According to the Washington Post, a recent poll found that a whopping 46 percent of Republicans would support a preemptive strike on North Korea.
In addition, a heart-pounding 36 percent of Democrats and Independents would support dropping The Big One on Kim Jong Un and — of course — the brat dictator’s countrymen and women.
Do current nuke enthusiasts understand that a nuclear attack incinerates everything — flora and fauna, country and city, earth and sky in a blinding orb of heat (540k degrees farenheit) traveling at near the speed of light? That the radiation scattered by a nuclear blast remains fatal for decades, centuries, and millennia, causing cancer, birth defects, and mutation?
Baffled by this “whatever” nuke-‘em attitude, I explored the demographics of the poll above. Who wants to nuke Kim Jong Un?
- Seventeen percent of males aged 18 – 34
- Twenty-six percent of males aged 35 – 49
- Thirty-four percent of males aged 50 – 64
Not surprisingly, women, blacks, and hispanics were less trigger-happy and — most telling — far fewer males over 65 wanted to unleash nuclear holocaust.
Pondering these figures led me to speculate: Many of the people featured in the percentages above were too young to experience the nuclear madness of the 1950s and ‘60s. Without the visceral portent of thermonuclear war, are younger citizens more liable to shrug off the prospects of nuclear cataclysm?
As children of the Cold War, we spent much of our youth surrounded by the threat of nuclear warfare. We watched dozens of 50 megaton mushroom clouds blossom fiery orange, red, and yellow across the covers of Time and Life magazines.
We sat in front of the television and watched the Nevada desert light up with nuclear tests televised with great joviality by NBC's morning show talk host Dave Garroway and his simian sidekick, J. Fred Muggs.
At school we were taught to duck and cover under our desks, as if holding your head down and sticking your ass in the air was a survival technique.
The Khruschev-Kennedy kiloton dual delivered more fiery fears. Our bomb had to be bigger than their bomb.
These early threat-fests terrified us. The awesome power of the bomb struck us all deep in our preteen hearts and minds. Duck and cover seemed the height of folly. We were all going to die in a millisecond of blinding light.
We shivered, lay awake at night, wrapped our psyches in denial, or rendered nuclear annihilation as absurd, hilarious, incomprehensible. Regardless of our contortions, the warheads proliferated, a nuke-driven space race accelerated, but the specter that hung over us never quite disappeared.
Perhaps, for those who came later, now in their fifties and early sixties, the threat of nuclear war has grown dim. During the nuclear-free Vietnam War, today’s nuke enthusiasts would have been infants or children. Reagan scared the world with his Star Wars proliferation plans but the Cold War ended — not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Today, we are back head-to-head with the Russian remnants of the former Soviet Union. We have two lunatics vomiting nuclear bombast.
Perhaps, without that deep-seated sense-memory of mushroom-cloud, Cold War terror, younger Americans have no way to comprehend what might happen if either Donald J. Trump or Kim Jong Un decided to plunge us into the nuclear darkness.
To them, I offer a light-hearted but ominous tune by Tom Lehrer, MIT mathematician and Cold War musical satirist as a wake-up call from the past. "We'll all go together when we go," folks.