Tag Archives: Cold War

Terror of the Air: Cold War Memories

When I was a child growing up in Calgary, there was an air raid siren in our neighborhood, at the corner where the Chinese store was. Yes, we did call the little corner store the Chinese store, as it was run by Chinese, yet this was never a derogatory term. I believe the air raid siren was across the street by the gas station. It was very tall, with a thick pole about the width of two light standards. It had to be about 25-30 feet high, with a big megaphone shaped horn at the top and all of it painted bright silver (or maybe that was the metal).

The top of ours was something like this, though the pole was round.

Ours was similar in style though the pole was round.

This Cold War artifact was very present in our memories and daily life. For one they would test it yearly and it sounded just like those WWII sirens you hear in the movies. I think. I was a kid so it’s hard to remember exactly. But the testing didn’t continue through every year.

Yet I remember that we were told to hunker down should a bomb drop and hide under our desks. There was a film they showed us, grainy black and white. I think it was sometime before grade 4 and I remember it being about bombings, maybe about Hiroshima because people were running from bombs dropping and the only image that seared into my brain was that of someone being vaporized by the bomb and leaving a skeletal imprint on the building behind them.
 
We were a generation growing up with fear of a world war, reminded by our parents and grandparents who may have lived through the horrors. We were after the generation of love and peace, the anti-war movement but were influenced by it nonetheless. Love and peace and hippy power had invaded and surely we were protected from the terrors of war. Yet we had those ever present reminders like the air raid siren.
 
My mother also had a gas mask, one of those old style ones with a corrugated rubber tube and
Almost exactly like my mother's except it was a black hose and mask.

Almost exactly like my mother's except it was a black hose and mask.

then a red tin at the end. What that tin was for, I’m not sure. It couldn’t hold air and I had no faith that it had ever filtered anything. Maybe it was just to convince people they were safe. The mask could have been hers from the war but I it might also have been a second hand one she bought when she was spraying insecticides on her plants. We would play in it and pretend we were monsters but not that often, because it was hot and steamy in there.I think for awhile there was an old army jacket hanging around, either my mother’s or my father’s. Most of these items disappeared by the time I was twelve except for the gas mask that no one used, and the air raid siren, now silent and ominous of a former era.

One day, when I was a teenager the siren went off. I don’t know if it was a test or some valve or button failing after all the years. But that terrible wail filled the air. Most of us ignored it, after a glance to the clear blue sky, but I remember these two little kids, about seven, who crying in sheer terror ran helter skelter for home, sure that the bombs were about to drop. I don’t know what they’d been told about wars, what mind curdling films they had been shown, but obviously the horror of war was a real thing for them.

When I was sixteen and in school, we heard the siren go one day. We were at least ten blocks diagonal away from it, yet it was pretty clear. No one bothered paying attention. After all, where do you go if the bombs are dropping? There were no bomb shelters that had ever existed in our area, bombs were more lethal from what we knew, and radiation would get us no matter what. Shortly after that, the air raid siren disappeared.

I would have off and on through the years, nightmares that were end of the world scenarios. Sometimes the bombs had dropped, sometimes it was just deadly radiation and sometimes the Nazis were chasing and persecuting me. They obviously were a form of stress  dream but one that would wake me in the middle of the night.

We are a generation that has seen war mostly from afar (except those in the military) yet that terror is a reality for some people every day. War is still not the thing of the past and it is more deadly than ever before. Perhaps that’s why my dreams are still spattered with war scenarios and movie realities. It would be nice some day that war is just a make believe thing but I think it will be a long time until humanity evolves to that next level.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, flying, history, home, life, memories, people, security

US Election: Hope for a New America

Well, like everyone else, I’m weighing in on the recent US election of the president elect and hopeful, Barack Obama. There is more than one factor that makes him the new hope. He will be the first black president with a very non-American sounding name. He is relatively young, the same age as Clinton when he took office. Only Roosevelt and Kennedy were younger. He inherits one of the worst messes in recent history from the worst president. Really, anyone who did half a job better than Bush would probably shine. You could almost say he’s the messiah to Bush’s anti-christ but let’s not bring religion into it. There’s been enough already.

But it’s a tough job ahead. The US economy, and world economy is a mess, Bush has brought the world too close to World War III, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing divisive views and is as tumultuous as the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war lasted through several presidencies. Interestingly enough it was escalated by Democrats Kennedy and Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon was not only the one to remove troops in Vietnam but brought about some thawing of the Cold War.

This time it’s reversed and Republican Bush brought troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. Will Obama remove them? Although Iraq was the misguided invasion of a deluded president, Afghanistan is a different story. Albeit Bush invaded for his “war against terror” and “axis of evil” blatherings, the fact that Afghanistan was under a fundamentalist, totalitarian regime that subjugated its citizens, especially women, could not be denied. The world needed to help. And yes, the World Trade Center was decimated by a terrorist attack…by Saudi Arabians, the country studiously ignored because they can be a bigger bully than the US.

But back to presidents and chaos. There have been charismatic leaders in the past. John F. Kennedy was one. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister from 1968-79 and 1980-84. He was immensely popular, young and avant garde, coining the term “fuddle duddle,” which was a euphemism for what he was presumed to have actually said. And although Martin Luther King never ran for president, at a time when blacks were still considered second class citizens, he too galvanized a nation. Had he lived longer, he might have run as president but like Kennedy he was assassinated.

What these four men (Kennedy, King, Trudeau, Obama) have in common is youth. This is not the youth of age though they were all in their 30’s or 40’s when coming to prominence, but a youthful demeanor and way of thinking. Trudeau and Kennedy made mistakes but after they were leaders their legacies lived on. Trudeau’s influence colored politics for many years after he retired.

The other common thread is that these men were all great orators. Obama speaks well, bringing passion and belief to his words. The background speechwriters should be given accolades for the skills they put into such famous speeches. Obama also has something that was lacking in the McCain/Palin campaign: integrity. When others stooped to trying to mar his name, he did not fall to the same low standards. When it was discovered that Palin had a pregnant, teenage daughter, Obama replied, “I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off limits.” When was the last time we saw any politician stop slinging dirt at the others? That alone would have gained my vote, had he run here.

Obama has a heavy burden on his shoulders. If he cannot affect the change that is so desperately needed and clean up some of Bush’s mess, then people will leave him. But if anyone can, he is the man to do it. Of mixed heritage, he represents the world of today. He’s intelligent in a way Bush is too dull to even dream of and he will hopefully keep a level head.

Charisma goes a long way and people will forgive a lot of sins because of it. Being young enough to remember there are young people bridges the generation gap and it showed in the number of younger people who voted for Obama. Being intelligent can make a difference but it is wisdom and the use of knowledge that can bring the greatest, beneficial change.

We’ll have to see if Barack Obama can bring change. All we have to do is keep him alive long enough. Here’s hoping he relies on more than the fallible CIA to keep him safe. (Speaking of which, at the college where I work in Canada, the IT guy checked an IP address that was trying to break through Finance’s firewall. It was the CIA. The next day that same IP address showed as unregistered.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, history, life, memories, news, politics

India in Space: Bang, Zoom, to the Moon

What did Jackie Gleason know when he said, “To the moon, Alice. To the moon”? That one day without the aid of his hollow threats to Alice, that people would go to the moon. India has now joined the US, USSR, China and Japan in sending a ship to the moon. This is an unmanned, information gathering, two-year trip. NASA has also tossed a bunch of bucks toward it and India signed an agreement with NASA.

Back when the US was putting a man on the moon the USSR had to do so too in the Cold War era. Was it just  a need to explore, for humankind’s reach to go further into the mystery of the stars or was it a race of paranoia so that one superpower could have supremacy over the other? Later there was the Star Wars program and other scary propositions on just what would happen if one country got the big guns into space before the other.

When I heard India was punting a ship to the moon I first thought, “What, another country that has to prove it can do it?” But after reading a bit more, it wasn’t another case of one upmanship but an effort in working together to further research and for India to be included in the future. Space travel has always been phenomenally expensive and the only way, and the most logical way, is to pool resources, both financial and research.

There is already a group of countries (Insternational Space Agencry) that are working together for future space flights and plans for Mars. But there are countries that continue to do their work in secret, not sharing and suspicious of any questions. China comes to mind. Perhaps as time and modernization progress China won’t see the US as running dog lackeys and the US won’t see China as the yellow menace.

Between India and China they hold one-third of the world’s population, and Asia has about 61% of the population according to a United Nations report. As time progresses more and more races will mix and eventually everyone may have the same creamy brown skin. White people are the minority as population goes. It will be a good thing when everyone looks like everyone else and racial fear will be lessened.

World population is expected to increase from the current 6.1 billion (2000) to 8.9 billion in 2050. That’s a 47% increase in 50 years. Natural resources will be depleted even further and pollution will accelerate, perhaps beyond repair. Truth to tell, work on pollution should have begun thirty years ago when Lovelace put forth his Gaia hypothesis. So let’s say that people keep multiplying like roaches. That’s why there is Mars and moon exploration. Sooner or later the infestation will have to spread or the human race will die down. Personally, global birth control wouldn’t be a bad thing. Limit how many children everyone can have, but that could be ugly to enforce unless people chose to do so to help keep the planet sustainable. Go forth and multiply is no longer needed. We’ve succeeded to the point of implosion.

You could say China and India have the most to gain with getting some of their two billion plus people into space. But what if religious, geographic or philisophical conflicts persist? What if people don’t share? Then it’s a race not just to see who can get to Mars or the moon or some other place first. It’s a race to see who can colonize first.

The chance of shooting people from Earth to space is still a pretty slim and expensive possibility though there is the capacity to do so now. The chance of taking over all of the moon or Mars is also slim and a long way in the future. Like the world’s mosaic, I hope that when we get to peopling the moon and Mars that it will be considered an extension of Earth and all races will have equal ownership. That does mean that there could be religious colonies or ethnic colonies and that we could bring our grievances and hatred into the stars. There is the fear of course of some fanatical group getting a stranglehold first but the moon and Mars are still pretty big places and trying to enforce sole ownership will be nigh to impossible for a long time .

I’m going to hope that we slow down our population growth, work together in space exploration and maybe by the time we’re colonizing, the world will be one big happy place. I can dream, can’t I?

 News article on India’s moon flight http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/6073509.html

United Nations report on world population http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/WorldPop2300final.pdf

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, environment, history, life, news, religion, science fiction, space, travel