Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dread

I'll admit it: Despite having been born in 1953, I was one of those kids who knew nothing about the old, original Cold War. We had no family bomb shelter, and as far as I can recall, none of our neighbors had one, either. We had no food saved, except in the very small chest freezer. Water? If it didn't come from the tap, we wouldn't have had any. Moreover, the Bomb was never a topic of discussion at our house. At least, not in my presence.

I did take part in Civil Defense drills in elementary school, of course. Depending on the location of the classroom, we either hid beneath our desks, doing the ole duck-and-cover, or we did the same thing out in the hall, with our heads up against the row of lockers. But I don't remember the Civil Defense drills being explicitly about the Bomb. I wonder if my classmates knew why we were doing this? I remember absolutely no discussion about it in the classroom, before the drill or afterward.
I did realize the Soviet Union was full of bad guys, of course. But these purported bad guys had nothing to do with me.

Boy, was I ever naive! Either my parents purposely kept me in the dark, or we were sheltered by our school system, or both. In adulthood, when I asked my mom about this, she simply said the Bomb hadn't been worth talking about -- we lived near a few likely targets -- we would be dead anyway. Moreover, she had no interest in surviving a nuclear war, since life afterward would be unimaginably different and difficult.

And so the idea of a nuclear war never really fixed itself in my mind. Until now, of course.

I am not used to being afraid of too much, but I am afraid of this. I get up every morning and turn on CNN with a feeling of pure dread -- what will I hear? Will the little psychopath in North Korea have fired off a nuclear-warhead-bearing ICBM towards Japan? Towards Seoul? Towards Seattle? And if he does, what will the response of the taller psychopath in Washington be? And ... where will this lead?

Gallows humor is not unheard-of at our house, but has really emerged from the shadows lately. Last Saturday night, J. suggested we watch a movie on-demand, "assuming we have time to finish before the war." As I saw him off to work this morning, he let me know he might be later than usual tonight. "Try to get home before the war," I answered, only half-kidding.

Can we really be normalizing this? Trivializing it, reducing it to the level of witty repartee? Nuclear war? At least I don't have to be careful to keep it from the children, who are adults now. I simply can't really admit to myself that this is real.

How it it all playing out at your house? I'd love to know!

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