I am a child of the late 70’s and 80’s. I remember Madonna’s Like A Virgin when it was a brand new song. I remember Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration. I saw Star Wars in the theatre in 1977. Gasoline was less than $1 per gallon, and big hair was in. So was feathered hair. Eww. Bright colors, plastic bangles, Van Halen. Yeah, we had it all going on!
I also remember the Cold War.
If you have grown up since 1991, then you really don’t understand what it was like to believe any second could be your last. As a boy I was obsessed with this. I had trouble sleeping at night, and when I did, I had terrible nightmares of nuclear war and radiation poisoning and flash burns. I’ve never been a visual artist, but I drew several pictures dealing with nuclear war. I talked about it constantly for a couple of years. I wrote really bad poetry.
In November 1983, a film was shown on TV called The Day After. It was so disturbing to me that, as my family sat transfixed by it, I had to leave the room. I went to my bedroom and pretended to read, but I didn’t even sleep that night. It was a Sunday night just before Thanksgiving, and I was tormented by the images of that movie, and the fear of nuclear war in general, for months after. Even now, having gone back to refresh my memory of that movie, I can feel anxiety, with my back and neck tensing up. I remember so much fear, and there was nothing I or any of us could do about it.
I got over it eventually, but it was a strange time. Everything in the 1980’s was flashy and bright. The future was so bright, in fact, that apparently we all had to wear shades. But that was just the surface, and under it all, we were afraid.
The musician Sting wrote a song about this pervasive fear that colored all our lives. Russians talked about how we stood on the edge of a knife, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.. You can find the full lyrics here, but the song ends with the slightly hopeful lyric “We share the same biology/Regardless of ideology/What might save us, me, and you/Is if the Russians love their children too” and it seems he was right. The Cold War ended, and the chances of nuclear Armageddon have fallen to the point that it’s not even really talked about today. Because the Russians did love their children, we’re all here today.
But there’s a group out there that threatens us all, and their narrow extremist view of the world leads them to destroy anything which doesn’t fit, meaning almost everything. If they were the ones in charge of the former U.S.S.R.’s nuclear arsenal, they would already have launched every last missile. If they were the ones in charge of Syria’s chemical stockpiles, they would already have used them extensively. If they had any weapons greater than roadside bombs and Kalashnikovs, they would have used them already.
And in point of fact, they did. Once upon a time, people from this intolerant extremist group seized control of four passenger aircraft in flight over the eastern U.S. and killed thousands of people. 9/11 was proof that so-called ‘Islamic’ extremists – and I use the quotes there because they are to Islam what Jim Jones was to Christianity – were willing to do anything and kill anyone if they thought it furthered their goals.
This mindset is, to many in the west or really any peaceful nation, incomprehensible. It simply makes no sense to most people that you would kill women and children in order to get a special place in heaven by dying as a martyr. But that’s really the point. Most nations value their children. They see children as the future. They see children as a sign of hope. They see children as beautiful and innocent and full of life.
‘Islamic’ terrorists don’t share this view. To them, and I’m fairly confident in this point, little boys are nothing but future martyrs, and little girls are machines that will make food and little baby boys to become more future martyrs. That’s it. They are not intrinsically valued. They have no worth except what they can do in the future, and that is either kill those unbelievers who don’t share their viewpoint or support those who kill those unbelievers. If you don’t believe me, read up on Malala Yousafzai‘s story.
In short, the terrorists do not love their children. And if your enemy doesn’t value life, then how do you ever convince him to stop taking it away from others?
I’m not wise enough to know the answers. I’m lucky enough to know some of the questions, but that’s it.
And I’m lucky enough to love my children.