Like millions of people I recently went to the movie theater, forked out a Hamilton and saw "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." I had expected to be disappointed but not upset.
The setting of the opening scene was the year 1957 on the Nevada Test Site. The scene ended with a mushroom cloud and Harrison Ford rolling out of a lead-lined refrigerator unscathed. It was meant to be funny and some in the theater laughed.
The depiction of the nuclear testing as comic relief was in poor taste and offensive. Unfortunately, my family could not hide in a refrigerator. Southern Utah bore the brunt of the fallout from this testing, and members of my family, like thousands of others, have suffered or died as a result of the nuclear testing in Nevada.
That a movie producer, writer or director could equate an American tragedy with humor is disconcerting. But the reasoning behind their choice is understandable: They do not see the testing as a tragedy and neither do most Americans.
In 1990 the U.S. government fell short of an official apology for the nuclear testing, choosing instead to establish a compensation program through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
Those who developed certain cancers as a result of being downwind of the radiation fallout, called downwinders, are given $50,000 each. If the downwinder is deceased, compensation is awarded to his or her family. (RECA gives higher compensation for those who worked at the site or who mined uranium.) Since its implementation, the program has approved 19,571 claims with 756 currently pending. The Department of Justice has awarded over $1.3 billion in compensation. Legislation is currently being considered to expand RECA to include victims affected by the testing in the Pacific Ocean.
Yet no monetary reward could compensate for the suffering the tests caused and continue to cause my family and others in southern Utah and across the United States.
The ramifications of the government's nuclear testing in Nevada for too long have been overlooked. This movie is a reminder that the nuclear testing in Nevada may have made its way into American culture but has yet to enter the American conscience.
* SUZANNE HURST STEWART is a native of St. George, an alumna of Dixie State College and the University of Utah where she graduated in economics. Her father survived lymphoma as a downwinder and he lost two uncles to leukemia as a result of open-air nuclear testing.