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Do You Know What it’s Like, to Live in Fear?


Ezra writes:

You know, I spent my first 21 years on the West Coast, and never once gave a moment’s thought to the possibility that I’d meet my end through a Chinese ICBM. Nor did anyone else I knew. It’s actually an uplifting thing to think about: Whatever the tensions are between the world’s powers, the days when large countries with the capacity to annihilate each other were in a state of constant, low-grade conflict have been dead for decades. Those of us who largely matured in the post-Cold War era just don’t have the same fear set.

True enough. I probably pondered such questions as a kid more than most (indeed, I still do), but I don’t think it was unusual for people, in the 1980s, to give at least some thought to the prospect of nuclear war. I read all manner of nuclear apocalyptic fiction (from On the Beach to Warday, as well as semi-apocalyptic fiction like Red Storm Rising and the Third World War. And, of course, there were Wargames and The Day After.

Between the end of the Cold War and my move to Kentucky, I could always be comforted by the presence of China’s obsolescent DF-5s, capable of (maybe) hitting the West Coast. When I lived in Eugene, I actively wondered whether the University of Oregon merited nuclear destruction at the hands of scarce Chinese missiles. No, I thought, probably not; although the destruction of most other major West Coast cities would improve the Ducks’ chances in the Pac-10.

The move to Kentucky briefly removed me from the Chinese nuclear umbrella, such that I could recklessly advocate for defense of Taiwan. Now that they’re building longer ranged missiles (thank you, National Missile Defense) and SSBNs, and I’ll soon be able to wonder whether Lexington merits destruction, or if I’ll be “lucky” enough to be a post-apocalyptic survivor…

You always go back to what you know.

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