The Day After

When The Day After aired in 1983, I so wanted to watch it. It promised to be the television event of year. My parents, probably wisely, didn’t allow me to watch it, though, and it was probably a good thing: Mr. Rogers dedicated several episodes to calming children who had seen the film.

Now, over thirty years later, I discover it on YouTube.

The fear of the Cold War was so much more focused than the fears we face today. At least then, there was one enemy, and we could hope, along with Sting, that the Russians loved their children, too — and of course they did. Now, with the primary threat of nuclear explosions coming from terrorism, there’s the wild card element of religious fanaticism and the certainty that drives it.

I prefer the Cold War, if I had to choose. But I’d rather not have to choose — as if we can choose such things…

4 thoughts on “The Day After

  1. I don’t know that I agree. The fear of targeted destruction was very real — on both sides. And politicians often miscalculate. I lived through the Cuban Missle Crisis and I have a vivid memory of asking my dad — don’t presidents have children?

    • I suppose for me, with my first memories of the Cold War dating from the late 70′s and early 80′s, it was a totally different experience than during the 60′s, with Gary Powers, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and all the other incidents, smaller and larger, that really made up the Cold War. For me, at its worst, it was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the resulting Olympic boycotts, the occasional reminders from seeing air raid/fallout shelter signs on some schools, and of course films: The Day After and Red Dawn come immediately to mind, but I also remember some film about a supposed Soviet land invasion of Alaska, also a made-for-TV film. The late Cold War wasn’t much of a war compared to the early years, I suppose, so I can certainly understand your perspective. Still, for me, it was just history. “Cubans had missiles? When?!”

  2. I should check my spelling before I post here ! :)
    One more anecdote for you — when Kennedy was shot, school was closed the day after. When we came back, the teacher asked us how we all reacted at home. One girl shot up her hand and said — we all went to the bathroom and straight into the bathtub! My mom said the Russians were attacking! And this was a family living in NYC who sent their (American) kid to the UN school. Very real fears.
    But I have another story for you: this time when I was in Warsaw, my friend told me that her daughter was getting passports for her toddlers. Why — my friend, the grandmother asked. The girl answered — you never know. What if we have to leave the country immediately? And I’m thinking — fifty years later and still, very real fears!

    • Sadly, all of us with friends and family in Poland now probably have similar stories. I have a friend, an American, who lives in Warsaw. His Polish wife the other day asked him, “How much cash do we have on hand?” He would have asked why, but he knew exactly what she was thinking. The question is, are we entering a new Cold War? On the one hand, Putin doesn’t seem to have the grand ideological basis of communism versus capitalism; on the other hand, he certainly does seem to have some sort of ideological basis, namely returning Russia to its former glory. Is that enough to inspire a Cold War? Is that enough to inspire him to enter Ukraine? The fact that the West, especially Europe, dependent on Russian gas as it is, would do nothing probably does very little to deter him.

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