It will happen, in this hot, fire-prone state if nothing is done to discipline the for-profit management that permits, and even encourages, these abuses of safety with grossly inflated profits that the government’s tiny fines hardly graze. It’s notable that no executives have been injured in the accidents that have burned workers and exposed them to long-term suffering from cancers.
Why does no one I know talk about this? An exception is provided by Trish and Greg Mello of the brave and long-enduring Los Alamos Study Group that works to pierce our collective denial with information about what is happening “on the hill”—one of the richest counties in the country and home to the most PhD’s gathered in one place, proof of the limitations of white male privilege enshrined for decades there.
Years of silence, and years of mismanagement, have left most of us dull and numb. That’s the result of all long-term, looming public disasters: flooding from rising seas, encroaching famine and plagues, nuclear destruction.
I find it notable that the device used to test nuclear capability is called Godiva.
Godiva is another of those mythic women whose beauty disguises a threat to men.
There are many stories, changing over the centuries, about this real-life woman, a noble whose contribution to history was large charitable gifts to charitable institutions, especially monasteries and nunneries, in medieval France.
But that’s not the fact that will immediately pop into your mind when you hear the name, Godiva. Instead, it’ll be an image of a beautiful naked woman riding a horse.
This ride seems never to have happened, but it has spun so many myths that the truth will never be known. In some, she rode naked as an act of penance, or to persuade her husband to exercise mercy. Usually she is presented covered by her long hair, sitting astride, itself a scandal as well as notably uncomfortable for a naked woman riding bareback.
Whichever image we connect with–the beautiful, shamed woman hiding her face, or the unshamed sidesaddle rider–the result of her act was punishment for a man. Word had gone out that the citizens of Coventry, where the ride happened, were to say inside and close their doors and widows.
One man peeped through a hole and created the term, Peeping Tom. The lady struck him blind.Here’s where the towering black nuclear-testing device, Godiva, and the beautiful naked woman on a horse connect: the power of the nuclear Godiva inspires fear in the white male scientists in charge of it, fear and resulting paralysis of judgement. The power of the beautiful naked woman also inspires a paralysis of judgement caused by desire—or at least the possibility of desire.
This fear of women is spun through western literature, especially poetry. “The female of the species is more deadly than the male,” Rudyard Kipling wrote, assured that at least half of his audience would know what he meant. “La belle dame sans merci,” John Keats wrote. The naked figure of a female death haunts the ancient mariner in his doomed ship. At the head of this regiment marches Los Alamos’ Godiva, more deadly than any of the rest.
Would it matter if women or members of minorities were working in executive positions at Los Alamos or any of the other dozen or so bomb factories scattered throughout our country?
I don’t know. Women in public office, including our New Mexico governor, too often seem mouthpieces or apologists for men. But there is a chance as more women enter the field and hang on, that the same cooperative spirit that unites Democratic and Republican women in our Congress would prevail, and by common consent, common sense at the bomb factories would replace myth and irresponsibility.