This past week there was a new essay posted titled "Kazakhstan's Radioactive Legacy". You can find it here: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/11/kazakhstans_radioactive_legacy.html
The images there are nothing less than haunting and it is mind boggling that anyone would have to live someplace that has been so utterly poisoned. These are graphic photos of the devastating effects of radioactivity on future generations. We are reminded that this is a toxin that lingers, that there are those who have no alternative but to remain in a place where the very environment maims and kills it's residents.
We complain about the restrictions and regulations here in the United States. We laugh at what we often perceive as overkill when the EPA institutes some new mandate that hampers industry. Sometimes there is validity to these arguments, others it is obviously an attempt to thwart the system.
We haughtily argue that trying to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is foolhardy liberal nonsense. We taunt politicians who do their best to see to it that Nagasaki and Hiroshima never happen again, and we call them naive.
But have you noticed that the vast and overwhelming majority of images we have in our collective memory banks about those terrible bombings are de-personalized? Most often we tend to see grainy black and white photos of rubble where buildings once stood. We see pictures of mushroom clouds rising into the sky in what is almost a poetic glowing brilliance. Once in awhile we might be shown more painful images of burned backs of Japanese men, the occasional face of a child, but we almost never see the true human aftermath and suffering to the degree that it had to exist.
Take a look at these photos taken in Semey, Kazakhstan as the next generations suffer the consequences of the decisions made by prior generations to recklessly endanger human life. They are stark, they are current, that are poignant and terribly, terribly sad. And they are the real faces of innocents affected by the pursuit of nuclear weapons.
I am not one to carry protest signs, I am not all that politically active, but seeing these incredibly moving pictures of the suffering in my children's homeland is enough to make me want to cry. I dare you to see this photo essay and not be moved. It makes me angry that the poorest were treated as meaningless human fodder. It make me even happier that Kazakhstan won independence from the Soviet Union, a controlling power that viewed my sons' people as "less than" for so many years.
May mankind one day recognize that war and weapons of war are not the answer. The lasting impact on generations to come is often not calculated as power struggles are waged in the here and now.