May 31, 2017
The news is filled these days with accounts of guys shooting up bars, driving trucks into crowded parking areas, taking bombs to marathon races. Even occasional women are getting involved. There was a time when the Manchester bombing would have been the worst attack in years. But in today's world it came as no surprise that a massive attack on an ice cream parlor in Baghdad followed a few hours later. Meantime we're learning that ISIS is developing new kinds of bombs that will slip past airport security systems. It goes on and on.
This is going to sound crazy but when I was growing up, after the Second World War, stuff like this simply did not happen. I understand a lot of it is the result of the occupation by U.S. forces of various locations in the Middle East. And the disturbing argument that the real reason behind that has been to secure oil for U.S. corporations. But something like that would never have been enough to persuade someone living in Pennsylvania or South Jersey in 1948 to strap a bomb on his back and go out and kill a group of strangers at a local pizza place.
I suppose the major factor is that most of us enjoyed being alive. These bomb-carriers don't seem to be living a happy existence. Also, we benefited from a decent education, and most of us were exposed to the Ten Commandments. Or to similar descriptions of living the good life from other faiths.
Something else that no one ever mentions: The kids I grew up with were big fans of The Lone Ranger, Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Midnight, and the rest. I especially remember Superman, at the end of some episodes of his radio show in 1946, coming out to talk to us, reminding us that skin color is of no consequence, that hatred is not a good idea, that we're all in it together, and that we've an obligation to take care of each other.
I can't help wondering if these fictitious characters to whom we kids were all so closely connected didn't have a lasting effect. Do the right thing. Help others when you can. Be there when you're needed. A lot of that was reflected these past few days during the Memorial Day celebration.
On another topic, Greg Benford has a brilliant novel out from Saga, The Berlin Project. It's an alternate history that takes the reader through the making of the atomic bomb, and how things might have gone differently. Don't start it unless you have the leisure to finish it, because it's impossible to put down.