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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cold War Babies

This morning we turned on Turner Classics Movies and they were playing the movie, Fail Safe, starring Henry Fonda. Fail Safe is a cold war drama about a computer failure in the Fail Safe system of the United States during a normal response to a UFO sighting and how the tensions between the Soviets and Americans come to a tragic conclusion. If you haven't seen it I won't spoil it for you.

Of course being a Baby Boomer and therefore a Cold War baby it brought back some disturbing memories of my early childhood. I entered Kindergarten in 1960 at the age of 5. Before that I had no real awareness of events beyond my small world. I do recall watching the Nixon Kennedy debates on TV in the fall of 1960. I have a vague awareness of the Cuban Missile crisis, but my main memory of October 1962 was the New York Yankees beating the Giants in the world series.

Eventually I became more aware of world events through TV and my parents discussions. I remember thinking Khrushchev seemed like a scary figure. I remember hearing about Communist China and having the same feelings about Mao. But the thing that really sticks in my mind, as I think it does to many kids back then, are the drop drills we used to experience in school. The sound of my teacher yelling "drop!" still rings in my ears. I guess I was a little too young to really have a sense of the destruction a nuclear bomb could impose on my tiny school desk. That sense slowly dawned on me as I saw nuclear test films on TV, and listened to the rhetoric on both sides.

Many of us remember the sound of the air raid sirens which were set off at the end of the month. I realized later that unlike our parents who lived through WW2 and experienced an actual attack on U.S. Forces, my generation grew up with drills and sirens and the specter of all life ending for me and all those I knew at the time.

It all became more real as the Viet Nam war escalated and found its way to the front pages of the newspaper. As well the assassination of our President and the age of Sputnik came to influence us in ways perhaps still not realized. Perhaps it is understandable on some level that many found escape in music, drugs and protest. Perhaps it instilled a sense in many of us that growing up was a dangerous thing because these problems we felt were created by our parents generation or at least not seriously addressed by them. It was an inaccurate perception but it existed.

While I'm not seriously scarred by any of this but it does make me wonder what the Cold War Age, the age of Sputnik, the assassination of our President, and the well intentioned spoiling of my generation by our parents has brought.

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