Sunday, November 18, 2007

Radioactive Ironies

This weekend Ellie has been off to her Baba's in Brighton Beach, leaving us the chance to wake from from a nap at 7:10pm and catch our friends' new play Atomic Farmgirl just down on 78th St and Broadway at 7:30. (You might think that living in NYC we do this sort of thing all the time, but life doesn't quite work out that way.)

The play is adapted from the book by Teri Hein. From the play I learned that the majority of the weapons-grade plutonium for the US arsenal was processed in Hanford, Washington. The site was operational from 1943-1987.

It was and is a disaster. It wasn't until the Freedom of Information Act of 1986 (the year of the Chernobyl Meltdown) that area residents learned that over 600,000 curies of radiation had been leaked during the site's lifetime. Sometimes deliberately -- get this -- to study how radioactive clouds and particles would propagate, "in the real world".

By contrast, Three Mile Island leaked between 15 and 24 curies and hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated. (By contrast further, Chernobyl leaked 18 million curies.)

Quite obviously the play had a lot of cancer victims. The WWII vet who had been stationed outside Hiroshima was not one of them.

Like all well-told stories, there was more than one. The local history was put into context: in the 1940s it had been less than 100 years since the "treaties" (slaughter) of the local indigenous tribes, making the meta-theme "don't be in denial when you're in a war for your survival".

Oh, and you can't trust the government. (Note however, the Freedom of Information Act was passed during the Reagan administration, probably about when the Iran-Contra deals were going on.)

In a lighter moment of the evening, the characters were reminiscing about their "Emergency Preparedness" float at the 196x Flag Day parade. The supply list ran saltines...check, board games...check, ..., bible.... Sofia laughed: the Soviet bomb shelters were the same, except for the Bible.

Godless commies. Good thing we won, eh?