When I was four years old, someone told me that Russia was going to bomb the United States some day. There would be sirens before the world ended in fire.
They test the emergency alert sirens every Wednesday in my town. A few days after getting this thumb-nail version of global brinkmanship, they all went off to mark the start of noon. I sat down on the curb outside of my house, and wept bitter tears while waiting to be swept away in the flash and shockwave.
That is the best way I can describe what it was like to grow up during The Cold War. We went through life knowing that most of us were going to be smashed flat under the nuclear hammer. I can’t convey how overjoyed I am that we were all wrong.
The stakes during that unofficial conflict were of the very highest, nothing less than the future history of mankind. One side was going to see their culture prevail, while the other would be forced to mould their own values and beliefs into something that was pretty close. Either that, or be swept into Trotsky’s dustbin of history.
There are actual adults living their lives right this instant, people raising their families and voting in elections, who weren’t even alive when The Cold War sputtered to a close. They see the world in a markedly different light than I do, as they cannot imagine what it is like for the childish mental image of airplanes overhead piloted by men wearing fur hats and eating borscht to bring paralyzing terror. To my mind, that is all to the best.
Our current global conflict isn’t as dramatic. Billions dying in a blaze of light is, to put it mildly, extremely unlikely. But the stakes are pretty similar, as it is once again a struggle between civilizations. One side is going to prevail, and the other will have to adapt or perish. Call me chauvinistic if you will, but I want my side to come out on top this time around as well.
I said above that it is not credible to think of billions of innocent people perishing in an afternoon due to this struggle. But don’t forget that innocent people are still getting killed. It is worth fighting the good fight if for no other reason than they would demand it, if they could but speak.
(Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)