All my life the possibility has existed that people in power can, and possibly will, blow up the world. It’s not hyperbole. The destruction of the planet by nuclear weapons is a possibility.
My eyes open to the sunshine. I live in Southern California where the sunshine is abundant, free, present almost daily. I don’t notice the light. Before I even check the clock to see what time it is, I start searching for the remote. My husband says, “Good morning, love.” I answer with, “I want to know if we went to war while we were sleeping.”
I see the little girl running naked, crying, screaming – an image from one war, Vietnam. Not even the war where the bomb exploded like a cloud. The image is more famous than “The Falling Man” photograph from September 11th when terror gripped us. It is more famous than the National Geographic image of the woman with green eyes. But I have heard, or possibly read, that in Hiroshima people turned to vapor, their shadows burned into the sidewalk.
There is so much talk about trauma these days; it appears in most magazines, it fills bookshelves. There is the trauma of rape, and the trauma of childhood abuse, and so much more and so much less. There is trauma everywhere and in everyone, but what about national trauma? What about worldwide trauma? What about waking up every day and going to sleep every night thinking this could be it, and it is terrible. Will the blast kill me? Will it burn my skin? Will I die in a decade from some bizarre and almost unheard of cancer? Or will I be safe but have to live with the reality that millions died?
It can’t be worldwide trauma. I recently heard of a tribe who has had no contact in the jungles of Brazil. Well, they had no contact until some miners stumbled upon them and massacred them and then later bragged about it in a bar while drinking. Oh, how I hope some of them lived. I want to believe their not knowing of nuclear war can keep enough peace and sanity in the world – hold the balance to keep us all alive. Their not knowing seems critical and so spiritual and so necessary – a gap in the terrible – a gap in the darkest of truths.
At a fundraiser for the homeless, a woman spoke telling the crowd that her rabbi tells the story of thirty-six righteous people in the world whose role it is to justify humankind’s existence to God. Are the thirty-six still alive? Were some of them killed by the miners? Does the story say that the thirty-six must all be Jewish? What do I believe? I am Christian. I have avoided the Book of Revelation most of my life. It is too apocalyptic. It is too filled with symbols. What of the terror before peace? Somewhere in the Bible, it says near the end days men will die of fear. How much fear does it take to kill a man?
Nuclear winter. I would search Google for the meaning and explanations, but I don’t need more information or details about horror. The horror we have self-created to destroy the plants, the animals, the children, the elderly, the athletes, the mothers, the fathers, the unborn.
Are we monsters? How evil are our hearts and minds? Will we be forced to look back, those who survive, if any do, and ask, “What could we have done to stop it?”
Will the trauma and devastation be so great that there are no questions? Or looking out over a dead planet where turtles no longer swim, and tigers no longer roam will we have answers to questions most people never asked? Will we know with certainty that evil can win?
Tom Robbins said, “There are many things worth living for, a few worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for.”
In that abundant California sunshine, I say, “Yes!” Yes, to life – my life and your life! I want us all to live until something like old age or cancer or a heart attack calls our name. I want death to be for all of us from the things that have always taken us.
I don’t want to search for the remote in the morning. I want to greet my husband with love and warmth and possibility, “Good morning, love. Did you sleep well? Any good dreams?”
Dreams. I want dreams over terror. I want to live in a world where the uncontacted tribe in Brazil lives on and on without us, and where the green-eyed girl on the cover of National Geographic has a comfortable, cozy, safe, well fed, well-educated future instead of being illiterate, with Hepatitis C along with her arrest and deportation.
I don’t want to think about bombs. There has never been a time in my life where it wasn’t possible. If we must seek to destroy, let’s destroy that possibility so there will be a generation who grow with the unknowing. There has never been a time in my life when it wasn’t possible.
Rebecca Chamaa is a mental health advocate, feminist, and concerned with social justice. Her work is in Teen Vogue, Ravishly, The Fix and many other journals and online magazines.