During the terrible days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the top brass came up with a protocol for whisking away the heads of the U.S. government to protect them in case we were attacked.
Robert Kennedy was told he would be taken to an undisclosed location to sit out whatever nuclear war ensued. He told his wife, Ethel, about this. She asked where the family would be taken.
He responded, in so many words, “This is something you wouldn’t want to survive.”
If you’ve ever lived in Tucson, then you should know that the city was a prime target for the Soviets. The city was ringed by intercontinental ballistic missiles, topped with nuclear warheads. There is still one silo that is viewable to the public in Green Valley, off of I-10. This museum is a must see. Some people have told me they’d rather not because they believe in peace. To them, I said, “Then you must see what it is that you are fighting against.”
Tucson, in case of nuclear war, would have been obliterated under the remnants of mutually assured destruction (MAD). We bomb them, they bomb us. Everyone is so afraid of retaliation that no one launches the first bomb. But that requires rational leaders who know when to be afraid. That is why MAD does not work. I tried explaining this to my POL 200 professor, Tom Volgy. I got a B in that class. It still chaps my hide.
Even in the face of assured destruction, there were bomb shelters constructed on the grounds of the University of Arizona. There’s one under the science library. These shelters would have done little good. But they calmed people during a very frightening and unprecedented time. Like the duck and cover drills they ran for children. Nobody could have rationally expected a child to survive nuclear radiation by hiding under their desk. The drills were meant to give a measure of control in uncertain times.
In July, I listened in to a conversation of some fellow conference attendees at SENG on the way back to the hotel from Johnson Space Center. A woman mentioned her fear of flying. A therapist responded by saying that she routinely told her intellectually gifted patients that, “The pilot wants to get home as much as you do.”
I balked at this. “Planes don’t crash because pilots don’t want to get home. They crash because of negligence or unforeseeable circumstances.”
The woman in the front seat, another therapist, chimed in and said, “I don’t think that’s appropriate to say, Vene, when we all have to fly home tomorrow.”
I was just stating the truth. But some people need to believe these truisms in order to get on with the scary parts of daily life. I can’t blame them, they haven’t reached the level of understanding that allows one to let go of the notion of control and surrender to the calm of acceptance.
But that kind of bullshit, in the mouth of someone who acts as a counselor to super smart people, is why super smart people worry. Pat answers aren’t enough to quell our minds. You’ve gotta try a lot harder than Chicken Soup For The Soul. You’ve gotta be honest and say, “Yes, this could all end in the blink of an eye. The point is not to worry about the inevitable. The point is to make your mark before it catches up to you.”
Please stop worrying, everyone, and learn to love the bomb.