Monday, March 18, 2013

Nuclear Blatancy Day, a Modest Proposal

Nuclear Blatancy Day, a Modest Proposal

         I have concerns about the political dangers of a standing nuclear army; yet I also agree that SAC’s power to destroy civilization should not be in the hands of recruits. How, then, do we reconcile citizen armies with nuclear technology?

         Jonathan Schell offers a partial solution in his book, “The Abolition”, which proposes that the USA become a “latent” nuclear power; that is, that it dismantle all actual nuclear bombs, but retain (and indeed strengthen) its ability to swiftly build those bombs. We keep the know-how and the infrastructure and the fissile materials, but hold off on building the accursed things unless we need them right away. You could call it just-in-time civicide; like taking the bullet out of the rifle over the fireplace. Nuclear latency is purified deterrence; a way for America to say to the world that we don’t feel like killing a million people today, so don’t make us want to. 

         I like Schell’s idea, but I think it’s incomplete. It’s too rational, it lacks the aura of apocalyptic histrionics so natural to all things nuclear. I therefore offer the following modest proposal: Nuclear Blatancy Day. It’ll work like this:

         Every Presidential election year, college and high school students across the country submit their bomb designs. The winning entries are cast into metal and chips (but no explosives and fissile materials, of course) and sent to the Nevada Test Range. There the bombs are loaded with plutonium from the armory, and lowered deep underground.

         The contestants arrive, and their families, and technicians, and generals, and reporters, and Presidential candidates, and foreign dignitaries. Also on hand are marching bands (pro-bomb) and satirical giant-puppet troupes (anti-bomb). Both groups are welcomed as essential components of the inherently mixed message being sent that day.  The Presidential candidates speak blandly of the People’s Bomb; the grandmother from Hiroshima pleads passionately for peace.

         The countdown starts. Five, four, three, two, one, zero! Suddenly new craters collapse in the Nevada desert. The marching bands cheer, the puppeteers boo, and the foreign dignitaries look at each other nervously. Technicians announce yields; the winning contestants get scholarships and job offers; and the dignitary from Japan quietly tells the other dignitaries that these Americans are indeed as crazy as they look, so don’t mess with them!

         The preceding three paragraphs are satire; but they are a satire that would work. It’s absurd, but slightly less absurd than what already exists. I offer it as my fulsome praise, and also my excoriating critique, of America and civilization and the entire human race.

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