I strongly dislike movies, TV shows or books about apocalypse and post-apocalyptic attempts at survival. I don”t care what caused the annihilation: aliens, zombies (a genre which I loathe in general), a man vs man scenario or climate related. I realized I wasn’t a fan in the fall of 1983. That’s when mine was one of the 39 million households that tuned in to the ABC movie, The Day After. At the time, I was finishing up college while living in Austin, which mercifully was the polar opposite of what it is today. Like most college kids, I worked as much as aI could while taking as many classes as I could which meant cable TV was a luxury I couldn’t afford, so for the price of electricity, I watched the movie on one of five channels, which included the three major networks, an Independent channel which featured a lot of corny sitcoms from the ‘60s and PBS, which in my tiny efficiency apartment, was rarely ever watched.
This movie was about life before and after a nuclear exchange between the US (yay) and the dreaded Red Hun (boo…hiss) and I watched it on a used 13” portable color TV with antenna, which cost me $20, two garbage bags full of aluminum cans which I collected under the bridge over a dry creek bed in a north Austin, and some A+ blood plasma I sold to some clinic under the at St. David’s Hospital umbrella.
The Cold War was still in full tilt boogie and we were all still fearful of the Soviet Union. And I assume, the Soviets who could afford radios or TVs or read Pravda were scared as well. There was a lot of saber rattling between the two countries and when the movie premiered, Reagan in all his glory & Gorbachev (I think—I’m not up on my Soviet premiers) were involved in sone “talks” to limit intermediate range nukes. Or maybe it was ICBMs which as a kid, the notion of ‘doodoo bombs” always made me giggle.
I don’t remember much about the movie other than Jason Robards’ suburbanite character was in a car on a free way when the engine suddenly died and a split second later in the distance, we saw stock footage of the patented mushroom clouds destroy some nearby city. Plenty died immediately, some survived, only to die of radiation sickness a short time later. I guess some lived, but desperation forced a regression to a brutal feral state and the survivors killed anyone and anything that stood in the way of finding potable water and uncontaminated food. I forget exactly how it ended….I’m sure it involved 80’s object lesson about the about the futility of nuclear war. I mean, didn’t Matthew Broderick, Joshua and the yawn fest that’s the game of Tic-Tac-Toe teach us anything in the movie, War Games? I also have no recollection of how the US/USSR arms talks fared, but I’m writing this and you’re reading what I’ve written 40 years later, so I guess both countries walked away from das proverbial “stol peregovorov” happy enough.
I have a healthy respect for what Oppenheimer and the Manhattan gang did with nuclear fission or fusion back in the “40’s. I’ve seen all the ‘duck & cover” educational films in elementary school. We were instructed to do what my older sister was told to do ten years earlier—our school district didn’t invest much in updated educational films. These were films that said in case of a nuclear attack, we should get under our desks, go fetal and cover our heads with our hands. At eight, even I was hip enough to know that a cheap aluminum desk with a fake wood laminate top would offer no protection. I remember seeing images of what the bomb did to makeshift cities during trial detonations in New Mexico. Total obliteration.
And now with a war in Ukraine against Russia, that the Biden administration is demanding we taxpayers fund, the words “World War lll” is being bandied about once again. And with Putin and Biden both being mentally incompetent, the fear corral which they need us to be herded into is present, but hardly widespread or prolific. No one seems to care. I’m not saying this is the proper route to take to express anti-war sentiments, but no one is fire bombing the local university’s ROTC building in protest. Abbie Hoffman isn”t leading a sit-in in a university president’s office. Instead, Antifa is burning urban areas and encouraging violence as a show of what they think is unjust. Third Wave feminists can’t pick a topic to be pissed about. Bella Abzug is rolling in her grave at their lack of true feminist awareness. There are climate zealots who fly jumbo jets to international global warming conferences. In their financial portfolios, you’d find substantial holdings in Big Oil. Integrity has always been for sale, but not like it is now.
Suddenly drag queens are making headlines. I once had a bevy of gay male friends and we’d go to gay bars and watch drag shows which were extremely entertaining. I was in my 20’s and 30’s at the time. I wouldn’t have allowed a six year old to come with me.
A trans woman recently shot and killed six people in a private Presbyterian elementary school. Three of her victims were nine years old. I do NOT think their deaths at such a young age had anything to do with what Calvin believed was pre-determination. The shooter was shot and killed too. From what I’m hearing, she was no different than any other murderer. She had a very long history of disordered thinking covering an array of issues. It’s truly a sad story no matter how you look at it.
All the more reason that shit has to change, mi gente. So does the methodology of protest.
I was raised Catholic; I know the prayer of St. Francis. I know change and peace and stuff has to begin with me. And while I’m no longer a boots on the ground type gal, I do write checks for varied causes I strongly believe in. I also protest by quiet boycott, with my wallet but one fairly recent incident made a loud, stevedore out of me.
I refuse to support woke entities. Just ask the Salvation Army. In late 2020, the charity stupidly allowed some idealistic 20-somethings access to its PR machine and these youngsters wrote and published a woke manifesto of sorts, demanding something to the effect that supporters must “check your white privilege before writing a check to donate”. That defined stupidity for a charity that survives/thrives by donation. I was livid. The SA had been a pet charity of mine for a very long time. I was so angry I called the head PR guy of this very Christian organization and left a message on his VM that would make a longshoreman blush. He called me back and was very civil. In fact, he he admitted he laughed at my choice of verbiage, admitting I’d made my point extremely clear in the very same vernacular he once frequently used ………. before becoming a pastor.
We both apologized; me for my colorful metaphors and he was sorry that this silly declaration ever saw the light of day. It infuriated a lot of people, so much so that donations before Christmas, their busiest, neediest season and at the time, at the height of Covid,, was down by millions of dollars.
The Salvation Army learned its lessons. I‘m trying to learn as well. And maybe after the many falsehoods and nonsense we’ve tried to survive the past extremely difficult three years, we’ve all learned something.
Ok, so what’s the lesson? I’m not sure, but I’ve just re-read this longer than necessary tome and as a writer I’m not sure how to end it, so I’ll try to share what think I’ve learned, which as always, you can take or leave.
Now, what I’m about to write sounds like a quote from Jordan Petersen. It isn’t, plus, I can’t type in his Canadian accent. But here goes:
There is no way in hell any of us can grow as people, in a purely comfortable state. Instead, we have learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We’d be incapable of forgiving or handling complex emotions if we’re not in that head space. Those who can’t or won’t seem to think they can resolve their issues with Molotov cocktails. Any decent pyromaniac will tell you the thrill of the burn is only temporary. One conflagration is never enough. So, we have to fully understand what being okay with being uncomfortable really means. It never has anything to do with accepting violence in any form or fashion, there’s never a cause noble enough. It means we have to risk hurting someone’s feelings and we have to know our feelings will be hurt in the process. That’s where eliminating pride and hubris comes into play. Say I’m sorry. Forgive others. And forgive yourself. Difficult but possible.
We have to be careful of those we allow in and/or keep in our personal spheres. People change over the years and one day we both might realize we’ve become toxic to each other. Jettison people who no longer serve your soul. Be mature enough to exit someone’s life if you feel you’re not doing the same for them. Forced relationships of any kind serve no purpose except to waste valuable time.
If fear overwhelms you in a general sense, do everything you can to quell it. Take necessary precautions. Evacuate or seek shelter from an approaching storm. If crime is rampant in your city, lock your doors and windows, install security systems and keep a weapon and a phone within reach. Do this with regard to your home and your psyche. A dose of rational concern is healthy, just don’t allow it to become paranoia or well, blatant stupidity. At risk behaviors often involve dangerously problematic outcomes. Hitchhiking on a major freeway at 3:30 on a Sunday morning is one example.
Lastly, be as real and as authentic as you can be. I was one who used to be bothered and if I’m honest, I have to admit that I can still be completely annoyed by people who are real and truthful with themselves, about themselves, but I’m learning as I parse through my faults, that’s only because I was/am so damned flawed. But I know I’ll never be perfect, but I can be less imperfect. At least I can try to be. Maybe. Hopefully.
So can you.
Don’t be a Laurie
PS: If you’re a Mika currently somewhere in the country’s Mid-Atlantic region and you can trace your Polish roots back to the South Texas “Promised Land” we all know and loathe, please leave me a comment.