Monday, February 01, 2010

In The Shadow Of The Mushroom Cloud

A while ago I was writing about a favorite song of mine that goes, "We who grew up tall and proud, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud." For some reason there's been all kinds of mentions of Hiroshima in the media lately, I haven't had time to see why but it's been prickling the back of my mind.

It seems like there's a tendency to periodically dredge up tragedies so we people can grieve some more. Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor, Attica. Even as the number of people still around who were actually there dwindles we still bring this stuff up. It seems kind of lame and even counter productive but there is some value to it I think.

Back in the early Eighties when I was a wee school boy classes were still watching civil defense films from the Sixties. The school did have one Betamax rig but the majority of our moving media was viewed by threading 16mm film stock through the old Ektar projectors. (In second grade I was the one doing the threading.) While these movies are the stuff of folly nowadays, picked over when people need quaint/disturbing footage for video montages, they were actually still pretty relevant back then.

Little Tony wouldn't have survived an Eighties-era multi-megaton blast under his checkered picnic blanket, but the awareness those movies generated was of a high level. Of course now, schools are too timid to show students anything like that, and nuclear blasts are the stuff of video games. It's apparently much more important to educate kindergartners about lesbians and make sure that no one keeps score at the soccer game.

I'm not really sure what it was that I wanted to say here. I guess it's just that I hope somehow people manage to see something meaningful in the media these days. Footage of 9-11 is so censored in the media that if you didn't see it when it happened you will never know what it looked like. And that was something malicious that was done to us. The mushroom cloud footage is one of the most iconic images on the planet, and that was something malicious we did. It's a different era.

I guess it's up to us as parents to educate our little ones on some of this stuff. Don't worry, they can handle it. We did. It's up to us to make sure that the significance of major events around us registers with them. Otherwise, world changing events like Hiroshima will be nothing but video snippets grabbed to generate irony in music videos. I don't know about you but the image of a mushroom cloud is one of the most hideous, bone chilling things I've ever seen. That's why twenty years ago it was such an effective image for Megadeth to incorporate into their videos. Now, does it mean anything? Black Sabbath using an air raid siren in a song chilled the Brits to their very cores. Now it's just a sample.

Generating a culture of fear isn't the idea here. There was a good deal of that doing on when I was in school. Thanks to popular culture I have an irrational fear of Russians. The Commie Menace in reality can barely keep body and soul together. Perspective is important. Anyway, enough doom and gloom. I'm off to try and balance some of this out with a cup of coffee and a pleasant viewing of my section of America the Beautiful. Made even more so by the fact that it is at present unmarred by destruction.

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