I was born in 1969, so the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation were major themes in the political and emotional landscapes of my childhood. When the neighborhood kids got together, “nuclear war” was one of the games we played. This was in Omaha, Nebraska, and we were told that our city would be one of the first hit by the Russians due to the location of the Strategic Air Command nearby. This was taken as reassuring by some since it was assumed that in the utter horror of a post-nuclear exchange world, the survivors would “envy the dead” (in the famous words of Herman Kahn).
Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the Cold War was regularly referenced not just on the news, but in movies, songs and television. It was omnipresent and inescapable, a threat that never went away. Authority figures, including the nuns at my school, used it as a hammer to keep people in line. I hated it. I don’t think anyone enjoyed it except the arms manufacturers and politicians.
It was a great relief, then, when (as it seemed to me at the time) Gorbachev stepped back from the whole terrible business, and with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, ended the Cold War. It felt like the world had been given a new lease on life, like taking a deep, free breath after years of suffocating and terrifying constriction.
So I was alarmed when Hillary Clinton started revving up the anti-Russia rhetoric during the presidential campaign in 2016. Don’t we have enough challenges to face in the world today without adding that one back into the mix?