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Drills enforce fears, hopes for peace

“Active shooter drill.” Are we all familiar with that term? Our children and grandchildren now practice how to hide and barricade themselves in the event that some maniac enters their school and tries to kill them.

Our children have many advantages that we didn’t have growing up, but I don’t think I’d trade all the Internet access in the world for the days of playing ball in the street, or lying in the grass doing nothing but looking up at the cloud shapes. The stress these kids live with every day is outrageous. However…

We lived through air raid drills, meant to help us survive should Russia, aka U.S.S.R., toss an atomic bomb our way. Russia tested its first nuclear bomb in 1949, launching the “Cold War” between the United States and Russia. The two countries were locked in a war of acquisition. Who could build and stockpile the most deadly devices for killing off the human race?

In response to this threat, some genius devised the “duck and cover” drill, also known as the “air raid drill.” At the sound of the town fire alarm going off in one long, loud, shrill whistle (distinguishable from a fire alarm by the sustained length of the whistle), we were taught to form an orderly line, leave our classroom and line up facing the wall in the hallways. Then we knelt down, head to the wall, closed our eyes and covered our heads, and especially our ears, with our hands, to protect us from the oncoming blast. Covering our ears insured that when the “flash” of the atomic bomb occurred, we would not be blinded by the light or deafened by the sound. The fact that we would all be instantaneous ash evidently never occurred to anyone.

Did the person, or committee — sounds like a committee job to me — who thought this up really think duck and cover would be helpful? After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which to date are the only cities totally destroyed by nuclear weapons, used by the United States, not the evil empire of Russia, was there any doubt in anyone’s mind that total annihilation would occur at the bomb site? Covering our heads and closing our eyes wasn’t going to save us from anything. The ludicrousness of this idea is unbelievable.

It made us insecure little kids who were afraid of instant death from an enemy we couldn’t see. The drills did serve one, possibly unintended, purpose, however. It convinced a generation of children that war was not a thing to be sought after, and if the United States should enter into another war, it had better have a good reason to do so. We may not have gone into World War II ourselves, but we lived the aftermath of fear in which it left the world. Our fathers lived it; perhaps they talked about it; and the fact that another country could do to us what we did to Japan scared the — excrement — out of us.

The “drills” only reinforced the idea that we could die any day now, at the hands of a demented, angry leader. The children of the 1950s and ’60s grew up into the adults of the 1960s and ’70s, many of whom refused to go to war, for any reason. The Peace Movement gained strength, if not popularity. The anti-war protest songs gained audience of “peace-niks.” The older adults in our lives could not understand the namby-pamby boys of the next generation who were not willing to give up their lives for their country. Perhaps we hoped for a better solution to the world’s problems than killing each other.

The pre-Civil War spiritual song, Down by the Riverside, contains a paraphrase taken from the Bible (Isaiah 2:4), “I ain’t gonna study war no more.”

So, children of the 21st century, I feel sorry for you. You live in a dangerous time. You live with the fear of being murdered by a classmate, or former student; randomly picked off by a demented, angry person. I know the feeling of being killed en masse. You will get through this. Perhaps it will even be YOUR generation that stops the violence. Perhaps there will be a day when we ain’t gonna study war no more.

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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