While there is no doubt the current fallout compensation act simply sucks, it is time to realize in the wake of the release of the National Cancer Institute's Fallout Report last year -- and the clearly demonstrated fact most relevant from it -- that fallout fell all over the USA and that it did so in about the same dose along an arc taking in much of the nation. Those of us working on behalf of fallout victims from this country's nuclear testing program must realize it is now impossible to draw a line anywhere on a map of the United States and say You people on this side of the line should get compensated and those of you on the other side should not.
Should we fail to do this, and should we insist on rushing full hog to support what Sen. Hatch is doing to "fix" the compensation act, it will blow up in our faces, and rightly so, just like it will in the face of Senator Hatch! Why? Because the implications "finally" forced out into the open by the NCI Report make it clear we are all downwinders and any attempt to "fix" the fallout compensation act that does not clearly accept that, and offer total and comprehensive compensation to all of America's Downwinders, will be seen by the bulk of them as just what it is: more "just us" instead of real justice.
The effect of that revelation upon the rest of America's downwind fallout victims outside of the few Utah and Nevada counties now covered -- that they are not going to be included and given the same rights with what Hatch is doing -- will be the defeat not only of what Hatch is now pushing, but perhaps the overturning of what has already been done. Why? Because it simply isn't fair, equal, or acceptable to exclude 90%-plus of all Downwinders. The more those new Downwinders learn they are in fact downwinders themselves, the less they are going to allow any more "just us" compensation BS from Orrin Hatch and his supporters!! The rest of the Downwinders have elected reps of their own too, and they will use them to oppose this unless it is comprehensive to every single American Downwinder, be they in St. George, Utah, Dillon, Montana, a family farm in Iowa, or in the suburbs of Troy and Albany, New York.
Worse is how this situation will devolve for those of us working on fallout victims' issues if we don't firmly and absolutely draw a line in the sand and stand behind "justice" for all, and not compromise for more "just us" fixes affecting those who can and do vote for Orrin Hatch. Short of doing that, and short of adopting a policy of justice for all, we will end up being little more than what we will actually be if we don't: a bunch of self-serving hypocrites.
We cannot on the one hand go out and try and educate the American public that they are all Downwinders, be actively trying to raise funds to do this, and on the other hand continue to support efforts such as those of Senator Hatch that deny even the legal classification of being a Downwinder to all those except "us" who control his political fate at Utah's ballot box.
Since beginning my work on Downwinders' Deadly Arc project several months ago, I have now visited over 110 communities and farming and ranching centers in extreme northern Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and soon will be working on the ground in the Dakotas and beyond. One thing has been made so utterly clear to me in this that nothing can, or will ever alter its importance: The fact that what happened to us in my home town of Enterprise, Utah and among my relatives in St. George, Utah, and a half dozen other little Utah, Nevada, and northern Arizona towns is not one damned bit different than what happened to these rural farming folk hundreds and now over a thousand miles farther away from the Nevada Test Site. They were exposed to the same fallout, most of them to the same levels of fallout that we were, and like us, a lot of them got just as sick, and died just as surely as we ever have, and did.
The only single difference was that we at least got to "see" and "hear" and sometimes "taste" what was killing us. They didn't even get that small measure of justice of being able to come face to face with one's murderer.
It is also apparent that should we not stand with them, our brothers and sisters in this horrible nightmare, and stand with them absolutely in total solidarity, and without the possibility of compromising any more so that there will be justice for all, or justice for none, our equally deserving brothers and sisters -- blood brothers and sisters at that -- will rightly drive us out of this issue so fast and so justly, it won't be even noticed.
For one, I have always opposed any compensation act that has not stood for absolute justice for all fallout victims, have always maintained that fallout from Nevada nuclear bomb tests never did come to a screetching halt at some county line barb-wire fence a few hundred miles downwind of the Nevada Test site somewhere in Utah. Downwinders has likewise aggressively and proudly supported that position, and we have fought and opposed what Senator Hatch introduced and passed. The release of the NCI report did not alter that policy in the least, nor does Orrin Hatch's new effort to once again politically ride the fallout victims band wagon or hearse as the case may be.
Also, in traveling throughout the Deadly Arc 4 and 5 days a week now, I have already run across three different efforts underway to redress the justice vs just us problem with past and current fallout compensation efforts, all seriously being considered, and one at least fairly likely to be undertaken. That is to legally challenge the current Hatch-sponsored fallout compensation act on the grounds that since the fallout it covers covered wide areas outside the small region eligible under the act for compensation, it violates the constitutional provision of equal protection and therefore should be ruled unconstitutional and thrown out.
Another vote-getting bandwagon by Orrin Hatch passing out only more just us, will ensure such actions will be taken if efforts to correct this in Congress fail. This will also become even more likely if those of us working on these issues continue to conduct programs of education and outreach relating to the NCI report, and inform more Americans they are just as much downwinders as we are, or ever were.
Needless to say, neither myself personally, nor Downwinders have any intention to stop ongoing work to inform, educate, and organize the rest of America's downwinders, or to do so while at the same time supporting "fixes" by Orrin Hatch that will not provide absolute justice for all fallout victims no matter where they live. Therefore it became necessary to discuss the matter among Downwinders' board and policy makers and to reach a firm policy on this, and to then make clear to all those working on this issue and those interested in it, just what Downwinders' policy on this is, and will remain.
We have now done so, and it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that outside of the long overdue efforts to "fix" problems with the section of the current fallout compensation act that deals with uranium miners, and in extending that section's coverage to uranium millers as well, Downwinders will wholeheartedly oppose any measures introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch, or anyone else that does not insist on the absolute principle of justice for all American nuclear bomb test fallout victims no matter where they were living at the time of exposure! And that Downwinders will fully support and encourage any American fallout victims who choose thus to actively oppose such measures, and that if necessary Downwinders will explore any and all legal recourses available to see that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law is present in any new fallout compensation act, or amendments to any existing acts, if they do not ensure absolute justice for all American fallout victims.