Flirting with nuclear disaster: a play excerpt

This is me NOT at Hiroshima. A recent Clown setup, taken by Owen Long.

I have come to the realization over the past few weeks that the Masters of War are flirting with mushroom clouds again. Even though we’re unleashing routine mayhem on the poorest people of the Middle East, we have a president who appears willing to uncork the nuclear genie. It is not a knock at the Millennial generation to say that you weren’t schooled in the madness of the possibility of a nuclear war when you were at a formative age. And I wanted to bring some of that intensity back.

This is an excerpt from my play A CLOWN, A HAMMER, A BOMB, AND GOD.  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.

the real ‘Clown’ Father Carl Kabat, making more trouble for the missile-men.

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 his feet in a silo) talks a bit about Hiroshima. Many prominent people who were part of the anti-nuclear weapons movement were at some point able to see the museum of the Hiroshima attack. The museum maintains a touring show of sorts with many of the artifacts from the aftermath on display. In my play, I have Father Ben talking about what he saw when he went to the museum.

I’ve been misleading you a bit. There’s a missile down there,

(pointing at the silo door)

There are twenty two 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 friend in the tube below our feet has 330 kilotons of explosive power. A third of a million tons of high explosives. And the missile 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. I’m sure you saw the headline. “researchers agree–the world doesn’t need more than one sun in the sky”.

(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 seventy 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 have a president who seems to think that he needs more nuclear weapons. He complained that he has fewer nuclear missiles than JFK, and it was this comment that reportedly caused his Secretary of State to refer to him as a ‘Fucking Moron’.

We need to stop this. Wanna work with me?

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