Preventing a nuclear war between the United States and North Korea may be the most pressing challenge facing the world right now.
Our childish, ignorant, and incompetent president is shoving all of us—especially the people of Asia—ever nearer to catastrophe. While North Korea probably hasn’t yet developed the missiles to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland, it certainly has the capacity to reach closer targets, including South Korea and Japan.
But what can ordinary people do about it? Our fingers are far removed from the levers of power, while the tiny digits of the man occupying the “adult day care center” we call the White House hover dangerously close to what people my age used to call “the Button.” Nevertheless, I think there may still be time to put our collective foot on the brakes, beginning with the promise of a bill currently languishing in Congress.
Meanwhile, many of us who were born in the post–World War II years are reexperiencing nightmares we thought we’d left safely in the past.
Duck and Cover
I was born seven years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Like the rest of my generation of Americans, I grew up in the shadow—or, perhaps more accurately, the glow—of “the Bomb” (which, in those days, we did indeed capitalize). I remember the elementary,school ritual of joining a line of neat, obedient second-graders crouching on knees and elbows against a protective concrete hallway wall, hands covering the backs of our necks. I remember coming home from school, recounting that day’s activities to my mother and watching as she rushed to the bathroom to vomit—her all-too-literal gut reaction to a world in which her children were being prepared in school for global annihilation.
In class, we saw civil-defense films produced by the government, like the one that encouraged us to “set aside a small supply of canned goods” in makeshift basement shelters. “They’re safe from radioactivity,” the narrator assured us, as a lovely, young, white mother confidently placed the last can firmly on the cupboard shelf. (The film was far less enlightening about what to do once that “small supply” ran out.) Other movies reminded us that we should always be aware of the location of the nearest fallout shelter or taught us how to duck and cover.