|A Typical 1950's Air Raid Drill|
It happened a few times per school year. The siren sounded and we were told to crouch under our desks with one hand behind our head and the other hand in front of it. This action would protect us in the case of a nuclear attack. The literature always predicted the damage that would be done should Times Square be bombed. The radius would be huge and we in the New York suburbs would be affected. People built fallout shelters in their backyards. I had nightmares several times per month.
In 1960, I went with my mother to a demonstration at the Soviet Union’s embassy across from the United Nations to protest above ground nuclear testing. The ambassador invited us in and said, “Welcome to the territory of the Soviet Union.”
We were so imbued with Cold War rhetoric that I panicked for a moment hearing that and don’t remember a word of his speech after that.
The air raid drills continued throughout my high school years. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still alive to tell us how devastating a nuclear war could be. Nevertheless, compared to the threat now, this threat was mild. Leaders on both sides knew what the risks were and most of them had some degree of sanity. The weapons of mass destruction were weaklings compared to what is available now and nuclear proliferation hadn’t happened yet. Most of us knew that there could be no survivors of a nuclear war.
We had an air raid drill in my high school in which we had to go out in the hallway. I held up a homemade sign that said, “The only shelter is peace.” I was sent to the assistant principal’s office to be disciplined. Since this was my first offense of any kind, I was questioned about what I was doing and sent back to class. The nightmares continued.
My parents were active in the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy - popularly known as SANE - and I enjoyed telling my friends that my parents were in Sane. We drank powdered milk for fear of the Strontium 90 that was present in milk from nuclear fallout of the tests. Nothing could be done to that powdered milk that could make it taste even remotely drinkable so drinking that stuff for three years until the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963 was signed was a trauma in itself.
The memories of living through the cold war are with me still. Hearing the threats of Kim Jong Un and the uncontrolled threats and irrational menacing of our current President bring it all back. Unfortunately, the threat now is worse. We have a President who listens to advice from no one seeming to make decisions based on his emotions and instincts of the moment. Kim Jong Un is a ruthless totalitarian dictator who seems just as irrational.
The news that our current President and Kim Jong Un would meet brought momentary relief. Now that news is emerging from this summit, I don’t think that feeling will last. Apparently, he has made concessions to North Korea without receiving any in return. Time will tell. Although I disagree vehemently with virtually everything our President says and does, I wish him success in this endeavor. The alternative is unthinkable.