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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of September 4 - 10, 2002

Opinion Columns

Living in denial 
of loving the bomb

Express Staff Writer

"One way to understand the Bomb is to reckon what it has cost us spiritually. It has, among other things, redefined slavery. Americans are the first people in history to pay for the prospect of their own destruction, while calling it the price of freedom."

Philip Berrigan

Anyone familiar with addictive behavior knows that it is always accompanied by denial. And denial, as the old bromide points out, is not a river in Egypt.

In psychological terms, denial is an unconscious ego defense mechanism operating to resolve emotional conflict by ignoring or lying about the significance of reality. The drug addict, the alcoholic, the smoker, the chronically depressed, the anorexic and the overweight compulsive eater who are convinced they donít have a problem are well-known to everyone. Indeed, they are endemic to our extraordinarily (self) image conscious society.

Freud described denial as a primitive defense mechanism, a way to reduce stress and anxiety by refusing to become aware of certain unpleasant aspects of external reality. His daughter, Anna, maintained that most children regularly resort to denial in order to cope with a life controlled by adults, but that the mature ego does not embrace denial because it conflicts with the capacity to recognize and critically test reality. That is, denial is a childís response to dealing with the world. It is not what responsible, mature people should use to hide from it. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described denial as a dying personís first response to coming to terms with terminal illness. Most people are in denial at some time in their lives in order to cope with the stress of some overwhelming situation. In such instances, denial may be considered adaptive, a stage in development, a step in evolution, like childhood.

When denial becomes chronically delusional, however, it might be rightfully viewed as a form of insanity. At the very least, it is a serious cop out. Freud aside, denial is no defense for the suppression of reality. Insanity as a defense has a certain merit in giving sight and heart to blind justice and may give comfort to the deranged, but, when all is said and done, both insanity and denial do not alter the real consequences of, for example, the actions of the insane, the junkieís love for his fix and Americaís love for the bomb.

The bomb. The atomic bomb. The hydrogen bomb. The neutron bomb. The thermonuclear bomb. Old bombs, all of them. In the new bomb department, the Department of Energy is spending at least $6 billion of your tax money to research and develop "usable nukes," including the interestingly named phallocentic "robust nuclear earth penetrator," designed to destroy caves and underground complexes. By any name, for whatever strategic purpose, nuclear weaponry is "the bomb." And, whether loving the bomb is insane or not, America loves the bomb. So, it seems, does India and Pakistan, among others, but Americaís love of the bomb is an American problem and only Americans can do anything about their problem. It is not too much to postulate that if Americans honestly confronted their little problem with loving the bomb, it would encourage other peoples to address theirs. So long as America flexes its nuclear muscle and postures with its superior nuclear power, the rest of the world will be pumping nuclear iron. Americaís love of the bomb is part of its addiction to power, but the nuclear fix is the most destructive compulsion the world has ever known.

Paul Newman, a senior advisor for the Center for Defense Information, said, "The nuclear issue seems to immobilize us and Iím not certain why, because it transcends all other issues. Potholes, unemployment, school discipline and taxes are all irrelevant if we donít do something about the big one."

I think Newman is right in saying all is irrelevant if we donít address "the big one," but he has it slightly wrong about what immobilizes us. The nuclear issue does not immobilize us. Denial of the nuclear issue does. And the issue is not just Americaís love of the bomb, and, of course, the bomb itself; it is the nuclear waste and what we have so far done with that waste; and it is the pretense that Yucca Mountain is that answer to storing that waste. It includes the pretense that the Ďpeaceful atomí industry is not integral to the building more bombs that proponents falsely claim will make America and the world safer. It will not. Pretense is a form of denial. The issue includes the inevitable nuclear accident that will occur along the roads and rail lines of America as a result of shipping the waste to Yucca Mountain, and it is the poisonous legacy the earth and its inhabitants will deal with at Yucca Mountain in a hundred years, or a thousand years or five thousand years when reality catches up to denial. Closer to home, the issue includes the reality that the buried waste at INEEL will eventually contaminate and make unusable the Snake River Aquifer which is the sole source of water for 270,000 Idaho citizens and for most of Idahoís agriculture. The issue includes the often documented fact that the DOE and its predecessor the Atomic Energy Commission have repeatedly and consistently deceived the American public about the dangers of its secretive work. The DOE continues to do so. The American public refuses to address the issue because it is in denial of loving the bomb.

And denial is not a river in Egypt. Denial of the big one is either insane, a serious cop out or the first response to a terminal illness.



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