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Two Lessons for the Next US President

NAGASAKI – Looking out of my window across the harbor of the remarkable city of Nagasaki, Japan, two thoughts of considerable relevance to the next American president come to mind.

Nagasaki has endured the worst of humanity. In August 1945, a plutonium bomb decimated the city, causing massive physical damage and untold human suffering. Since then, however, the city has exemplified the best of human achievement, rising from the rubble thanks to the spirit and enterprise of Japanese men and women, who trade the things that they build – for example, at the Mitsubishi shipyards – with the rest of the world.

But Nagasaki – and Japan, more broadly – has not always been open to the world, reaching across the ocean to connect with other countries, from near neighbors like China to faraway allies like the United States. For centuries, Japanese minds, and Japanese borders, were distinctly closed.

On a hillside in Nagasaki, there is a stark reminder of this radical closed-mindedness. A monument commemorates the martyrdom of 26 Roman Catholics, who were crucified at the end of the sixteenth century as part of the effort to stamp out the growth of Christianity in Japan. The American film director Martin Scorsese is now completing an adaptation of these events, based on Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence.