It was a year ago this month that a massive tsunami in Japan triggered a nuclear crisis at the Daichi Fukushima power plant. I grieved along with everyone for the villages whooshed to a watery end, and I had a meltdown worrying that a big poof of radioactivity would blow across the Pacific and dump its deadliness all over California. I was deeply touched by the tale of a cadre of elderly citizens willing to sacrifice themselves for the next generation. Japanese engineer Yastel Yamada called on all able Japanese over the age of 60 to join his Skilled Veterans Corps and hightail it over to the oozing reactor to get busy saving the country. Thousands volunteered.
What a great idea! At times of national crisis that puts rescue workers at risk, gather up the able bodied old folks and send them in! — voluntarily, of course. Like a mother who gives not a second thought to taking a bullet for her child, shouldn’t the oldest generations feel an unquestionable duty to save the younger?
National character fascinates me. Can you imagine such a thing in America? Never! We’re too busy being the new 30 at 40, or making 90 the new 80. Why sacrifice, when another decade of good living is just a tummy tuck and facelift away? Me, I’m just getting started: By 60 I might actually figure out what I want to be, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be a kamikaze. My parents are enjoying their retirements, and I don’t think a dip in a spent fuel pool or a chemo cocktail are on their bucket lists.
The Skilled Veterans Corps is a brilliant and logical solution, and I am in awe of the Japanese humanitarians who signed up. Here in the U.S., I suspect our sunset years will remain merely active… not radioactive.
What, if anything, are you willing to die for? Would you be willing to sacrifice yourself to save your country or your community? Soldiers, of course, do this every day. But it’s not a question we civilians ponder very often. If you’re one of the more than 17 million Americans who live within 19 miles of one of our 65 nuclear power plants, you might want to think about it.
Tags: Daichi Fukushima, Japan, nuclear power, nuclear reactor, Skilled Veterans Corps, Three Mile Island, tsunami, Yastel Yamada