A few days after the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, we were watching a news report about it on Polish TV. The news anchor pointed to a black and white picture of Chernobyl. It was a picture of the plant before it had exploded.
“You see, ladies and gentlemen, nothing happened. Everything’s fine.”
There were political reasons for Eastern bloc television to cover up the accident. It had happened in the Soviet Union, and our Russian big brothers were supposed to be perfect. Nothing was ever supposed to go wrong in their Communist paradise. Also, May Day was coming up, and the government wanted everyone out on the streets for the May Day parade. The last thing they needed was people hiding in their homes, scared of radiation.
But we knew they were lying to us. There was word of mouth information being spread by friends who had visited Russia and knew the real story. Also, we had a farm and we saw the way the animals behaved. The birds in the trees, which had been waking us up each morning with their early spring noise, fell silent. The dog cowered in his doghouse and the chickens wouldn’t leave their coop, unwilling to come outside even to be fed. We knew something bad was going on, but there wasn’t much we could do to protect ourselves. We’ve been lucky, though–we haven’t experienced serious health effects due to our little brush with radioactivity.
Fast forward to now. Another nuclear plant has had an accident–this time in Japan. And again, I feel like I’m not getting the real story. The media here in America isn’t doing anything as blatantly silly as showing us pre-tsunami pictures of Fukushima. But the news about the continuing leakage of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean is painfully underreported. I’m reading about the contaminated ocean currents reaching the California and Oregon coasts, and yet we’ve been spending more time on the Duck Dynasty bullshit. What are we choosing to focus on?
I live on the West Coast, so the radiation is once again moving in my direction. Maybe I’ve built up some kind of green glowing immunity by now, but still. When I moved to this country, I expected more open communication in my news media. Am I being given the Chernobyl act all over again?