For my first event on campus me and a fellow student went to see two professors, Terre Ryan and Ron Tanner, present their books at Writers at Work. Terre Ryan, author of This Ecstatic Nation, spoke about growing up as a “cold war kid”. The term cold war kid was used to describe kids who grew up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who were always prepared for an atomic bomb attack from the Soviet Union. Terre Ryan told us about growing up during that time and the terror she felt at the constant bomb threat.
Terre Ryan also described a trip to an atomic bomb site and how ecstatic the tour guide was about the destruction the bombs caused. Dr. Ryan made a very strong connection between the bombs and the Holy Trinity. The first nuclear bomb test took place on July 16, 1945 near Alamogordo, New Mexico and was called Trinity. She showed how the recipe for atomic bombs, which is made of protons, neutrons and electrons, may be the new Holy Trinity of the time.
The other speaker was Ron Tanner the author of the book Missile Paradise. He spoke about living on a research missile lab on the Marshall Islands. The radar on the island is the size of a baseball infield and is one of the biggest in the world. On the other half of the island is made up of natives that live in impoverished conditions. 30% of the natives are unemployed and the average age is 18. A sad fact is that the natives have one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes from the junk food that western nations brought with them.
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera relates perfectly to both the stories presented at the event. The native cultures in both The Whale Rider and Missile Paradise struggle with modern influences. In The Whale Rider Koro and Nani Flowers don’t want to accept new ideas and technologies that could make life easier. Technology helped the Maori people come together to save the whales towards the end of the book. On the other end of the spectrum the modern influences that affected the Marshall Island natives were negative. The outsider’s brought junk food and as a result the natives are now very unhealthy and have a high rate of diabetes. The missiles affect both the stories as well. In The Whale Rider Ihimaera elludes to the missile testing done by France and how it was affecting the oceans.
All three of the works incorporate some aspects of religion. Terre Ryan’s work asks us to compare the atomic bombs to religion and ask us if weapons are becoming our new religion. I find this to be the opposite of what is being said in “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education” by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. In Kolvenbach’s speech he says that the future of Jesuit education is to be accepting of everyone and find Jesus in a peaceful way. While a few believe that weapons are the future, the majority are trying to find ways to keep the peace. A line from Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” shows that man tries to destroy anything it can. Frost describes “The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, to please the yelping dogs” (Frost 5-10). Frost is questioning the choices we as humans are making.After going to Writers at Work and reading the following pieces of literature I have learned that we need to take a better look at what we are doing to our planet. Little kids had to grow up fearing that they could be blown up with an atomic bomb at anytime. Native people are becoming unhealthy because western civilizations visited them. Our oceans are being destroyed because we overfish and send missiles into them. Man has to take a look at all the harm we are doing not only to our planet, but also our own people.