On August 17, 2020, Steve Olson is discussing his book on the nuclear bomb and the Hanford site: where lies the remains of the factory that refined plutonium fuel for the bombs.
Seventy-five years ago, on August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb ever used in war was dropped on Hiroshima. A city was destroyed. Three days later, on August 9th, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Another city destroyed.
In Revelations, it is Armageddon that destroy the world, but the revelation is meant to give hope with view of the future. The revelation includes prophecies of great suffering, but also that we will not be entirely destroyed. There are costs ahead, and pain we cannot avoid, but this need not end with our total destruction.
This brings Olson to the factory in Hanford, near where he grew up, where lies a mess of nuclear waste that will require hundreds of billions of dollars to clean and set right. This mess we inherit from our ancestors. Over seventy-five years, three generations have come and gone, but none have cleaned the mess. This mess we will bequeath as a toxic inheritance on future generations. In this way, The Hanford site is a generational problem.
The history of the Hanford site teaches what we already know, but from which are quick to look away. We struggle with generational problems.
The same questions of inheritance arise in our shared societal history of race and racism. What do we do with the mistakes of our ancestors? How do we own their mistakes enough to fix them? While we aren’t responsible for the injustice done by others, we are responsible for perpetuating the unjust world we inherited. Do we have the hope, though, to truthfully remember our history? What costs would we pay to build a just world in place of what we were given?