Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In the Midst of the Military

For a variety of geographical, geological, historical, and cultural reasons, the Tacoma/Seattle metropolitan area is by no means a boring place to live. Just the presence of Mount Rainier is a startling fact of landscape. A longtime friend of mine from Germany, a German professor of American Studies, visited once and has not been able to get the image of the mountain out of his head since. In a letter once he wrote, "Always before me I see the image of The Mountain!" The Alps are nothing to sneeze at; in fact, they reminded me of a cross between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada. They have the mass of the former but also the dramatic vertical angles of the latter. But a napping volcano like Rainier is a geological entity unto itself. When the mountain is out, it looks like a surreal virtual image attached to the background of Tacoma. It's out of proportion.

This area also happens to be saturated by the presence of the U.S. armed forces. Military aircraft routinely fly low over the campus at which I teach. I think they probably use the campus as a landmark for landing at either McChord Air Force Base or the Fort Lewis Army Post. Also, the Boeing aircraft corporation has plants in (actually near) Seattle and in Everett, to the north.

Military Tacoma Complex

To the north lie nuclear submarines,
black bulbous tubes packed with missiles.
To the south sprawl an air-force base
and an army post. I wonder what Jesus
would say about these weapons--and
not a few preachers excited by war.
Maybe Jesus would put them all
on Caesar's side of the ledger,
rendered. That's just a guess.

Presuming to speak for Jesus or
assuming one knows what God thinks:
errors. Still the fire-power
held in this region exceeds imagination,
turns the term "fire-power" into
a particle of dust, and chills the spirit.

Proliferation of atomic weapons: error.

Millenia of military-inventions
are a first-stone's throw away
from a patch of grass I stare at.
Three crows walk across the grass.
Battalions . . . tanks . . . fighter-planes . . .
itinerant, weary military families . . . bombs,
rockets, missiles . . . atomic warheads.
Right here, right close, nearby. The crows
lift off heavily, flap toward conifers.

Copyright 2008 Hans Ostrom

The nuclear-submarine base to the north of Tacoma/Seattle is called Bangor. The submarines are called Tridents, and I found a fact-sheet about them online. Here's just a snippet from the fact-sheet (which appear on the site):

Number of Trident submarines in U.S. fleet = 18

Number of Trident missiles per Trident sub = 24

Number of nuclear warheads per Trident missile = 8

Total number of warheads currently deployed on U.S. Trident fleet = 3,456

Percentage of total U.S. nuclear warheads deployed on Trident fleet = 48%

Number of kilotons on one Trident W76 warhead = 100

Number of kilotons on one Trident W88 warhead = 475

Number of W88 warheads deployed on Trident fleet = 384

Total number of kilotons deployed on Trident fleet = 489,600

Number of kilotons on atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima = 14

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