|Hiroshima Exhibit Disappears:
Garden takes precedence
A Japanese Under Secretary General established the exhibit on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki and another Japanese Under Secretary General
For over twenty years that grim exhibit dominated the first
floor corridor connecting the General Assembly and Secretarial
buildings. It had statuettes and artifacts of remnants found in
the cities devastated by the first atomic bombs. The glass wall
looking outwards was totally covered in black depictions of wailing
women and crying children.
At the time, a Japanese contribution was additionally made "to
improve the tour route" taken by visitors. A controversy then
arose on whether a plaque should be placed in recognition of the
contributor who had been reportedly accused of war crimes. Mr.
Sasakawa won. Almost annually the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
were ferried to UN Headquarters with the appropriate noises- receptions,
conferences, round tables -led by the Japanese head of DPI and
coordinated by the Japanese mission. A pilgrimage became almost
compulsory to all Japanese visitors to New York. Busloads dropped
them on 46th Street and First Avenue where they would proceed
immediately to the exhibit, observe quickly the Japanese peace
bell outside and hurriedly leave to explore the big apple. As
they paid a full rate for the tour, no one complained, least of
all, the exquisite Japanese UN guides whose one-hour tour was
reduced to ten minutes. Evelybody happy.
The United States mission however was not pleased. When it made
a demarche, the fearless leader of DPI diverted the blame to the
staff of Public Services, who ran the guided tours. When the better-informed
Americans came back, the accommodating leader supported some sort
of a compromise gesture. A large portrait of President Reagan
and USSR General Secretary Gourbachev shaking hands was placed
on a pillar, presumably reflecting their agreement on a treaty
on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Everybody happy.
Even when DPI was headed by non-Japanese, the arrangement was
respected. Suddenly in the year 2000, the Japanese started expressing
wider interest in the area of the Japanese peace bell. It was
moved to a central position, then surrounded by some plants, then
expanded with some articulately arranged stones. Each time, workers
would move around other material in the area outside the corridor
between the Assembly and Secretarial buildings- that is on the
other side of the wall of the Hiroshima Nagasaki exhibit. It was
in fact an increasingly tasteful display of landscaping which
was completed by taking over the whole area just in time for the
Millennium Summit. A special reception was given with a ceremony
at the Delegate's Lounge attended by visiting Japanese dignitaries.
Journalists who were told about it during that noon briefing and
tried to attend were politely and firmly turned back- it was by
Viewing it from the second floor, it looked like a masterful
Japanese garden. The view became similar from the ground floor.
In the absence of visitors during the millennium assembly period,
the oppurtunity was taken to discreetly clear the exhibit on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. With only one statue left in the corner, the darkened
glass wall was fully transparent. The garden and the peace bell
appeared in full splendor.
Was it a recognition of the end of history as Professor Fukuyama
had predicted, or simply a deal whereby the atomic exhibit was
given up in return for the garden?