Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen has long been considered a classic, telling the semi-autobiographical story of how Nakazawa survived the Hiroshima bombing. The Hiroshima Board of Education has plans to use the manga into its peace studies program, which is currently undergoing trial for third-graders at a model school. If successful, the peace studies program would be expanded to all grade levels and schools in Hiroshima next year.
The use of Barefoot Gen in a school curriculum is drawing complaints from a new group called "Atomic Bomb Survivors Seeking Peace and Security." The group contends that Nakazawa's manga is "one-sided" in its portrayal of the bombing and that the peace studies program should "choose materials that are neutral politically and ideologically."
The group's website differentiates it from other survivor groups, stating that its goals are to start "a movement towards building a true peace." How does it plan to do this? From the sound of it, by supporting armament. A May 7 statement claims that "the 'Hiroshima Peace' movement and 'peace regime' that only advocate 'nuclear disarmament'" doesn't stop other countries from committing "illegal acts." It sees Japan's neighbors as threats, ready to hit at any moment.
This sounds like a lot of war-mongering to me. I'm surprised that these survivors can go through that horrible experience, see all the negative effects that America inflicted on the city and its people, and then decide that they want to do that to someone else. The world is trying to move towards disarmament, and while America is clearly the biggest offender when it comes to stockpiled weapons, even we're trying to reduce our stores.
The Hiroshima Board of Education has accepted this group's petition, calling it "one point of view," but I think that's extending more courtesy than needed. There's nothing inherently political about Barefoot Gen. It's just a fictionalized adaptation of Nakazawa's own experiences dealing with a horrific event. Of course it is "one-sided," considering that it's one person's account, but that doesn't change the fact that survivors had to deal with the aftermath, that there are likely many stories similar to Nakazawa's. Removing Barefoot Gen from the peace studies program may neuter its intended message.
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