On days when humanity feels small, violent, afraid; when we are killing each other, here and in other countries; when we are stripping each other of our rights; poisoning and raping our children; when it hurts so much to think about who we have lost, who we have maimed, what we have destroyed…it is worth remembering that this is what the universe looks like:
This is the star cluster, NGC 1980 in Orion, as seen through the Canada France Hawaii Telescope, where I once worked for a summer as a college student. This is what it looks like to our eyes:
We are bigger, better, more beautiful than we appear to ourselves (even Dove knows that). We can choose to see ourselves, and each other, as we are in truth.
Yesterday, I was on my way to a meeting about the college process for my high school junior when a different experience presented itself. The man sitting across from me on the subway – seemingly intoxicated, bag in a bottle, belt loops tied together to keep his pants on – stood up and then suddenly dropped, unconscious and face first onto the floor of the car. There was a crunch (his head) and screams (from some of us around him) and a splatter of blood from a cut above his eye. There was a pause, a circle created as passengers stepped away; he lay motionless until he reared up, howling, blood on his face and hands, and then there was someone there, crouched on the ground beside him to calm him down.
The man who came to his aid was not a doctor. He was a passenger who could ask for napkins, who could ask the injured man for his name, his age, who knew to try to keep him conscious; who (whatever you might think of the wisdom of this) held the bloody napkins to his head stop the bleeding until a half an hour later when an emergency medical team finally arrived. He, and a young woman who joined him, made sure that the injured man knew he was not alone by talking to him, touching him, by knowing instinctively how to live in a world where we are more the same than we are other. The same world where MTA personnel are prohibited from touching anyone, and where some of the other people on the platform used the shock and confusion in the car to grab an empty seat and watch the show.
Although these studies aren’t making headlines in major news outlets, researchers are beginning to track the Fukushima fallout in humans. In Japan:
“The Tenth Report of the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey, released earlier this week, with data up to January 21, 2013, revealed that 44.2 percent of 94,975 children sampled had thyroid ultrasound abnormalities. The number of abnormalities has also been increasing over time as well as the proportion of children with nodules equal to and larger than 5.1 mm and any size cysts have increased. The report has also revealed that 10 of 186 eligible are suspected of having thyroid cancer as a result of the exposed radiation.” (Read the full article here)
And in the United States, a study in the Open Journal of Pediatrics found that more than one-quarter of the children born in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington in the first four months after the meltdown had thyroid abnormalities. According to Common Dreams:
“Congenital hypothyroidism results from a build up of radioactive iodine in our thyroids and can result in stunted growth, lowered intelligence, deafness, and neurological abnormalities… Because their small bodies are more vulnerable and their cells grow faster than adults’, infants serve as the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ for injurious environmental effects.”
Shortly after the meltdown began, I talked with Joy Behar on her show about the effects of radiation on the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, some of whom I interviewed for my memoir, Hiroshima in the Morning. Radiation is invisible, and easily dismissed as being prevalent in the atmosphere. The effects of radiation are obscured (at least as far as many scientific studies) by other factors in modern life. But that does not mean that they do not exist, or that they will fade away. Nearly seventy years after the first atomic bombing, we are still unable to protect ourselves from the literal fallout of our own poisonous creations.