Thursday, July 30, 2009


As a kid growing up in Reagan-era America, I had one fear of the outside world. Things could be tumultuous at home with some illnesses and typical sibling infighting as the primary source of my domestic anxieties. But the fear outside my front door, the horror on the front page of the newspapers and leading off the 530 newscasts brought by Tom Brokaw every night was the dark beast of my mind-made nocturnal horror films. Nuclear Holocaust.

The haunting reminders were thrown at me on a nightly basis from all three network news teams. Sometimes I intentionally avoided watching the evening news with my parents in order to shelter myself from the barrage of increasingly distressing information. The verbiage of the whole messy conflagration between the United States and the Soviet Union were terms that a child of 12 should probably not comprehend, much less digest, but somehow I got it, and I was not particularly happy to do so.

Arms race, tactical nuke, MIRV buss, ICBM, ad infinitum were words that I feared and heard on a growing basis. It seemed like daily I would be briefed about one of the two nations, horns ensnared in the cold war, developing something so powerful that the yield of the weapon would be multiplied exponentially by "the bomb dropped on Hirsohima". Was this necessary, did we need to expand on destsruction so complete and extreme?

It seems it wasn't a desire to push the magnitude envelope, as much as it was one nation goading the other to stay ahead of it's rival's ability to annihilate the world. Reagan and Brezhnev, the two titans of atom-splitting might, would have been accurately portrayed on one of those main event boxing advertisement posters, staring each other down with resolution and barely restrained antagonism.

The nightmares I mentioned in passing earlier, still occur to this day. They feature myself sitting in some calm place of enjoyment, a cove of peace that I feel secure in and happy. I would be relaxed, fully absorbed in some activity that was pleasing to my psyche, whether it be throwing the rawhide around or simply vegetating in a lawn chair.

Then it happens.

A fearsome, monolithic mushroom cloud rises up in the distance. The titanic demon would be far enough away for me to avoid being decimated by the blast, yet close enough to awaken in me all the gut-wrenching dread of accumulated news-watching and headline-reading. I then snap up from the dread sleep, wide-eyed and in a confused state of agitated pensiveness. It was awful, and could become a load that would take me days to shake loose.


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