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Peace and the Dignity of Life: What My Uncle Taught Me
by Tomomi Kimura
Imabari Nishi High School, Ehime Prefecture
Messages of Peace from Chiran
13th Annual Speech Contest, 2002
Honorable Mention, High School Division

Everyone, what thoughts do you have about the dignity of life? What feelings do you have about "death"? To what extent does a person's death leave sorrow with those who remain behind? There is an incident that I will never forget my entire life. It happened a year and four months ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. Since I was on vacation from school on that day, our family had gone out shopping. When we returned home at about noon, my mother suddenly shouted, "It's terrible! We must go to your grandmother's house!" I asked with surprise, "Eh! What happened?" My mother said to me, "The Ehime Maru [1] has had an accident. It's on TV now!"

My mother's older brother, my uncle, was on the Ehime Maru. Choosing the sea for his workplace meant that he was usually close to danger, but it seemed that my mother and grandmother felt that this was distantly related to the accident since it was a training vessel. My mother got her luggage ready right away, and she went to my grandmother's house by car. It takes about three hours to go to her house by car. My father, younger sister, and I also headed toward my grandmother's house in the evening. My grandmother was weak and was lying down without eating anything. Every once in a while she muttered a prayer. Nothing could be done to console her. The next day my mother went to Hawaii with others in her family.

Why did such a tragic accident happen? It was thought that Hawaii is a global tourist site and a safe location. The ocean area where the accident happened was not more than a few kilometers from the tourist spots. Also, there were also many other Japanese training vessels on the sea there. Why did the submarine have to be conducting drills in such a place? Isn't an American nuclear-powered submarine supposed to be an instrument for maintaining peace? The lives of nine people who had no connection with it were snatched away by that instrument, and it exposed the lives of twenty-six other people to danger. In addition, under certain circumstances, radiation could have leaked from the submarine and not have been possible to stop. How could such an incident happen? Wasn't it a publicity event in which they let civilians aboard under the name of a training drill and an arrogant maneuver that gave them a false sense of peace?

Afterward in September, the Trade Center Buildings' terrorist incident took place. Then the retaliatory attack against Afghanistan. The actions of a small group led to the trampling underfoot of the dignity of people who knew nothing about it and who were completely innocent, and even their lives were taken away. Moreover, certain people lost their families, others lost their limbs, and they lost even their hopes of living. Even now people wage untold numbers of wars. These are wars for freedom and conflicts for rights, religions, and ethnic groups. However, there surely are innocent victims. Why don't people have the ability to learn? Why do they repeat their errors? Why aren't the feelings of people who have lost their loved ones understood? Before fighting, they ought to be able to reach a solution by recognizing each other, talking together, and negotiating. The difficulties are understood. Perhaps it can be said this way of thinking is naive and that I do not understand the world. However, isn't there some other way to settle an issue without shedding blood? However long people fight with force, there will not be a true peace. Even though you settle something temporarily with military power, I do not think there is a true solution. The sadness of people who have became victims cannot be healed in the future. As long as they are alive, they continue being sad. Even now somewhere in the world there is war, and many innocent people are turning into victims.

Japan now has peace. I think this is due to the people who were victims of the war that ended 57 years ago. Isn't it necessary that we believe in future peace, think about the present so that we do not waste the hopes of the many people who sacrificed their lives on behalf of their families and country, and to take action to do something we can?

This is not something in a faraway world. Somewhere in this small world tragic slaughters are taking place. Many people our same age are also becoming victims. If we do not do something, who can do it? The time has come when we must seriously think.

My uncle was not eloquent and said few words, but he was a very gentle person. He was a person always concerned about my grandmother. When someone talked to him, he listened kindly to everything as he nodded and said, "uh-huh." But I can no longer talk with my uncle. I can never meet him. I hate America, which took away my uncle. Putting it a different way, my uncle is also a victim of war. But my uncle taught me with his death. The importance of peace and loving people. Within my heart I made a promise to my uncle. To tell people of the importance of life, thinking of what can be done for peace and living the part of my uncle who died young at 47 years of age. I promised my uncle.


1. On February 9, the American nuclear submarine USS Greeneville collided with the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fishing training ship. The submarine had sixteen civilians on board during the training drill when it hit the Ehime Maru.

Translated by Bill Gordon
September 2005