Monday, July 17, 2017

Fly Away Home

I watched a movie called Ladybug, Ladybug. Made in 1963, it tells the story of a group of students and staff who receive a false alert of a nuclear attack. The school is located in a rural area, and while the principal attempts to verify the warning, students are assembled in a "drill" to be dismissed for the day. as time ticks by without a clear resolution, the decision is made to send the children home to their families. One of the teachers is charged with escorting a group of kids on their way, to make sure they get where they are going.
The discussion among the students about the potential for an actual attack and what that might mean is the bulk of the storytelling. A small group of them end up going to one girl's home that is equipped with a bomb shelter. Here, without parental supervision, they decide to close the door and prepare for life after the world they know has been turned to ash.
I won't spoil the ending, in case movies about the Cold War are your thing, but watching this film brought back a wave of creepy nostalgia for the days when the looming presence of nuclear war was background noise for most every interaction. Armageddon wasn't a comet heading for the earth or alien invasion. It was a daily reality called Defcon, short for Defense Condition. Years before we had color coded terror alerts, we lived in a nation that didn't spend a lot of time in the peaceful blue of Defcon 5. 
As years passed, and the capacity of the nuclear arsenals of the East and the West increased in number as well as destructive capability, plans for surviving a first strike diminished. Bunkers like the one in the movie I was watching would be part of the radioactive rubble upon which future evolution would build it societies. Bomb shelters became as quaint as the instructions to duck and cover. I grew up in an era that provided a couple of choices: be at ground zero calling for a fair catch, or await the gradual and torturous death by radiation sickness. Einstein's quote,  “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” seemed hopeful by contrast. 
And then the Berlin Wall came down, and everybody celebrated by purchasing their own pair of American blue jeans. No more Cold War. We fixed it!
Just like we fixed racism after we elected Barack Obama. 
Crazy people with nuclear weapons? 
Only in the movies. 

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