This is an excerpt from my play A CLOWN, A HAMMER, A BOMB, AND GOD. It’s based on a true story/ A CLOWN, A HAMMER, A BOMB, AND GOD is about a pacifist priest named Carl Kabat who disarmed a Minuteman III missile on Good Friday 1994 (which also fell on April Fool’s Day that year) while wearing a clown suit. There’s more about its storied history here. When the play was first performed in 1997, the Cold War was over and the reasons for keeping the weapons were few. Now the US seems bound and determined to get involved in war sufficient to lead to the splitting of atoms. The Russians are not afraid of us, and will not roll over. Thus, the play (although dated in certain ways) is as timely as it was when it first opened at the New York Fringe Festival.
In this section of the play, Father Ben (who has just tried to explain that he’s here because of a Minuteman III missile carrying multiple nuclear warheads that is a few feet under the ground in a silo) talks a bit about Hiroshima, which he saw as a young man (via the museum).
I’ve been misleading you a bit. There’s a missile down there,
(pointing at the silo door)
–Not a bomb. But ‘Missile’ didn’t parse with the rest of the title. A Clown, a Hammer, a missile?– didn’t sound right. Anyway, the fact that it’s a missile carrying bombs–I should be off the hook. There are twenty Hiroshimas on that missile. Not separate bombs, but one bomb. With twenty times the explosive power of the one that the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. That bomb was called… fat boy?… Little Big Man? Boy George? The point is, it was called something relatively inoffensive when you think of what it can do. The truly cynical of our age call it ‘the fat white boy’ bomb–The only people trusted with it are white people, and the only people it was ever used on were not white. Survivors of the Hiroshima bombing said it made the sky glow like a thousand suns had come up. And this was ONE bomb. Our bomb in that tube–even though it can cause many times the damage that Little Boy George caused, IT DOESN’T HAVE A NAME. That’s right. A bomb that can light up the sky like a thousand suns isn’t special enough to have a name any more. Oh, the Air Force has a designation for it–it’s missile number M 29 of the US Air Force 321st Strategic Missile Wing. M29–that’s a bus, not a missile. There are 20 Hiroshimas wrapped in that missile tube and the Air Force can’t name it. Well, a couple of years ago some peace activists named it the ‘Disarmingly Simple’. Really. We tried to name the missiles sarcastic names, because… well, there are 525 missiles and not every one of them can be named the Auschwitz Special. Our friend Disarmingly Simple has 330 kilotons of explosive power. A third of a million tons of high explosives. And Disarmingly Simple can carry multiple warheads–three or four 330 kiloton white-boy bombs. The Hiroshima bomb, which lit up the sky like a thousand suns, blew up with the force of fifteen kilotons. Now figure thirty times the Hiroshima blast times three warheads equals X if 15 Kilotons equals brightness one thousand times the sun’s… carry the two…
I’m sorry, I’m really tired and I can’t do the math. Anyway, the point is, the missile below our feet is carrying weaponry far beyond need. (He sits down for a moment, tired. When he speaks again, he is not using the ‘clown voice’)
One of the events in my life that put me on this path was a trip I took to Japan many years ago. It was when the memories of the bombing were more raw than they are now. When fat white boy detonated over Hiroshima in 1945, the light from it was so bright, it burned into buildings. And people standing in front of the buildings had their shadows burned into the stone and brick and concrete. It’s all in the museum they set up in Hiroshima after the war. You know–could stand in front of a building all day every day for a thousand years–(he holds up his hand and plays with the shadow it casts) and your shadow wouldn’t burn into it. It takes a single fat white boy bomb to do in a tenth of a second what the sun can’t do in one thousand years. And Disarmingly Simple has almost one hundred times the power of fat white boy.
The bombing of Hiroshima was followed a few days later by the bombing of Nagasaki with a plutonium weapon called Tall Man. While both weapons caused tremendous loss of life and catastrophic damage, neither bomb came close to the devastation caused by the firebombing of Dresden Germany in February of 1945 and the destruction of the suburbs of Tokyo with napalm and other incendiary bombs in March of 1945.
One hopes we’re done with all this bombing of people. But we don’t seem to be.
A short reminder here that the play I’m talking about is once again (sadly) relevant. I’ve performed in church basements, theaters, and even out of doors at a yard in front of a Baltimore court. Call me.