Thoughts on Nuclear Annihilation
By Anna Daniels
On Saturday morning January 13 this headline caught our collective attention:
The accompanying article provided assurance that the warning was a mistake, that the good people of Hawaii who had been left in a state of panic and confusion for thirty-eight unimaginable minutes, were safe. To our great relief we also learned that Trump was holding a golf club in his hands and not the nuclear foot ball while this was happening.
It is confounding that the words “ballistic missile threat inbound” and “Hawaii” would appear in the same sentence. If it feels as if something has gone terribly wrong that we awaken or go to bed in a state of existential terror as Trump plays who’s got the biggest baddest button with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, it’s because something is terribly wrong.
Just last week we were informed that our military was considering a “bloody nose” response to the Korean supreme leader’s missile testing. This follows observations from the military class and congressional hawks that engagement, including limited nuclear engagement with Korea, has a good chance of becoming reality in 2018. The military mutterings have a chilling touch of wishful thinking that should concern us all.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scheduled a briefing this month to outline how the public can prepare for nuclear war. It has been rescheduled because of the need to address flu season.
None of this is normal. None of this makes any sense. It is however dangerous and terrifying.
Duck and Cover, Fire in the Battery, Calling all Eloi…
For those of us who were young people in the 1950s and 60s, Saturday’s false alarm unlocks a deluge of memories from those years that roughly span the Soviet launch of Sputnik I in 1957 to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. While my personal memories of that period are jumbled together, there is a unifying thread. It is not a particular image but rather a sound– the piercing, otherworldly rising and falling wail of air raid sirens.
It was the air raid sirens that made us tumble from small elementary school chairs, dive under our desks, and roll into a ball with arms around our head during weekly mock air raid drills. I was seven years old at the time and I knew in my terrified heart that THE WORLD WAS ENDING. And I wanted my mommy.
Over the course of the next few years the duck and cover drills became less frequent although the nuclear race with the Soviet Union was going full bore. The sound of the sirens continued, this time at the steel mill a few miles away from my home. The mills used a system of sirens to announce shift changes and as alarms for fires in the batteries or serious accidents. By then I had mastered the art of the imperceptible flinch when I heard them.
Because kids don’t have a grounding in politics or science they search for other ways to make sense of what is happening around them. The movie “Time Machine”which was released in 1960, became an indelible part of my end of the world understanding. The crafter of a time machine launches himself into the future and finds an eden filled with attractive, young, blond Eloi—nice people but even to my young mind painfully dull. Then the sound of a siren pierces the air and the blond people become zombie like, slowly walking into the cavernous home of the evil hairy Moloks, who would eat them. The movie, with the same siren sound but horribly re-purposed scared the bejesus out of me.
On October 22, 1962 my family listened to President Kennedy address the nation about the Cuban Missile Crisis on the black and white TV. For thirteen days which seemed like forever, we all waited for the sound of sirens to announce the end of the world.
The Doomsday Clock
The Doomsday Clock reflects how close humankind is to destroying our world. When Trump assumed office in January 2017 the hands of the clock edged 2 minutes and 30 seconds closer to midnight.
For the 1.4 million people who live in Hawaii, Saturday January 13 must have felt like the end of the world. One young mother “was in tears as she packed diapers and clothes, and placed her children into the closet”.
The war mongers may talk of pre-emptive strikes and limited engagement but Rep Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) offers a more sobering take on things:
Over a million of Hawaii’s people were faced with the immediate reality of having 15 minutes to find a place to “take shelter,” wondering where do I go? What shelter is going to protect me & my family from a nuclear bomb?! But there’s nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.
Is “I am going to die. I love you.” the only response we are left with?