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the reader share the experience and then draw the meaning, hopefully the meaning intended, perhaps an enriched meaning, from the experience, and let it be the reader’s meaning, as well. So it’s partly my habits as a novelist that determined a certain reluctance to come to a grand summarizing conclusion. Behold: Listen: Think. . . . What sorts of reaction are you getting? How’s the town reacting? Well, very thoughtful. So far, very thoughtful. . . . I was surprised by it. I expected a very hostile kind of silence, or studied indifference, or actually a backlash. . . . At one point [a person with HoughtonMifflin] phoned me to tell me “they just can’t keep it in the store” [in Amarillo]. You left all the demonstrators and those kinds of people out, they’re not fully present, there, the way others are. Is that because they’re not natives? Well, that’s partly it, but also because I felt that the demonstrators’ position has been covered and covered. I’m trying to reach the Amarilloans, and I’m trying to reach the people in New York, the secular, liberal, eastern, urban intellec MIRED AS WE are in a state budget crisis, with lawmakers like House Appro priations chair Jim Rudd saying social welfare is not the business of government, you wonder where such people are coming from. The answer is West Texas, a region Panhandle native Buck Ramsey says is populated by “a secessionist people.” “We yearn to be among the ungoverned,” Ramsey told A. G. Mojtabai. Grace Mojtabai, a novelist living in New York, had wandered into the Panhandle in early 1982 after an article she’d clipped the previous summer about Bishop Leroy Matthiesen’s call to conscience for workers at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant had become an obsession. “From time to time,” she writes, “I would dig it out and stare at it until, gradually, I had no thought left for anything else. How do you live eat, laugh, love, sleep in the shadow of Final Assembly? I had to find out. If people were hopeless in such a place, I would confront that hopelessness head-on. If faith in the future were to be found in such a place, how much easier it would be to find hope elsewhere.” What she found was certainly not hope, but it was not exactly the hopelessness she’d anticipated either. Rather, it was a complex of values that became the focus of Mojtabai’s attention and the subject of her book, a largely successful attempt to understand without reduction the people who live and work in the place she called “the End of the Line,” the place she herself has lived since beginning this intellectual odyssey. At first, Mojtabai set before herself the fairly arduous task of trying to understand how people could live with this “final solution,” halfexpecting to find some intimation of a parallel with the “good Germans” BLESSED ASSURANCE: At Home with the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas By A. G. Mojtabai Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1986 255 p0., $16.95 who lived with the death camps. What she found was a mayor who talked about Pantex being. good for business; a community that barely acknowledged the work at Pantex until confronted with Matthiesen’s call; business leaders, such as T. Boone Pickens, who said, “I really don’t worry about things like that”; and a survey of local residents which revealed that most thought that Amarillo was a good place to raise children, that Pantex should be expanded, at the same time that many also thought that the presence of Pantex meant that there was a good chance of a nuclear accident in the area. In’ Pantex officials, she found the typical obfuscation of the military industry about the type of fuel used, about the presence of nuclear weapons. One official, also an Amarillo school board member, warned her of the commies threatening to take over schools and society. But then she also began to encounter a strange kind of cultural schizophrenia, as in Pantex inspector and former Green Beret Buddy Stoner. Stoner told Mojtabai that he is a conscientious objector, but until all people on earth are conscientous objectors he cannot practice his convictions. “One is concept,” he says, “and one is practicality. . . . Bishop Matthiesen, in concept, is right, but in practical application, I feel like he is totally, completely, off base.” Pantex engineering technician Warren G. Brown told the author: “A lot of people think, for instance, life, itself, is something permanent. It’s not. You know, I mean, we’re only here and it don’t make any difference if we die young or old, you know, to me. I mean we all die. . . . We’re not permanent fixtures here. Never have been. . . To me, a Christian is worth the freedom of religion is worth the chances that we take of a nuclear holocaust.” AND THEREIN CAME the epiphany. Suddenly, in the midst of a rigorous set of interviews with local residents about Pantex, Mojtabai came to a new understanding of both the people she was talking to and of her subject as a whole. “Apace in the streets of an unknown city, hurrying by on important business, yet unable to tune out background noises, I began to pick up, from a crack in a doorway here, an open window there, the sound of radios tuned to what seemed to be the same station. A song was playing. I recognized only a scrap of melody at first, a couple of Spiritual Survivalism By Geoffrey Rips 14 SEPTEMBER 12, 1986