How is it they live in such harmony, the billions of stars, when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds? ― Thomas Aquinas
I spent the summer before my senior year of high school as an exchange student in Japan. When I arrived, my host family gave me a choice between two weekend destinations that we could visit at the end of my stay: the beach or Hiroshima.
Now, if you’ve spent each of your 17 years in Minnesota, with its countless, albeit beautiful, lakes, hanging out on the exotic sands of Okinawa is a no brainer. After all, I reasoned, I was on vacation; I preferred the thought of lounging comfortably. Plus, the prospect of being an American in Hiroshima was uncomfortable.
Yet as my return trip to the U.S. approached, I changed my mind. I’d find comfort back home soon enough, I thought. So the week before I left, we embarked on a road trip to Hiroshima: my non English-speaking host parents, their teenage daughter, and me.
During the drive, I prepared myself for the worst. I knew I’d stand out even more in Hiroshima than elsewhere in the country, and I expected to receive stares of hatred, to hear words of resentment and bitter expressions of unimaginable suffering.
I experienced the exact opposite. Within the eyes of elderly men who passed me on the sidewalks, in the smiles given to me by mothers pushing baby strollers, and from jovial servers, chuckling along with me when I finally managed to consume raw fish, I witnessed love in action. Hiroshima, I learned, is not a city of hate. It is an oasis of peace.
This week, we mark 74 years since humanity tested the boundaries of its very existence at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We solemnly recall the lessons learned, and we honor the friendships built and sustained in those seven decades. We recognize the value of each other. Yet, here at home, we have witnessed again, this time in El Paso and Dayton, senseless loss of life. Almost as disheartening, we’ve launched into another round of political hostility and embarked on another hunt for someone to blame.
Within our own movement, we work to restore respect for humanity. Indeed, we, too, anticipate a day when irrational loss of life will end. In the midst of our battles with “the other side,” it’s tempting to turn to hate, react with spite, and to employ unproductive, calculating maneuvers. It’s become common to draw assumptions and commonplace to hurl heated rhetoric.
Perhaps we’ve become too comfortable with this approach. What growth has ever resulted from it? Who have we helped? Whose lives have we saved?
The good news is that we have a choice. We can choose to take the uncomfortable journey, to take a seat next to humility.
When summer draws to a close, when the vacations are over, and as another election cycle gets underway, we in the pro-life movement must lead by example. Yes, we must determinedly pursue our goals. But we must do so by first valuing the humanity of each other.
Wishing you peace this day,
Myrna Maloney Flynn