Poor Hunter S. Thompson should never have killed himself. The legendary gonzo
journalist thrived when things were at their weirdest, and rarely in history
are things as strange and mixed-up in the USA as they are right now.
We're fighting wars in three Muslim countries, radiation is leaking out of damaged
nuclear power plants in Japan and some of our lawmakers are seeking political
asylum in nearby states. The legislators left behind are addressing important
issues that threaten our state, such as homosexuality.
Ole Hunter would have had a field day describing the intense depravity that
marks our time. He wouldn't even have to drink Wild Turkey and gobble LSD to
feel disoriented — all he'd have to do is watch CNN for a few hours.
The coverage of the nuclear scare in Japan, with Anderson Cooper wearing a
portable Geiger counter over his designer T-shirt, has been both horrifying and
oddly thrilling. It doesn't get much more dramatic or suspenseful than
wondering if spent fuel rods are going to catch on fire and turn Japan into an
uninhabitable radioactive nation for centuries to come.
Even though the direst of worst-case scenarios has the United States escaping
any significant harm from the Japanese reactors, Americans have nevertheless begun
hoarding iodide pills, purchasing radiation detectors and buying plans for
Never mind that if the shit really hit the fan, their cheap HazMat suits would
be worthless. Or that stocking a fallout shelter with two weeks' worth of food
is only a great idea until the third week comes around.
Americans love disaster hysteria, both small — snowstorms that keep them
housebound for a day — and large, such as the end of civilization due to
a nuclear attack. We don't really differentiate between the two, at least when
it comes to getting all panicky.
The website Nukepills.com was running out of merchandise last week, with their
$99 Family Emergency and $249 Dirty Bomb Emergency supply kits leading the way.
Just in case you weren't already frightened enough, the site has a map showing
the danger zones from nuclear energy plants in the United States. Guess what?
Almost everybody in the country lives in one.
The reason that you need iodide tablets after radiation exposure is that
radioactivity can cause thyroid cancer very quickly (or very slowly), so having
them around in a nuclear emergency is a very good idea.
Researchers are still studying the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Immediate survivors and generations to come are at a higher risk of
getting thyroid cancer from the lingering radiation and its integration into
the food supply.
As far as I've seen, the media hasn't really mentioned too much the biggest
offender in terms of spreading deadly radiation to its citizens. Guess which
country has detonated more than 1,000 nuclear bombs within its own country,
causing anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 cases of thyroid cancer and an unknown
number of deaths?
That would be the United States, where nuclear weapon testing in Nevada during the
1950s caused high radiation levels here in Indiana. It's been almost 20 years
since we tested a nuclear bomb, but weapons of mass destruction never really
fall out of favor with conservatives. It wouldn't be surprising if President
Palin or President Pence start blasting them off in the desert again.
Overreacting to perceived threats is part of the American way of life. After
9/11, people started stockpiling the antibiotic Cipro in case of an anthrax
attack and buying gas masks in case bin Laden started spraying mustard gas in
Logansport, Ind. They even bought tiny parachutes so they could jump safely out
of their office buildings if 767s rammed into them.
Immediately before this, the Y2K scare prompted people to buy generators, giant
boxes of freeze-dried food, plenty of ammo and lots of gold. The Y2K crisis
never happened and so the generators sat unused, the food rotted in its
containers but the gold shot up in price. It's the only time that listening to
the prophets of doom ever paid off.
Instead of panicking about dire situations like these, the smartest and most
economical choice is to do what I do: I live my life as normally as possible.
Dangers like nukes, terrorism, economic catastrophe and rabid Republicans will
never go away so I wake up, go about my business and hope none of these things
will affect me personally.
And so far, with the exception of the Republican crusaders, I've been able to
dodge them successfully. There really isn't any reason for me to change now.