Bringing Up the Nightmares of My Past

A few months back, I stopped reading the news. Not because I did not want to be informed, but because I was tired of getting angry at what I read. Particularly in the election cycle. Essentially, this Presidential election cycle in the United States has become a manner of which politician can say the most off-the-cuff, vulgar statement to make headlines – particularly in the nomination for the Republican party’s candidate. Turning off the news provided me with a little peace, but it put me at odds with wanting to be aware of what was going on in the world around me. So I would turn the news on every few days, get an idea of what was taking place, and then shove the news back into the little box I had created for it. All of that worked, until today.

Senator Ted Cruz, from my state of Texas made a statement that brought back all the fears that I had thought I left behind several years back.

We will utterly destroy ISIS. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out. And we are going to make abundantly clear to any militant on the face of the planet, if you wage jihad against the United States of America and try to murder innocent Americans, you are signing your death warrant.

The bold and underlining is my emphasis. His statement here is essentially pointing out that he would consider a nuclear strike against the ISIL contingent. And apparently, he cares very little for all the innocent civilians that would die as a result of this. For me, this makes the man extremely unfit to be the leader of a country in control of a nuclear arsenal.

I grew up in an age where the threat of nuclear strikes both here on US soil, and by US forces was very real. It was a threat that we lived with every single day of our lives. We were taught absolutely ludicrous concepts such as “duck and cover” to avoid the inevitable destruction that a nuclear detonation would cause. It was a 1950s concept that had permeated into the same thinking in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was a useless concept, considering the advent of nuclear fallout, nuclear winds, and radioactivity – just to consider some of the more obvious aspects.

When I was ten years old, I searched for a science project for a school science fair, and settled on showcasing the manner of atom splitting that allowed a nuclear detonation to grow in scope and strength. After that, I researched the concept more and more – until I began to realize what this “neat science trick” was really capable of doing to human beings – both in short-term and long-term effects. Five years later, I was a teenager who was scared of what my government was capable of doing – and terrified of what other governments could do as well. The concept of mutually assured destruction was horrific in my mind.

When I joined the military, I found myself a part of that war machine – ensconced within the command-and-control structure, working in cryptographic communications. When I was stationed in a command-and-control facility as a part of a multi-faceted NATO unit, I found myself in a position where I could potentially be the individual that sent out nuclear release codes to units in the field. It was a very sobering thought to know that I could be in a position to send the codes that could potentially kick of the MAD policy that kept two major superpowers at one another’s throats. Always threatening the other with weapons.

Over time, the Iron Curtain between West and East fell, and I was able to meet Soviet troops for the first time. We could talk to one another, share drinks and coffee, and realize that we were not that different from one another. That essentially firing a nuclear weapon on them would result in the same destruction we would feel within the United States, as well as throughout Europe. They had the same fears we did – that someone in their government or ours, would feel that nuclear weaponry would be an acceptable conclusion to some moronic political difference.

Shortly after I left the United States Air Force in 1994, relations between the Soviets and the United States would normalize. People would talk to one another without posturing with maniacal weapons of destruction. And while we disagreed on the political formation of the world around us – we learned to coexist. My fears had subsided.

Until today. When I heard a Senator from my own state make a passing allusion to weaponry that is indescribable for the usage mentioned. Where a group of people are covered in a blanket statement of being “the enemy” – simply because of where they live or what they believe. Dear Gods and Goddesses above and below, we are apparently forgetting the lessons of our past — not even eighty years looking backwards. We have candidates (Donald Trump, in particular) for the leadership of this country making statements about needing a registry of people of a certain faith. We have another candidate making statements with a passing reference to nuclear weaponry, based on bombing a terroristic organization with no known country affiliation with no regard for the civilian casualties and deaths that would result from it.

For me, its fairly obvious that many individuals here in the United States – and elsewhere – have a hatred for something or some group of people that have a foreing way of life to theirs. The fact that the religious belief in question, and the people that practice it are as different as possible from their own Christian (for the most part) faith only makes it easier for them to dehumanize these people, and strengthen their “us versus them” rhetoric. What disgusts me more, is that many of these people profess to follow a faith that is about peace, love, forgiveness, and understanding – and yet chose to do none of those things. Instead, its about how much you can shove into the offering plate, so that others can see how pious you are as the result of the amount of money you gift to the church. Its not about doing, but about being seen.

In the meantime, politicians can ramp up the rhetoric, bring out a beast from the past – and pretend that its ok to do so.  Because the only individuals having that horrific experience are just “them”. Nobody important. Just a bunch of people who don’t need our sympathy or assistance. No wonder so many of these people become “radicalized” — its a “fight or flight” response. And when your back is against the wall with nowhere to go – the flight response is removed from that equation.

There’s no easy way out of the miasma that we find ourselves in with ISIL and Al Qaeda (among others). But even hinting at a nuclear strike — even meant in jest — is not the way to achieve what you are trying to accomplish (supposedly). We will achieve peace by finding a way to coexist – finding that middle ground. We won’t achieve that with candidates like Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Not when they begin to call up the nightmares of my past as an option to solving issues such as this. All I can do is write a blog post about how I feel, and hope that note will resonate into the future where these candidates’ are considered.

Deep Peace to You
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.

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