Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Early on, we were very afraid


I decided yesterday that the best way to understand any particular period of history is to study what happened right before it, which of course requires studying what came right before that, etc.

What I was thinking about in particular is the Cold War. After World War II, especially considering how many people were killed (sixty million, I read somewhere. 60,000,000!), also because it must have come as a nasty shock to realize the Nazis really had systematically killed millions of people - to learn the rumors weren't war propaganda, and after seeing graphic photos of the damage done by the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki - well - paranoia is an absolutely logical reaction. Ergo: the Cold War.

Nature abhors a vacuum, hence the push after the war, in the U.S. (at least), for women to have babies, lots and lots of babies. Here we came, born high on ether or whatever anesthetic they gave our mothers, slapped on our little baby boomer butts straight out of the womb, after which we were placed in
play pens so as to amuse ourselves, surrounded by a haze of second hand cigarette smoke. It was a lot like what they call crate training, only that is for dogs.

As soon as we could walk, we were taught to "duck and cover." I learned how to allegedly protect myself in case of a nuclear attack by the time I was in kindergarten. Five years old, and already worried about Soviet bombers dropping the big one. What a way to begin a life! Wow. Or should I say whoa?

I heard an interview with Mark Helprin on Studio 360 Saturday afternoon. Mr. Helprin was promoting a novel he wrote, set just after WWII. He said people didn't really talk about the Holocaust in the 40s, that the first books about it were published in 1953 or 1954. I think people couldn't really take it in for a few years. It was just too much to understand.

The U.S. as well as the Soviets, in spite of the damage done in Japan, continued testing what we called "A bombs." It was as if the military actually thought nuclear warfare was an option. After WWII, people were a mess. How could they have suddenly gone back to "normal" life once the war was over? They were in shock.

After WWII, western culture was frozen, for a number of years, in a state of severe PTSD. People went about their daily lives, and things looked ok on the surface, but oh my, all was not well.

This is the world into which we baby boomers arrived. Good lord. It explains a lot.


Mrsupole said...

Hi Reya,

I think the sad thing about history is that they say it always repeats. And sadly there are people who are still dying because someone else wants power or they dislike the beliefs of the one who died. It does seem like there are a lot of us baby boomers.

Also it is sad that there are those who believe the Holocaust never happened and the pictures are fakes. It is funny, well not really funny, about the second hand smoke. I tell people that I grew up in a cloud, always surrounded by smoke from so many adults smoking. Sometimes I wonder how they could even see to drive and we did not have A/C in our cars back then. Warm days were not so bad because we could open the windows and the smoke blew out. Now that I think about it, our whole house smelled like a dirty ashtray. We had an ashtray just about everywhere. I think I have one ashtray in my house and I keep potpourri in it. Times do change.

Thanks for bringing back some memories.

God bless.

steven said...

i think the great magical thing about the boomers is that they brought so much magic back to the forefront - well maybe i should be cautious and say - some of them brought so much magic to the forefront and then they pushed the envelope of understanding and perception and welcomed back pieces of the earth and her spirit and then also the spiritual - into this place and i am the grateful recipient of this wave of loving energy that is likely the first little pieces of wood on the great bridge that we as people (for now) are creating between what was and what will be and i cannot and don't really wish to forget the past but i can't settle into it's sometimes but not always and in every way sorry sad messed upness for too long because there's work to be done that doesn't benefit from me looking over my shoulder for too very long, so, i look forward and try my damndest to recognize my place in the great work and help get it done . . . cuz some day someone will wake up and not know about war or dopiness or malice or spite and i'd so like to think that perhaps through the collective efforts of people living their own simple lives in good ways and bringing whatever goodness they can into this world, that this simple vision . . . this simple possibility . . . can become what is. peace. love. out!

Reya Mellicker said...

We had ashtrays everywhere! Riding in the car with the windows up in winter, both parents smoking up a storm, was truly miserable. My parents smoked Chesterfield Kings. Yours?

BTW great to see you Mrsupole!

Steven we were in the right place at the right time. It's interesting to think about, as if we caught the perfect wave of luxury, intensity, and transformation. I might have to write more about that.

ellen abbott said...

Yes, that's very right. We were afraid early on. Those air raid, A bomb drills, duck and cover. We had an emergency pantry for several years. You were supposed to have a years worth of canned goods stashed away. I don't think we had a years worth but we did have some. And then later it was just fear of radioactivity and mutants! OMG, mutants! I remember several very scary late night B horror films about mutants. And even later when we learned how long it took for radioactivity to disperse...scorched earth. No wonder our generation underwent such a severe schism.

Steve Reed said...

You never hear much about the late 1940s. I think you're right -- those years were about healing and recovering. PTSD indeed!

Reya Mellicker said...

Mutants! Oh yeah! Gigantic beasts and all manner of scary crap.


Steve that's why I might attempt to read the novel I mentioned in the post. It is set just after WWII.