When I was in middle school we would conduct regular drills for nuclear preparedness. We were “comforted” as a nation that we could survive a nuclear attack by hiding under our desks.
We routinely practiced other exercises that in retrospect were nothing more than busy work and mental diversions. Some of our neighbors spent thousands on bomb shelters. They stocked them with food and water in the event of a nuclear holocaust. This was the era of the Red Scare and we were convinced a nuclear attack was survivable. The Joe McCarthy’s of our day told us the “Commies were coming” and were lurking under every rock. John Kennedy was a hero for staring down Fidel Castro. We have come a long way haven’t we? I don’t believe the fairy tale that Saint Ronnie destroyed the once powerful Soviet Union. My theory is that the international nuclear arms race bankrupted them. My story and I’m sticking with it. That doesn’t keep neocons from occasionally raising the specter of a nuclear Armageddon. Today I am comforted with the notion, maybe a false notion that for the terrorist there is a problem delivering that nuclear device. Yes, the Timothy McVeigh’s still exist and the cowards that hijacked aircraft to destroy the Twin Towers still remind us that improvised weapons of mass destruction are still out there. Yes, it’s still possible, but I don’t hide under my desk every day in fear.
Our children and grandchildren live today with a different arms race taking place today right here in America. It isn’t a nuclear attack, but it is taking its toll on our way of life. We are living in an America that is quickly resembling an armed encampment or worse a war zone in some of our inner cities. We take off our shoes, dispose of any liquids and expose our bodies to a virtual strip search before boarding an airplane. We have surrounded our most precious resources (schools, museums, sports stadiums and libraries) with metal detectors, armed guards and fences with barbed wire. We have enacted laws that allow warrantless wiretaps of our citizens here at home. We have tortured individuals before we have even determined their guilt. We have some of the most pervasive security in place in my lifetime and yet we still witnessed the most heart wrenching mass murders of the youngest in America. This wasn’t a plot by some evil dictator or terrorist organization. Could the increase in suicides in our youth be related to the sense of helplessness that they are destined to live in a world of fear? A world where they are bombarded with propaganda for profit from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. The endless conspiracies that the world is coming to an end if a president is elected whose skin is darker than theirs. A world in which the very atmosphere necessary for our existence is being destroyed by soulless mega corporations run by individuals who apparently have no concern for their children’s future.
As a child at the height of the cold war I was never subjected to the relentless onslaught of disinformation that comes at our next generation in so many venues. Our youngest and most impressionable hear it on the radio, in their music, at concerts, in their video games, at the movies, the Internet, most certainly while they are parked in front of 250 channels of television and ultimately in conversations among their peers. While their parents and adult role models become hopelessly immersed, succumb to the rhetoric and the preaching why do we still wonder “how could this happen”? Media professionals and campaign strategists employ techniques 24/7 once reserved for clandestine interrogations and mental manipulation of political prisoners by the KGB and our CIA. Every advertisement has a subliminal context. Every message and speech a dog whistle to a specific group as a “call to arms”. The black helicopters are coming. Why are surprised when children subjected to these strategies are diagnosed with multiple forms of schizophrenia, become over medicated and simply choose to commit suicide and take others with them rather than face what they perceive as hopeless tomorrow?
The atrocities that “shock our consciousness” today are perpetrated by Americans using legally obtained weapons of mass destruction right here against our most vulnerable and apparently we are “powerless to stop them”. Today we are attempting to have a conversation about gun violence, but we need to have a serious debate about the legacy of violence we will bestow on our next generation. Hiding under my desk was no more effective solution for surviving a nuclear attack than hiding our heads in the sand when we need to resolve our national propensity for violence. More guns will never solve the problem of too many guns no more than more nuclear weapons solved the nuclear threat in my childhood. If this isn’t the time then what unimaginable tragedy will it take for the adults in the room to come to their senses, put politics aside and regain control of our nation?