Friday, February 23, 2007
|Los Alamos: Obelisks for a bleak future|
February 23, 2007
Criticism builds as anti-weapons activist prepares 'doomsday' monument
LOS ALAMOS -- Ed Grothus, an anti-weapons activist for 40 years in the hometown of the atomic bomb, has a new public-art project: a large granite monument with inscriptions to commemorate the first atomic explosion.
Grothus envisions what he calls his "doomsday stones" someday playing a role similar to that of the Rosetta Stone, which helped researchers decipher hieroglyphics long after ancient Egyptian civilization had faded away.
"I'm almost certain we're going to blow ourselves away," the 83-year-old said Thursday. "And when we do that, there will be nobody around. But when the little green men come, they will be able to read everything on earth when they discover my doomsday stones."
A pair of 22-ton, 33-foot-high white granite obelisks, quarried in China, arrived Thursday at Grothus' store, the Black Hole, where he sells items salvaged from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
So far, Grothus said, he has spent about $150,000 of his own money on the monument. But he isn't sure where he'll put it.
In November, he pitched his idea to the four-member Los Alamos Public Art Advisory Council, which has authorized various statues and plaques around Fuller Lodge, a historic building in the community that grew up around the nuclear-weapons laboratory. However, the council has yet to set a public meeting on the proposed monument.
Grothus said an ideal locale would be one of the mesas east of Los Alamos. He imagines something like the Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, statue overlooking Río de Janeiro, Brazil, from atop Corcovado Mountain.
"It would be neat if we mounted them at the end of a mesa and lighted them at night," he said. "You could see them for miles. But because of the doomsday stones and the message there, it should be an accessible mesa."
Not everyone likes his idea.
Stephen Stoddard, 82, a former Republican state senator who worked as a ceramics engineer at the lab for 30 years, is among the skeptics.
Stoddard is part of a group of military and lab veterans, the Los Alamos Education Group, formed to counter the anti-nuclear Los Alamos Study Group. He attended the November meeting to hear what Grothus proposed to inscribe on the stones.
"It was pretty inflammatory stuff," Stoddard said. "Primarily, he said, " 'I'm putting this here for the day when the little green men come down, after we've blown ourselves to hell, so they'll know who developed these bombs.' "
To Stoddard, "it was more of a degrading thing to the effort to really save lives (by eliminating the need to invade Japan to end World War II). ... I don't think we need to be memorialized as the place that built the bomb."
Grothus offered to give the Los Alamos Education Group space to put its own inscription on the monument. However, Stoddard said he doesn't find that equitable.
"At first, we thought maybe he was beginning to relent -- at least seeing our side of the thing too, and there might be some way to compromise," Stoddard said. "But when we saw the projected comments, we said, 'No, no, this is definitely not fair to Los Alamos and Los Alamos history.' "
Grothus became a political activist while working as a machinist for the lab from 1949 to 1969. He said he began questioning the Vietnam War, to the chagrin of his peers, and in 1968 was an alternate delegate for Minnesota's U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
After retiring from the lab, Grothus and his wife, Margaret, bought a gift store called the Shalako Shop and started Los Alamos Sales Co. to market outmoded lab equipment. They began to trade in real estate, acquiring the Grace Lutheran Church and the adjacent Mesa Market grocery on Arkansas Avenue, which he converted into the Black Hole.
In recent years, he has shown up at rallies on the Aug. 6 anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing to carry banners apologizing for the use of bombs developed at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In the 1997, he was investigated by the Secret Service for sending cans of food, relabeled as "organic plutonium," to the Clinton White House. Several documentaries have focused on Grothus' activities.
For more than a decade, he made a trek to Santa Fe each Nov. 1 to tape to the door of what is now called the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi his "sexual reformation creed" -- calling for acceptance of sex education, population control, homosexuality, birth control and artificial insemination. This act, he said, commemorated the start of the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses protesting Roman Catholic dogma to the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany.
Grothus said he does these "notorious things" because he wants people to know how the nuclear industry endangers civilization. He said his monument isn't meant to celebrate the Trinity Site test in New Mexico in 1945, "just to make note of it."
"I've offended some people in town," Grothus said. "Some people think I'm the conscience of the town. Other people think I'm a real pain in the ass."
[One could ask whether "Los Alamos: Obelisks for a bleak future" means a bleak long-term future for mankind or a bleak short-term future for the Laboratory ...
I for one am tired of his ranting and ravings.
He should be thankful that the United States was the winner of the war, otherwise he would not enjoy the FREEDOM OF SPEECH that he has.
Grow up and move on ED, or just move away. All of your ranting is not helping Los Alamos, they are hurting all of us that work and live here.
Have you forgotten where you started, and now bit the hand that fed you?
ed, think about how many homeless street people you could have fed with what you spent on that piece of crap... how frikkin' *selfish* of you!
You don't give a sh*t about homeless people, now, do you? C'mon, be honest.
Compare Ed's own $150K vs. Mikey's $1.3M/yr. It's just 1/10th as big. Plant the obelisk right in front of the NSSB ship of state. Or better yet, as a beacon on top of the oil tank (auditorium). That's the ticket!
What architectural marvels the Little Green Men (LGMs) will behold!