Friday, April 14, 2006

Over on Waiter Rant, there's some reminiscing going on about bell bottoms. A friend of mine from New York, whom I have known since she was probably eighteen, was standing around with me chatting tonight, and the topic came up for us, too. There was some talk of Satyagraha as well.

Anyway, at some point I found myself quoting one of my favorite verses from the Bible, from Isaiah, which goes something like this: "and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up arm against nation; neither shall they make war anymore." Needless to say, Rebecca was impressed that I could quote Isaiah from memory, at least until I explained to her why that was.

You see, back in the seventies there was this great show called "The Bionic Woman." I always liked it a lot better than the Bionic Man, maybe because Lindsay Wagner was cute - I don't know. Be that as it may, I remember this one episode where at the beginning, Oscar was all excited because, in a bid for peace, they'd put a stockpile of nuclear weapons in a safe facility where they couldn't be taken or used ever again, protected by a supercomputer. I think fembots were involved in some way.

Anyway, the obvious happens - the computer goes nuts, on the orders of its mad scientist creator, and suddenly the stockpile turns into a doomsday device. Lindsay Wagner has to somehow sneak past all the fembots and the now-homicidal, yet still genial supercomputer in order to disable the thing. She makes it all the way down and succeeds, only to learn from Oscar that the air strike that's been called in to destroy the facility will set off the doomsday device anyway.

Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat. Why? Because that was in fact the world we lived in. At any moment, bombers could be flying. When I woke up to a loud sound at night, and there was a bright light outside the window, my first thought would be regret that the world had ended so soon. My second thought would be "oh, yeah, that's the heating system." It was nervewracking. I genuinely expected to die on the same tragic night as every other living person in the world. I didn't know when it would happen, but I had no thought at all that there was any real chance it wouldn't happen. In the back of my mind, as a teenager, I wondered if I'd get to kiss a girl for the first time before the bombs hit, and if we heard that the end was coming, would we have time to make out first, so at least we could have one last angst-ridden moment of happiness?

It's strange to look back on those times. Really, the world is no less dangerous of a place now than it was then, but I don't think people in their teens and twenties living in middle America seriously expect to die in a nuclear war. There's the rapture crowd, but I think they mostly expect they'll miss the war, because, well, their vehicles will be unmanned.

The worst thing that ever happened to the country after Vietnam was 9/11, which was a blip compared to what we were all expecting during the Cold War. And yet it was enough to catapult our country into chaos and paranoia the likes of which hasn't been seen since the days of McCarthy.

It's really a sweet thing to live in this world of ours, and it's interesting how our worst fears can simply vanish overnight, for reasons entirely beyond our control.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Patricia said...

What a wonderful thought for the day!

Friday, April 14, 2006 2:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jym said...

=v= This is one heck of a well-expressed sense of perspective!

Many people do hang onto fears well beyond the time they might make rational sense. Many may still be haunted by those days of nuclear mutually-assured destruction, and are projecting their fears on current events.

Certainly the Shrub Administration does all it can to fuel whatever fear they can dig up. Recall that the alleged reason for the current war was alleged weapons of mass destruction (the nukular type, made from alleged yellowcake uranium).

Saturday, April 15, 2006 4:34:00 AM  

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