I dislike the current president for his spoiling the word “trump” for everyone else. I dislike the current president for dragging the beloved Sir Elton John into the chaos of the Washington administration by calling Kim Jong-Un “Little Rocket Man.” I dislike him for staining future children’s textbook montages of U.S. presidents.
But, mostly, I dislike the current president because I remember Tuesdays, when the nuns would stop class and have us say a silent prayer for world peace, when we youngsters would go outside to hear the sound of warning sirens bounce off the neighborhood houses. The tone changed depending on which direction your ears were facing, or if it was echoing off trees and garages.
In the world in which I grew up, nuclear bombs could come at any second, any month, any day or year. Such was the Cold War. I lived every day knowing that those bombs were a mere button-push away.
We learned to live with that knowledge. All of us. We all shared in that threat of annihilation. We all shared in a pervasive hopelessness.
And then the Cold War ended. The threat—and the crippling fear—were suddenly gone. The world breathed a sigh of relief. That world even started disarming, promising to never move backward, to never again risk ruination in the name of misguided nationalism.
Then, in 2016, we elected the current president. And we are moving backward.
I dislike the current president because, through his bumbling ineptitude and utter lack of even the most rudimentary knowledge of nuclear arms, he has brought back the threat of imminent nuclear war.
I dislike the current president because, for the first time since 1953, the Doomsday Clock is two minutes to midnight. As they moved the minute hand, the clock’s monitoring scientists cited “[t]he failure of world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war.”
For a while I had rid myself of the innate dread of nuclear annihilation. I had put behind me megatonnage figures and blast radii schematics. I stopped calculating how many times over we could blow up the world.
While I know now that we cannot destroy the Earth itself, we do have the means to eliminate a great deal of its life forms—predominantly humans. The flora and fauna of the planet have survived disasters and extinctions and climate changes for millions, if not billions of years. Sea life would be relatively unaffected, as would most self-sufficient ecosystems outside the direct nuclear blast zones. Even in the very core of those zones, the storied cockroach and scorpion would continue to thrive as if nothing had happened.
We humans wouldn’t be as fortunate. In densely populated areas, most humans would be vaporized immediately. Many more would be killed in the aftermath. There might be survivors, but not many—just remote populations and those outside the fallout zone who prove resourceful or ruthless enough.
Concentrated city populations, however, would experience the full force of nuclear war. First strikes would be reserved for areas containing important military, communication, logistic and supply chain elements.
Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida. It is home to three U.S. Naval facilities. It’s one of the Atlantic Coast’s busiest seaports and a major rail hub.
So I dislike the current president for making me live in a first-strike city.
But Jacksonville wasn’t a first-strike city when I moved here. Neither was my hometown of Chicago.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, there were no more first-strike cities. The average American might not have fully comprehended the implications of U.S./USSR nuclear draw-down. I sure didn’t. But every American knew that the nuclear arms race was over.
Gone from the zeitgeist were scenarios of the nuclear apocalypse that had frightened us all. Gone were the fears of Doomsday occurring during our lifetime. Gone was that feeling of dread.
Who knew where all that energy could go? An opening was created for positivity, for the creation of art, the loving dedication to a good day’s work, the love of our fellow man or the creation of babies born into a world without the looming threat of nuclear war.
Perhaps this is the root of what happened in November 2016. Did we become complacent because the single greatest threat to human existence—the Sword of Damocles under which we were raised—was out of the picture? Perhaps we felt that because we had survived that threat, there was nothing that could harm us now.
But there was, and it’s sitting in the Oval Office at this very moment.
Label him however your perception prescribes; the one universal certainty is that he knows absolutely nothing about the position into which he was elected, nothing about governance, nothing about international detente, nothing about our Constitution. He knows absolutely nothing about what it means to be POTUS, and that includes control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
He knows nothing about the nuclear triad. We made fun of Dubya for saying “nucular,” but I bet he knew what the “nucular” triad was.
I dislike the current president for asking what good is a nuclear arsenal if we don’t use it.
With no knowledge of stewardship, the current president is leading the whole world into the maw of possible nuclear aggression.
The earliest steps on the path were taken almost immediately at the start of his presidency, with all his talk about the new “toy” he had at his disposal. The reality-show approach—“We’ll see what happens”—to important world affairs and his pseudo-tough-guy bluster have dredged up resentments that had lain dormant for decades.
He has most famously and most clumsily prodded North Korea. With the eyes of the world watching, he allowed himself and our entire nation to be played like a fiddle by the only world leader who comes close to being as unstable as he is. Alternating currents of amity and animosity toward North Korea make the incongruousness of the threats from both sides even more volatile.
In his sociopathic obsession with undoing everything implemented by his predecessor Barack Obama, he moronically violated the Iran nuclear deal, thus opening the door for that country’s nuclear proliferation.
Most likely at Russia’s behest, he has implemented an isolationist foreign policy that threatens world order and undermines NATO and other crucial alliances.
Finally, in October, he announced plans to pull out of the historic 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
So the Doomsday Clock has been advanced to two minutes to midnight, and those of us who lived through the Cold War are forced to revisit that anxiety. Gone is the certainty we felt that the Earth would survive for at least our lifetime, if not for generations to come.
On the bright side, at least, most of us already know what to expect. Honestly, facing the eminent doom of the human race is like riding a bike: once you learn, you can simply re-position yourself back under the dour pallor in which you were raised. Except now we have to introduce that doom to a new generation.
I dislike the current president for inflicting the ominous pall of nuclear threat upon the generation that has never had to live beneath the threat under which I was raised. I am ashamed that children who are just becoming socially sentient will do so in a world that is regressing into a period of peril and risk.
Despite the seriousness of exposing children to the threat of nuclear war, don’t expect to hear the current president address the issue. Instead, our Distractor-in-Chief deflects from the issue whenever he needs to.
And that’s OK.
As long as he feels the need to distract us from the nuclear issue, he can’t use it as a distraction. And it is as a distraction that the nuclear arsenal is at its most dangerous.
The Mueller investigation looms over the Oval Office. The president’s co-conspirators are being picked off one by one, and they’re singing to the feds. The walls are closing in.
Here’s my fear: when Mueller comes to drag him away in handcuffs, this deranged individual might parry with the greatest distraction in human history—an all-out global thermonuclear war.
I resent having to wonder if that’s going to happen. I resent having to deal with nuclear anxiety all over again.
Still, if the sirens do suddenly echo through the neighborhood, a deeply embedded cue will have me murmuring a prayer for world peace. I’m not built for duck-and-cover these days, but I just might take refuge in a building like my old school.
Speaking of which, I dislike the current president for bringing back asbestos, too.
Masiulewicz is a writer and poet living in Jacksonville.