In the past hundred years, the world has witnessed unthinkable atrocities: 9-11, the Syrian Civil War, Rwandan and Armenian genocides, the Holocaust, the reign of the Taliban, Vietnam War, the rise of ISIS. The list continues to stretch like a slinky but doesn't retract.
Modern history is marred by turbulent circumstances and we associate historical timelines with devastating events. Why is it that I can easily spew out dates of wars but would be hard-pressed to share specific dates of significant societal progress? Why do I know that two atomic bombs were dropped in 1945 but can't recall what year Ruby Bridges turned segregation upside-down by simply walking into a school?
These are my thoughts as I walk around Hiroshima, Japan. Most of us will likely be able to report the significance of the Japanese city's name. It was here, on these grounds that the world witnessed one of its greatest atrocities. But only associating Hiroshima with a single, catastrophic day is limiting. It is unfair. Solely associating Hiroshima with an atomic event would be similar to thinking that New York City's only significance is 9-11.
Like people, places are more than their name. Like us, places evolve and change and we must realize that, while the belt of the past is notched by events, those markers do little in representing the present.
Spending just a couple of days in Hiroshima has helped me realize how ignorant I can be. While it is understandable to associate Hiroshima with an event, it is feeble minded to ignore the city's larger story. It is necessary to go past our associations and preconceptions and see a place for what it is now, in the present, and to daydream about its potential for the future.