Letter From thenHeartlandnby Jane GreernJust When You Thought It WasnSafe to Go Back in the WaternOur sixth-grade daughter’s class madenthe “Hiroshima lanterns” late in Maynwhen the North Dakota Peace Coalitionncame to her parochial school. Thenkids painted the paper sides of the 8″ xn8″ boats with rainbows and flowers andnthe word “peace,” and made plans tonlight the candles and set the boats afloatnon the Missouri River August 7 as partnof a worldwide event. Our daughter wasnexcited: all her friends would be there.nUnable to stop myself, Inasked, “What’s the reason fornthis?”n”No idea,” she replied.n”Peace or something.”n”What kind of peace?”n”No idea.”n”You mean like no fightingngoing on anywhere in thenworld?”n”I guess so.”n”Well, explain to me hownthese little lanterns will help.”nShe thought for a moment.n”No idea.”nHere’s what it said on the lanternninstructions: “Our yearning for securenpeace and our protesting preparationsnfor war find expression in the designsnwe paint on the paper lantern panels.nThis is done at home or in groupsnbrought together to make lanternsnsometime before August 6th. Thesenfeelings are shared and affirmed bynbringing the lantern and coming togethernwith family, friends and othernlantern makers to reflect on ways tonachieve peace, and then carry [sic] thenglowing lantern to the river. Floatingnthe lantern away on the river in remembrancenof the thousands who died innHiroshima frees us from our constantnrepression of the facts and our fear andnblind hostility, and empowers us tonconstructive dialogue and action.”nGive me a break. These 12- andn13-year-olds do many strange things,nbut they do not suffer from “constantnrepression” of the bombing of Hiroshimanor from “fear and blind hostility”nconcerning the event. The kids maynspend a lot of time “protesting preparations”nfor cleaning their room, but warnnever crosses their mind. The PeacenCoalition was quite simply using mynchild and the others, manipulatingnthem for political purposes. It’s obscene.nSixth graders know nothingnabout the bombing of Hiroshima: notnwhy it happened, or what was lost, ornwhat was gained. World War II doesn’tntake up more than half a page in theirnridiculous textbooks. The grown-upsnjust needed some patsys.nThe instruction sheet for the “Hiroshimanlanterns” also says, disingenuously,nthat the lanterns are floated eachnyear “to commemorate all of the peoplenwho perished from the Hiroshimanatomic bomb,” (although a schoolnspokesperson said that the boat wasn’tnexacfly a Hiroshima memorial but simplyna “symbol of unified prayer fornpeace” that would cover “every majornriver in the world.”) Mourning thendead is an honorable enterprise, butnwhy the Japanese dead and not ours?nWho started that war, anyway? Andnwhy not memorialize the deadnmujahedin in Afghanistan as well, ornthe Cambodian dead under Pol Pot?nBecause, of course, none of thosenparticular dead would serve the PeacenCoalition’s narrow malevolent purpose:nUS disarmament. It’s not that thenpoor souls of Hiroshima and Nagasakindied, or even that they died during anwar, that makes them lucky enough tonbe remembered; it’s that they diednfrom an atomic bomb, one way ofndying out of an infinite number ofnothers. Yes, they were probably civilians,nmost of them, and therefore relativelyninnocent. So are the dozensnupon dozens of millions of abortednbabies each year in China, the US, andnthe world, and the millions of peasantsndead in the Ukraine from governmentcontrollednfamine. But nonatomicndeaths aren’t useful to the Peace Coalition.nWould this group’s “constructive dialogue”nentertain the notion that thenUS and much of the world are atnpeace — and basically because ourncountry is so well-armed? (What betternproof that we live in peacetime thannthat our children know so little aboutnwar?) Would it allow knowledgeablenestimates of the number of Japanesenlives saved by Truman’s dropping thenbig one? Would it allow that whilennnperhaps children should think aboutnthe past, few of them do, and that litflenwood-and-paper boats aren’t going tondo a damned thing to save our lives —nif indeed they are in danger? Or thatnthe world has lived virtually without anmilitary nuclear incident for 40 years?nI doubt it. The last thing groups likenthis want is for their media audiencesnto become knowledgeable about thenpast. What they’re after is panic about’nthe future—that’s where their bignbucks come from—and they won’t getnit from those who know there’s nothingnnew under the sun. These groups lovento “dialogue” but can’t stand informednopposition. They encourage “sharing”nso long as you’re just sharing feelingsn— not facts or even opinions — andnthose feelings are fearful. If you’renself-confident and comfortable withnthe world, understanding it as a placenwhere no one is guaranteed a long ornworry-free life, you’ll spoil their party.nThat’s why the Peace Coalition hasnto hit on kids instead of their parents.nKids panic easily, but more than thatnthey love to party. And once you get anbunch of cute kids down at the rivernlaunching their pretty litfle candlelitnboats into the menacing dark, maybensinging a folk hymn or two to thenaccompaniment of ill-tuned guitars, it’snjust a tiny step to say to the ubiquitousnmedia, “See how these children yearnnfor world peace” — a tiny step, but angross assumption about kids whosenbiggest worry is a new facial blemish.nAnd from there it’s just another tinynstep to say, “See: these children wantnour country to disarm” (another unjustifiednassumption, but it will be saidnbecause that’s any Peace Coalition’sngoal) and—the clincher—“These arenthe innocents who will be slaughterednif we keep building bombs.” Close-upnof solemn freckled face; never mindnthat he’s planning how to sneak awaynto the swimming pool or the videonarcade. Trust me: all of this will be saidnat any gathering of any Peace Coalition.nThey have peace and don’t wantnit; what they want, whether they knownOCTOBER 19881 39n