People have a predisposition for forgetting, or letting their memories lapse. When somehing tragic, especially something on a grand scale, is finally finished, the strongest reaction is often to put it behind them. Those who don't or can't are called "troubled" or "maladjusted" quite often. The past is supposed to help us prepare for the future, but that past is easily distorted or forgotten. Memories and facts are far from perfect, and equally invalid after a period of time, or after the feelings and motives behind them are lost. Time is the greatest of all distorting mediums. Anyone who's seen the movie Memento will know what I'm talking about. They become a text without a context.
Last week, I stood at the foot of the ruins of the town hall in Hiroshima, kept as they were on August 6, 1945 for "the world to remember". It was enough to bring us to tears. Yet, at the same time, I couldn't help but feel it was trying to do the impossible. "The ruins will stand forever," the plaque read. Even if the stone, brick and cement remain, will their message remain clear? Much to my sadness, I'd have to say no. Nothing lasts forever. Those ruins will one day crumble too, as will all the buildings in the world. The White House will someday collapse. Our star will eventually explode. If these things, which seem so perminent and stable, are doomed to destruction, how much more vulnerable are things intangible like memory and feeling. Hiroshima is a beautiful city now, full of life once more. While this may be a testement to the human spirit for some, it is also allows us to move on. To forget. Despite its struggle to help the world remember, Hiroshima is slowly losing its context. The anniversary activities are as solemn as our labor and memorial day picnics. People will look at Hiroshima and know what happened, but someday it will have little effect, the way old battlefields and antique weapons do. The true power the site once had will one day vanish. It's already starting.
We are living in a time that is on the brink of another nuclear attack, from one place or another. The further we move into the future, the harder it is for many to remember the past. They may read the words of their history books, but the force behind them is slowly fading. Just as you forget the equations when you finish the math test, so will the lessons of World War II disappear the further we get away from it. I'm not saying WWII was a good thing...just that it had a lot to teach. A lot that people are forgetting.
It's been said that history repeats itself. This is why.