[Issue date 3/23/11]
As I write this it’s Friday morning in Seattle and on the West Coast of the United States all the way down past San Diego, everyone is bracing for the radioactive plume from the Fukushima meltdown, and I’m highly amused.
There was recently an earthquake in Japan that was quite significant and might be a reminder to West Coast Americans of some unpleasant realities attached to their choice of coast. But instead of thinking about those realities they prefer to dwell upon the hazards of being exposed to radiation released by a nuclear disaster from which they are more than 4000 miles removed.
In my day, we had what was called A-bomb and H-bomb testing. My government blew up whole islands in the Pacific and turned Nevada desert lands to glass so dweebs could read radiation meters and mark the results on clipboards. We loved it because we were advancing into the future, one mutation at a time. I was going to be Spiderman.
Seriously, no, we were scared out of our minds. But, guess what? Even when they blew up whole islands, only nearby Pacific islanders and a few sailors (ironically, Japanese sailors) who got in the way were hurt by it. Nobody 4000 miles away came down with radiation sickness.
So, I ask, why has everyone around here shifted their attention so quickly and fully from one humongous magnitude 9.0 earthquake and horrific tsunami to the far-distant effects of a nuclear disaster, which, even in the country it is happening in, if it were an earthquake, would rate only 7.0, 7.5, tops?
I’ve already answered that question. West Coast Americans know they are sitting on some real shifty real estate. It is human nature not to want to hear genuine bad news, even when you already know it. So instead of hearing the genuine bad news (which is, that were all overdue to experience our ceilings meet our floors and make loose-meat sandwiches of us), we’d prefer hearing false bad news. News that scares us without actually involving anything really happening.
I am torn by this. Part of me, “humanistic angel Wes,” says, “human nature is inherently good, so if people don’t want to think about the fact that the big subduction quake that’s 50 years late will render mass transit unnecessary by eliminating the ‘mass,’ I should celebrate that nature, and keep quiet about such things.”
Another part of me, “three ways a bastard Wes,” says, “Let’s put all this in perspective until grown men tearfully beg for a return to flat representative art.”
As always “three ways” wins.
Perspectively speaking, Seattleites are likely to experience less additional accumulated radiation this week than they would suffer from if they spent the entire summer vacationing in a brick house in Denver.
On the other hand, if the big subduction doozie happens, while it’s true that the increased proximity of stone and brick and airborne stone and brick dust might elevate your radiation levels three or four times higher (I’m half guessing because it doesn’t matter), it wouldn’t matter.
I’m so lucky I live two blocks north of the fault line on a hill that probably wasn’t here before the last time the earth rocked that much. So, when the earthquake we’re all trying not to think about happens, my neurons will probably be crushed before they can apprise my brain of the situation.
However, if my luck fails, I can lie on my back dying with the relief of knowing that the local fire station is sitting on the same hill as I am and will also be part of a new improved, bigger, hill, and I won’t be disturbed by any more annoying sirens from them.
Or, let’s say the hill drops out from under me and I’m down around sea level. Then, the earthquake will rearrange the bottom of Elliott Bay and send a nice big wave to fetch me from the offensive sirens. Either way, free at last.