As blunt as the name is, its cause is worse. Cancers plagued Tempest Williams’ family, and the families of others who lived in Utah while American detonated nuclear bombs in Nevada. Testing that the government was able to disclaim all responsibility for by legal, if questionable means. And as she saw her relatives succumb to cancer one by one, she found that she could no longer follow the advice of her Mormon upbringing to let such things go.
The price of obedience has become too high. The fear and inability to question authority that ultimately killed rural communities in Utah during atmospheric testing of atomic weapons is the same fear I saw in the mother’s body…. I cannot prove that my mother, Dian Dixon Tempest, or my grandmothers, Lettie Romney Dixon and Kathryn Blackett Tempest, along with my aunts developed cancer from nuclear fallout in Utah. But I can’t prove they didn’t. (405)And what good would such proof do? Nothing can bring those women back, but Tempest Williams has a deep call to action.
What I do know, however, is that as a Mormon woman of the fifth generation of Latter-day Saints, I must question everything, even if it means losing my faith, even if it means becoming a member of a border tribe among my own people. Tolerating blind obedience in the name of patriotism or religion ultimately takes our lives. (405)She writes of dreams of rebellion. Of connecting with the Native American traditions of the land, bringing life back to the land blasted dead by the bomb. She writes of an act of civil disobedience, trespass at a Test Site, and names pen and paper weapons to the officer that frisked her.
The words she writes are the weapon. The knowledge that she passes, whether it is truth or not, introduces doubt to the official narrative surrounding the testing.
A woman speaks out.