting around his anti-aircraft battery and not even bothering to load the damn thing, because it couldn't even reach halfway to the B49s plastering Kobe. And every one of them apologized for their part in the war, even the trainee sailor who went out on a small patrol craft and was shocked by a brilliant flash a few hours later as his home port evaporated.