An old lady’s plea for peace
I grew up fearing the bomb. The Cold War was like waiting for big hairy monsters to invade at any time and ruin everything. The red menace adults talked about made no sense to me either. I wondered how a war without soldiers on the ground, that was also cold in the summer, could be so threatening. To me the red menace sounded like a cartoon character, not communists who wanted to control my neighborhood, my country, and then start a world war with nuclear weapons. I grew up nervous and mistrustful of nearly everyone. Potent and powerful, I felt there was no escape from the bomb. It was an invisible case of fleas impossible to shake off.
Air raid drills to a first grader were more terrifying than a visit to the dentist. Stern-faced nuns herded children into a long, narrow walk-in closet barking out orders for quiet. Would crying for our parents set off the bomb? Instead of consoling us big beefy nuns whacked us on our fannies. We stood with our hands over our heads until the principal gave the all clear signal. On days we didn’t hide in the closet, we sat in frightened silence face down at our desks. Sometimes tears landed on my desk wondering if I’d ever see my family again or ride my bike to the garbage dump with the neighborhood kids. Then I wondered how sitting quietly would protect me from nuclear Armageddon? No one ever explained. I once refused to hide in the closet. If the bomb drops on New York City we’ll all die. That’s what my father said. The nun yanked me by the collar and warned me not to scare the others.
I lived in a pre-war dirty brown apartment building. No one had much money. A family of six often squeezed into a two bedroom apartment. Lucky families like us had storage place in the dark spooky basement. On a trip with my dad to put away my older brother’s Lionel trains, I noticed a yellow and black fall-out shelter sign prominently displayed over a barrel marked rations.
“What’s that I asked?
“Nothing, pay it no mind,” Dad said.
“Daddy, it must belong to somebody.”
“It’s from the government,” he said.
“What’s in it?”
“Then why’d then send it? Did Franny next door get one too?”
“You ask too many questions. Let’s go.”
I was on a mission. Why were the residents in our Astoria neighborhood so special that the government hid a barrel of rations in our basement? Rations must be for important people so I had to find out what rations were. Suddenly our status was elevated from working class to important because the government sent us rations.
The food rations were to survive a nuclear war. My grammar school mind could not comprehend world affairs at the time or the growing hostilities between the US and the former USSR. I sensed it was serious especially during the Cuban missile crisis. My sister’s husband was stationed at Guantanamo at the time. All women and children were evacuated so my sister and her children stayed with us. The adults never missed an evening with Walter Cronkite. Only years later did I learn we were at the brink of a nuclear war.
I’m now 58 years old. I moved away from the building with the fallout shelter sign in 1976, The fear of war still lingers even though the Cold War allegedly melted with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. War is like an infestation of cockroaches. It’s all clear in one room then the pests appear in another room spoiling your hopes of a roach free apartment. One part of the world achieves peace and calm then another part explodes in violence and destruction. All living beings are hurt including people animals and the environment.
People fight over land, water, oil or just stupid things. Country A steals country B’s land and country A wants it back. Country A is powerful, strong and rich. Country b is weak, poor and disorganized, no match for the beast who stole their land. Country B asks country C to intervene, talk sense into country A. The bully known as country A shakes off the criticism and tells country’s B and C to go to hell. So a bitter nasty fight ensues. Could it be avoided if country B had money to pay country A off? Perhaps. But how many times have we seen this scenario throughout history. Land swipes, religious differences, refusal to negotiate, lack of leadership and corruption. People not getting alone. People fighting instead of negotiating. People shooting first then asking questions.
The bombs that some nations control are so utterly destructive and powerful that one mistake, one false move, is lethal. It’s the end for us all. There is no turning back. All the good works accomplished around the world is wiped out in a matter of second. The beautiful planet we all share is gone, incinerated, blown up. Gone.
For my sake, the sake of your children, our children, everyone’s children, make this old lady happy. Work for peace. Spread joy, end hate. Don’t let any nation start World War Three because that really will be the end. Be smart, be loving, be peaceful and be smart.
Who really wants war? The companies that make the weapons. Don’t let a war start to satisfy the stockholders. That is what the lobbyists want. Is that what you want?