Let's start the story with the very first deadly experiment.
In a beautiful desert, sacred still to Apache and Navajo, the teeming desert life of Jornada del Muerto, New Mexico, would be dealt an annihilating blow by the colonial powers of the U.S., Canada, and U.K. It was code-named "Trinity Site". And it was here that a code-named team, "Manhattan Project", would set off their code-named device.
On July 16th, 1945, "The Gadget", as they called this device, would usher in what we now know as the Nuclear Age.
The purpose of the Manhattan Project had been to develop a functional atomic weapon during World War II. Unfortunately for our Planet and this part of Turtle Island (North America), the Manhattan project was successful. A phallic obelisk was erected at ground zero to commemorate this feat.
SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH BIKINIS?
"As soon as the war ended, we located the one spot on Earth that hadn't been touched by the war and blew it to hell."
Comedian Bob Hope regarding U.S.-led Operation Crossroads, 1946.
Where was this place Bob Hope is referring to? Bikini Atoll, a small and beautiful island in what is currently considered the Marshall Islands.
In 1946, a French designer had a risque two-piece swimsuit he wished to unleash unto the world. This was Luis Reard. He was seeking a name that would provide shock value on the world stage. Days before he was to debut his design, the U.S. military gave him the inspiration. The July 1946 tests were the first of a series of 67 atomic tests in this atoll.
How could this happen? The Marshall Islands had been considered "acquired" from Japan after WWII. Remote and with only 167 original inhabitants, the U.S. must have considered this beautiful island expendable selling themselves perhaps on the idea they sold to the Bikinians, that the relocation (and unimaginable sacrifice) would be for the good of all mankind. It has been written that President Truman wanted to know what the effect of a nuclear blast would be upon naval vessels.
Being a new technology, the Bikinians, of course, had no idea what they were actually signing away and not just for their lives but descendants; lifetimes. So, only about a year after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the impact of the tremendous blast and subsequent nuclear fallout would affect life existing on and nearby other islands of the Bikini atoll. Aside from the 14 ships sunk, 57 animals had been strapped into a ship as experimental victims of this first detonation as well.
Nuclear testing would continue in the Marshall islands through1958. Despite being acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is not the desired and deserved compensation for the Bikinians. The U.S. had sworn assistance into perpetuity, however, like so many other examples of the U.S. government interacting with Indigenous and foreign nations, Bikini Atoll has suffered from broken promises. Bikini is still uninhabitable to the original Bikinians (those who are still alive) and their descendants.
A 1985 study by the General Accounting Office found that many of the sailors who took part in the Operations Crossroads test may have been exposed to higher levels of radiation than previously disclosed. Bikinians, too, are still dealing with nuclear fallout as well as people from the Marshall Islands.
The U.S. is the leader in nuclear weapons testing. Out of the known 2059 tests by 8 nations, the U.S. has set off half. So now, over 75 years later, two-piece bathing suits are still latently, in name, a symbol of this Nuclear Age and the scandalous military history of the world. To transform this, we can rename the two-piece and pledge to remember Bikini for the culture it had been.
For more information on the continued toxicity and radiation of the Bikini atoll, visit BikiniAtoll.com
For history about the Bikinians, the Bikini Atoll reparations and their legal struggles visit BikiniAtoll.info
Para informacion en Espanol, leer aqui.
WHAT ACTION WE CAN TAKE NOW?
Is it our place to decide a name change?
In the good work we attempt to create in this world, it is important that we might start with asking ourselves if it is our place to tackle a problem we are perceiving. We may not have the answer, but it's good to keep in mind.
What happens if the name did change?
In speaking with Jack, author of the book this campaign was inspired by, there is concern that if the name of the two-piece did change, the history and continued plight of the Bikinian people might be forever swept under the rug. It is thought by some that the controversy "bikini", as the name for the two-piece bathing suit, whirls up maintains relevance of the Bikinian people.
Hearing that, what if...
We started honoring July 1st as Bikini Atoll Day? We could call for National and International recognition of this day for the Bikinian people and their struggles. It would be a day to educate others not just about what happened and the remediation the Bikinian people still deserve but also shine light on the impact we have with the choices we make individually and collectively.
What would this look like? Leading up to July 1st, we can reach out to anyone who sells two-piece swimsuits: big chain stores, local boutique stores, designers, environmentalists, and mermaids. Send this website link so they understand the story. Then ask them, "what do you think about rebranding the bikini"? We can track it on social media with #rebrandbikini. Let's stir the conversation?
Want to do more? Reach out to your local press to keep their story alive. Or, ask yourself what other connections and capabilities you have access to. Are you or anyone you know identified with BIPOC communities? Let's amplify your or their voice around this.
IF we do this let's make sure we do not further exploit the Bikinian people. There are other ways Bikinians can be financially compensated (see below). We strongly urge people not to raise donation money on behalf of Bikinians unless it is a campaign started by a Bikinian.
What would the rebranding be?
If the name changed for the two-piece bathing suit, what could it be changed to? Here's one idea. The 2 Peace.
HOW CAN THE BIKINIANS BE FINANCIALLY COMPENSATED?
The Bikinians themselves agreed to open their atoll in June of 1996 to provide a fund that might assist in the resettlement of their home.
From the website BikiniAtoll.com,
"When you go to Bikini you don't just go diving, fishing, and sunbathing, you get a history lesson. Over the course of the visit historical documentary films are shown, complete briefings about each of the ships and their respective histories are given, and you get a tour of the island and the atoll. The Bikinians feel this to be important because this allows their story to be taken away by tourists and retold to their families and friends. In short, the tourism program helps perpetuate a story of the islanders never want to see go away, ever."
If you are an ocean lover or mermaid, investigate these dive excursions and consider booking or organizing a trip.
COULD PERMACULTURE SAVE THE ATOLL?
We have not read anything to suggest it has been tried or is in process. We are curious to know if mushroom remediation is a solution or if hemp might be viable. Perhaps these can be explored with caution as anyone offering help should come from a place of sincerity. What we do not wish to cultivate with increased awareness of Bikini is further exploitian of the Bikinians plight.
The inspiration for this campaign was taken mostly from a book, FOR THE GOOD OF MANKIND: A History of the People of Bikini and their Islands, Second Edition, published in September of 2001 by Jack Niedenthal. This book tells the story of the people of Bikini from their point of view via interviews and the author's more than two decades of firsthand experiences with elder Bikinians.
Copies can be purchased from this direct ordering link at Amazon.com, or you can also purchase the ebook Kindle edition.
Watch a Documentary
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