Downwind From Fukushima: A Mad Activist Dialogue

BY SUSIE DAY | Snide Lines: MAD ACTIVIST: Oh Innermost Being, I am so sad about Japan. I’m grief-stricken about the earthquake and tsunami that touched off that horrific nuclear power plant crisis. People ripped away from their homes and families, facing radiation poisoning, living in bodies that will soon cause them so much pain, they can’t live anymore. What can I, as an activist, do about this — for the Japanese people and for life on Earth?

MINI-MAD: God, you’re a downer. Why is this all about you? YOUR grief, YOUR horror, YOUR activism… Why can’t you be like any other self-involved American? Put your narcissism to work and start writing your best-selling memoirs!

MAD ACTIVIST: You know what’s weird? I think I actually love those people in Japan. Those people, whom I’ll never meet, fleeing from everything they’ve known. They may die tomorrow or in a cancer ward in a few years, because of something that should never have happened in the first place. I feel I have lost everything, too. Because they are me, see?

MINI-MAD: You have serious boundary issues.

MAD ACTIVIST: Speaking of boundaries, what would happen if Indian Point, the nuclear power plant just 24 miles outside New York City, had a horrible accident?

MINI-MAD: Wake up and go to sleep, honey — everyone knows the best way to prevent nuclear accidents is to go on with your life as if nothing bad will happen. Besides, all that “NO NUKES” retro-rhetoric crap will only buy you a terrorist conviction and a lengthy prison stay in a Communications Management Unit.

MAD ACTIVIST: But Indian Point was built near an active fault line. What would happen if New York had an earthquake? As it is, Indian Point regularly releases isotopes like Strontium-90, Cesium-137, and Iodine-131. They’re already creeping into our air and water and crops. You can’t see them or touch them, but they’re there.

MINI-MAD: If you’re going to believe in things you can’t see or touch, try calling on Jesus. His savior-glow emits a luminous radiation residue that’s 438 godverts, or the equivalent of only 1/88th of one chest x-ray. And if you allow Jesus into your memoirs as a central character, you’ll sell big.

MAD ACTIVIST: Would Jesus help shut down Indian Point?

MINI-MAD: “Shut down” sounds so negative. Why don’t you bond with Americans who choose to fight nuclear disaster the positive way — by transferring their fear of extinction into xenophobia? Racial profiling, harassment, and detaining Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians for minor visa infractions make you feel good about yourself.

Plus, you don’t want to end up like Karen Silkwood, the whistle-blower at that violation-prone Kerr-McGee nuclear plant in Oklahoma. Her car was mysteriously forced off the road while she was on her way to give incriminating records to New York Times reporters. Unfortunately, Ms. Silkwood died with very low levels of self-esteem.

MAD ACTIVIST: Oh, I loved Meryl Streep in that movie!

MINI-MAD: “Silkwood,” 1983 — good, clean corporate values for the whole family. Great box office.

MAD ACTIVIST: Yet I wonder if Meryl Streep knows that Indian Point has the worst safety record of the 104 nuclear plants in the United States, and that there have already been serious slip-ups in which radioactive steam was released into the air. In the event of a nuclear accident or terrorist attack at Indian Point, how would we evacuate all 20 million of us from the danger zone? Maybe I should call Meryl now, to arrange for car-pooling.

MINI-MAD: In the event of a nuclear catastrophe, it’s better to rely on public transportation. Just take the A train to West Fourth, change to the uptown F, back of the train, go to Kew Gardens, where you run around trampling old people and tiny children and smashing store windows to obtain guns and other survival gear. Then you hop the Q-27 bus back to Madison Square Garden, pushing and biting your way through a mob of 600,000 panic-stricken people, until you’re able to club a hapless motorist, steal his car, and drive 2.7 miles into New Jersey, where you sit immobile on the turnpike in the baking sun amid thousands of stalled, honking motorists for several hours, after which you get out of your stolen vehicle, walk to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, stow away in the wheel of a jumbo jet, and fly to Japan, where you’ll finally be given the modicum of healthcare and shelter you couldn’t find in the United States.

MAD ACTIVIST: If I survive to write my best-selling memoirs about this experience, do you think Meryl Streep would play me in the movie?

MINI-MAD: Maybe. I’ve also heard Susan Sarandon would kill for that role. But at least now, you’re starting to ask the right questions.