Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fifty years ago...



Two of the most jolting experiences in my life came at the opening of the 60s. The first was fifty years ago this week. I was nineteen, 1,500 miles from home, a college freshman. We didn't have TV in my residence, thought radio news was available all day, full of foreboding, frightening stuff: a confrontation between hard-nosed Premier Nikita Khrushchev and and a callow young president of the U.S.    Kennedy was being pushed to "drop the big one" by self-confessed genocidal war criminal, head of the Strategic Air Command, General Curtis LeMay. Kennedy chose to talk, negotiate, agree on mutual stepping back from the precipice.

This album cover was propped up on the hi-fi console in the reading/music room. Black humor, gallows humor, nervous laughter.

Choices made that week led to the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis and--briefly--a conscious stepping back from nuclear Armageddon. Fifty years later, the world has at least seven more nations with nuclear weapons, aggressive talk growing more intense, bigger threats, much more vulnerability to annihilation. Russia and the United States have 19,500 between them; the junior members have barely a thousand among the seven--France, China, United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea.

Another jolt came 13 months later--November 22, 1963. I told that story here a few years ago--nuclear war was still at the heart of the matter on that day.  

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.