Snowstorm May Lay Bare Our ‘Control Addiction’

Photo via REUTERS / Adrees Latif / RNS
New York City’s Times Square on Jan. 26, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Adrees Latif / RNS

Apocalypse or snowstorm? For a nervous few days, we worried that life as we know it in New York would be undone by a monster blizzard.

As it turned out, we didn’t get the feared 36 inches. But as we stood in long grocery lines and planned escape routes from work, we realized that not a single one of us — not even the mega-wealthy and mega-powerful in this mega-city — could control this moment.

For me, a blizzard would have imperiled my scheduled move Upstate on Jan. 29 and my scheduled flight to California next week and ensuing four-week pilgrimage driving east on two-lane roads, plans made over many months.

Now we could see our “control addiction” in action. Some believe control is the ultimate human addiction. Not caused by a chemical or harmful substance, but caused by the grand delusion that we are all-powerful, we are “masters of the universe,” as Tom Wolfe put it. Our wealth and our weapons can make life exactly what we want.

From the Archives: August 1983

ON MARCH 1, 1954, at 6:45 a.m., the U.S. government detonated a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb in the Bikini Atoll. Within a few hours, the ash-like radioactive fallout from the “Bravo” test explosion began to descend on the nearby inhabited atolls of Rongelap and Rongerik. An Air Force witness said the fallout resembled “a snowstorm in the middle of the Pacific.”

A two-inch-deep layer of radioactive dust accumulated on Rongelap, contaminating its food supply and drinking water. Children playing in the powder experienced skin eruptions on their arms and faces. By the end of the day, the residents of Rongelap had begun to exhibit the symptoms of acute radiation exposure: burns, severe vomiting, diarrhea, and hair loss.

The islanders were not evacuated from Rongelap until two days after the blast. They and other Marshallese people have suffered the insidious long-term effects of radiation exposure because of the contamination of their land and the cumulative effects of radiation on their bodies. For example, the rate of stillbirths and miscarriages among Rongelap women who were exposed to the fallout rose to more than twice the rate in unexposed Marshallese women for the four years following the Bravo detonation. ...

More than 2,000 Marshallese people were contaminated with radiation, becoming unwilling laboratory specimens for the U.S. government’s gruesome nuclear experiments. 

Liane Rozzell was a Sojourners editorial assistant when this article appeared.

Image: Nuclear mushroom rising over the land, Dariush M /

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