IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING, the title of Mike Daisey’s new monologue which he performs at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, is all about a bomb. The one he describes so vividly that he actually makes you see it.
Of course, that bomb is no less than the atomic bomb fired on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. It’s the bomb that was invented at Los Alamos. And Daisey takes us along on his tour of the research base and lab where the neutron bomb was invented, to the crater where it was first exploded, to the gift shop where tourists purchase key chains with replicas of the bomb. “Some people will use it” he says “for keys to their security” – their homes, cars, “and they will carry it through all the hours of the day.”
Daisey is a formidable writer whose radical political speak reveals an amazing depth and breadth of knowledge about his subject. He is also a fierce presenter, weaving in and out of autobiography, numerous different biographies and current events all of which chronicle the development of the military industrial complex and the American arms industry which has, according to Daisey, continually escalated since the end of World War II.
But if we are to take away one essential refrain, it is simply about the way Americans equate fear with security. There’s nothing new about that insight, but what Daisey finds in this oxymoron is a theme that carries through our history from the invention of the atom bomb to the post 9/11 world of Homeland Security.
In a rare quirky personal anecdote about his first trip to Rome, Daisey describes being dumbstruck when he was pick pocketed immediately upon arrival. Lamenting his helplessness, he imagines how much more effective it would have been to squeal like some sort of “insane American chicken”.
It’s an interesting story, not just because the rotund Daisey makes for a scary looking and sounding chicken, but also because it underlies our Pavlovian response to a threat along with our inability to respond in a meaningful way. Going back again to the atom bomb, Daisey describes the trinitite which he picked up in Los Alamos and carried onto the airplane ride back. He calls it kryptonite, our nation’s Achilles heel.
By: Isa Goldberg