When the Music's Over
What is Happening?
The latest attack on the London Bridge in England has only served to enrage an already impatient worldwide community on edge. There is a sickness spreading throughout almost the entire world. My periodic emails from International Living keep suggesting alternative havens away from a more troubled U.S.A. Others say, or rather chant, give Trump a chance. I guess I'm with the latter since I live straddling the line between Illinois and Wisconsin, in the heartland. I might sneak out by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway, but then what? My thinking is that if there are these Shangri-Las here and there, only a flight away, untouched by the usual discomforts and anguish we currently undergo, then it is only a matter of time. In other words, there is no escape or asylum. It is not for nothing that we live in a global world still seeking a new order. What happens somewhere else will likely either happen here or have a negative impact and vice versa. Our religious shamans harp on a divine rescue or Rapture in the twinkling of an eye. The notion does indeed provide solace. It would, in fact, be somewhat practical to simply move higher onto uninhabited mountain ridges in advance of what many of us expect is no longer unthinkable but inevitable.
Myself, I prefer to glance backward at history. Knowing full well that there has never been a nuclear war, I cannot help but make use of creative license to come up with bits and pieces of the past that might provide clues toward a happier resolution. It is not unlike me to put my nose in a book and keep it there, being a shiftless history buff with shifting interests. Perhaps it is just that lately I have been delving into the Civil War. I find myself pouring over the intricacies of bleeding Kansas, prior to the 1860 election. One cannot draw a direct parallel between this long and bloody dispute and what is taking place today except that it describes fighting which precedes a full-blown war by several years. This very minute we are also fighting, but without a declaration of war, only a vague, abstract, but accurate enough term called the War on Terror, unlike any ever experienced. It is not necessary that it go any further at least verbally. Nevertheless, it would be hard not to concede a need for fighting.
No Comparison . . . and yet?
If I were to try to equate the push to make Kansas a slave state to Radical Islam seeking to convert or "enslave" the entire West, then I would likely fail. Still, one can see in both circumstances an imperative to resist. Kansans were mainly using Sharps Rifles, a far cry from nuclear. But those pieces of lead must have hurt, and many idealists, inured to a softer existence, were robbed, shot, and left for dead. U.S. troops were not yet that much involved. From 1855, almost ex nihilo, Lawrence became a magnet for Free-Staters. But ruthless border ruffians, as they were called, were never far away. Here is an intriguing similarity to today's horrendous mess: leaders and followers among those who made the trip from the east were basically religious from several denominations. Missourians were undaunted and unaffected. They made use of force and good ole boy connections to enact laws that imprisoned Free-Staters, who resisted the various machinations used against them, such as fixing ballot boxes, removing some, legislating, judging, sentencing, limiting free speech, and then composing a self-serving constitution for statehood that bypassed the entire will of the people.
Bushwhackers, as guerrillas with Southern sympathies were called, were tough to fight, too. They lived in makeshift fortresses and conducted periodic raids. Well, no, they were not quite terrorists, though they might have striven with all their might to reach such a level. The point is, they had to be vigorously and systematically opposed, or Kansas, like Missouri, would have entered the nation a Slave State. Now, Free-Staters had their share of shadiness and criminality, too. It materialized most dramatically in the guise of John Brown, a fanatic remembered both for his merciless army, including four sons, and an amazing talent for prayers that truly moved congregations. Hard men, like Quantrill, who later, in 1863, razed Lawrence, could be found on both sides. Today, Western leaders seem more uniform and well-schooled in the careful use of language and nearly obsolescent embrace of pure egalitarianism. Our sophisticated, civilized prime ministers and presidents are understandably reluctant to act hastily. Terrorists are being goading them to cut them loose. Yes, terrorists want it all. They could care less whether they live or die.
A North Korean Attack?
The Little Men From Little Nations
Kim Jong Un is right about one thing. His acquisition of warheads and delivery systems (which, one assumes, might be transferred elsewhere) has won him a great deal of press. North Korea's youthful sovereign is hardly into Islam, but he certainly wants to take advantage of a useful ally. The idea is not difficult to notice -- of pounding the West, mainly Americans if at all possible, from two unrelated angles. That is how the confrontation seems to be shaping up. By now, many troublemakers have disappeared: Arafat and Ahmadinejad, for example. But the newer generations are meaner, not nicer, than their parents. They were literally taught to hate. Eventually, perhaps not tomorrow, they will find ways to more competently engage Western powers. Let's face it, despite danger and atrocity, threats beforehand and claims for credit afterward, neither the Middle East nor North Korea has the wherewithal to be as destructive as their rants imply. Terrorism is an intolerable condition even if it cannot take down much stronger nations. How to deal with it, that is, eradicate it, has not yet emerged.
Thus, for the time being, fanatics can say what they will. It is not much fun. But consider Kansans near the end of the war who ran for cover into cornfields or toward the river at the mere rumor of another raid. As it turned out, the Union Army mastered the techniques needed to keep the likes of Quantrill and his marauders at bay. How I would like to say the same about those fighting terrorists. It takes time. It takes guts. I am sure they are gaining ground daily in the painstaking process. These are just random thoughts that pop into the mind without any special purpose, knowledge, or background. Again, it sounds somewhat daffy, but one must have faith. Terrorists are wrong, but keep proving an indifference to life itself that gets more shocking with every malicious action.
Things (Possibly) Get Better
I made a deliberate choice to turn the threat of nuclear holocaust around -- at least on paper. To do so, at the risk of being redundant, I have to mention how Lawrence, Kansas endured ten years of unimaginable misery only to prevail in the end, thanks to a number of factors. Chief among them was their perseverance, for they never quit, nor had they ever gone through consecutive harsh winters and icy wind that are the norm on the Plains. They were also gunned down, robbed, and left with few belongings after the town was practically burned. To be honest, however, one has to in addition point out how impossible it will be to repair the damages inflicted by nuclear-tipped missiles -- if it comes to that. Over two hundred thousand died in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings within a few months. Those atomic bombs are now antiques. Quantrill's Raid, by comparison, took approximately 170 lives. Recently, eight died in London. What does one make of this cruel game of numbers?
This is where I also make a deliberate decision to throw caution to the wind. Put aside Kansas and Japan, as well as Great Britain, and think of those mysteries from ancient Egypt, Easter Island, and Stonehenge. To me, the latter, simply put, has to do with mind over matter. Precisely, I hasten to add, what is needed at this juncture. There is no reason to use nuclear arms just because they are there; in fact, the case is exactly the opposite. I cannot get inside Kim Jong Un's mind, but there must be somebody who can. It would be only too easy to say that he is off his rocker, but he does not see himself that way. Nor do the millions who adore him. How did pyramids get built without a slide-rule, multi-ton sculptures called Maoi, moved vertically without any evidence of tools, or the 25- ton rocks of Stonehenge so eerily arranged? It is a kind of lightweight remark, I admit, to assert how these achievements indicate an uncanny use of the mind, if not forgotten technology, too, that baffles modernity but could be resuscitated to save the day. In other words, it is not for the missile to command the man; it is the man who should command the missile.