During the 1960’s, grade school teachers throughout the country herded classrooms full of students under their desks. We were warned to close our eyes and not look towards the windows. Several times each semester, we practiced for the long anticipated nuclear blast that was sure to come from those dreaded communists on the other side of the world. Back then that evil menace was called the USSR, (today’s Russia.)
For the adults, there were fallout shelters. They were seemingly everywhere there was a space to hide below ground. If you grew up in that era, the signs identifying those spaces might still elicit a deep emotional response.
My father had a friend that had built his own fallout shelter behind his garage. I remember visiting it as a twelve-year-old and the place both scared and fascinated me.
Even after seeing those grainy black-and-white videos of a nuclear blast incinerating and then almost simultaneously blowing away rows of trees and atomizing buildings, the power of our shared fear prevailed over reality. We stuck with hiding under our desks. By cloaking the entire herd with a collective, communal terror, skepticism was extinguished because the prospect of bucking that premise was unthinkable. Being blinded by the light didn’t mean much if one second later you were pulverized. Coming out of a fallout shelter only to encounter a radioactive dessert wasn’t a great solution, yet we ignored what was real and blindly trusted those who were lying to us.
This is what fear does. Today, the Silent Generation and the Baby-Boomers, those who should know better, are self-exiling in their own homes, prisoners of their own making. Maybe too old to get under a desk today, but still stuck with the dread, fed to them continually, over a lifetime of political indoctrination.
Over time, each drill made it easier and easier to get under that little desk. Most kids instinctively turned from the windows without instruction. Maybe it’s time now to crawl out from under that desk of despair for the last time and agree to never go back. If the last thing I’m ever going to see is a nuclear blast, I want to view it with eyes wide open. And if the blast never comes, I’ll keep my eyes open for the scoundrel that tried to scare me out of my mind, if not with a nuke, then with a virus.