As a child of the 70's and 80's, one of the things that pervaded my formative years was the threat of nuclear war.
"evil empire" of the Soviet Union - now dead these 19 years or so - was
a constant presence in the lives of everyone in those days. It
actually kind of frightens me on a fundamental level that people who
are now in their mid-to-late 20's and younger...never felt that
Damoclean sword hanging over their heads.
To them, the threat of
nuclear war is an artifact of the past. Surely, we're beyond that
now. Certainly, in this day and age, nobody could seriously consider
the possibility that some government, or non-governmental group, would
be sufficiently lacking in sanity to actually detonate a device of that
nature and magnitude, right?
I've recently had occasion to re-watch a couple of movies from the early 1980's that addressed this stark fear. One, The Day After (Amazon, IMDB),
is a dramatic treatment shown as a made-for-TV movie, which shows both
the lead-up to, and the aftermath of, a mutual nuclear attack between
the two then-superpowers, as seen by selected residence of Lawrence,
Kansas. The other, Special Bulletin (Amazon, IMDB),
takes a different approach. First, the storyline involves a small
group of US physicists and political radicals who construct a bomb and
park it in Charleston, SC on a tugboat in an attempt to use it as
leverage to force unilateral disarmament of US nuclear weapons as a
prelude to global multilateral disarmament.
is particularly interesting because it is presented as a series of news
broadcasts, never 'breaking character' or going 'behind the scenes.'
When it was originally broadcast by NBC, there were so many disclaimers
on it that you could barely see the movie, and even so, there were
reports of limited, War of the Worlds-type
panic in and around Charleston, and even now in rebroadcasts people are
occasionally caught by surprised until they realize that the TV network
is fictional and the hair and clothing styles are incredibly out of
Both movies have their cheesy moments, viewed through the
retro-lens of 25 years of technological advances in media. That said,
they both remain moving, frightening films that very nicely capture the
constant sense of impending doom that we all lived under, back then
the time since these movies were released, much has changed in the
world, and in many ways we feel safer, more complacent. Even after the
unspeakable terror of 9-11, as well as the attacks in Madrid and
London, today we are so far removed from that sense those of my
generation felt that some kind of nuclear event was not a matter of "if," but of when.
don't want to ruin anyone's day or anything, but I'd just like to take
a minute to remind people that the threat is still out there, and is
actually more ominous now than it was a quarter-century ago when these
movies were first released. Nations with substantial populations of
religious zealots and other assorted whackjobs of all stripe...have
And the best anyone can say about them is you'd have to be nuts to use them.
not trying to spark a panic or depress anyone, but maybe it should be a
higher priority, for all of us, to remain a bit more...aware of the
world around us.