Nuclear Bravado / by Adrian Galli

 Mushroom cloud from the bombing of Nagasaki, August 9th 1945, image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Mushroom cloud from the bombing of Nagasaki, August 9th 1945, image courtesy of the Library of Congress


 

This post is dedicated to those who lost their lives in Hiroshima (August 6th, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9th, 1945); the only instances nuclear weapons have been used against humans.

May we all learn from our history and not let their deaths be in vain. 

 

I work in film and TV because I like to tell stories. In fact, before all forms of written communication, the human race used storytelling to convey our history, how to find game for food, and build the moral and ethical future of our species.  

The power of storytelling come from one's ability to related an idea, even foreign, to someone else. It is why we laugh at a comedy, jump at a horror film, and cry when a story touches our deepest emotions.  

My passion for filmmaking is not just for the beauty of great cinematography or impactful characters but together, with the audience, share in a journey. Many stories have been told and while it is said there are only twelve storylines, human ingenuity brings us together time and time again through new ways of these stories.

With the tumult of our current global affairs, Donald Trump beats his chest with "fire and fury" and "locked and loaded" as tension builds with North Korea. This cavalier attitude toward military conflict is not the answer. It is the wrong play.

To be fair, I am not currently in fear of a nuclear conflict with North Korea. Frankly, should anything escalate to military conflict, the United States and its allies could easily wipe North Korea off the face of the Earth. But even the notion of a nuclear weapon being used today (or ever) is one that strikes both fear and sadness in me. Fear because these weapons don't kill a few hundred or thousand but millions. Fear because nuclear weapons impact not only ground zero but the lives or everyone and everything on the planet. And sadness, sadness because our world is so precious but we so carelessly destroy it and ourselves.

I have always had a fascination with the Cold War. It is truly a magnificent story worthy of Shakespearean recognition. However, in my time exploring the Cold War, the understanding of nuclear reality sunk deep in my mind. Even a "limited" nuclear skirmish could devastate the planet. And while the story of the Cold War is long since over, the number of times that we humans came within moments of nuclear annihilation was too frequent and far too close.

Few who I have spoken with know of these incidents. As we hear in History class about the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962, nearly at the same moment was the U-2 Spy Plane Incident when a U.S. pilot's confusion during the Northern Lights set in and passed over Soviet Airspace. Maultsby, the pilot, successfully navigated his plane, having run out of fuel, back out of Soviet Airspace minutes before two Soviet fighters would have downed his plane, starting what could have been a significant escalation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Further is the Able Archer Incident when the Soviet Union mistook Nato war-games for actual preparation for war. Or the 1979 NORAD computer malfunction which erroneously indicated that the Russians had launched an attack on the United States.

In 1983, it is by sheer bravery and integrity that one Russian Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov ignored procedure when Russian tactical systems misinterpreted clouds over the United States for a launch of nuclear weapons. It is only by his grace that you and I are hear to have this pleasant exchange. The human race was literally moments away from extinction and turning our precious planet into a radioactive cinder.

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
— Robert Oppenheimer, from the Bhagavad-Gita

How quickly one can see a minor incident escalating into international conflict, or dare I say nuclear war; World War III. It would be the conflict to end all conflicts.

The dinosaurs never had knowledge that their world was to come to an end, that it was the terminating point of their reign on Earth. But we humans are incredible creatures. We have landed men on the moon, vaccinated many diseases out of existence, put robots on Mars, been the first to break the sound barrier, master the atom, and propel the Voyager 1 probe outside of our Solar system. But how insanely sad would it be for our own hand to be the termination of our species. With overpopulation, limited resources concerning water, food and land, and climate change being denied by so many, must we also face nuclear annihilation? 

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
— Albert Einstein

There is a general order in evolutionary theory: a species can survive one catastrophe but when facing two, it likely spells doom. Should we find ourselves facing radiation, climate change, food chain collapse, and perhaps other obstacles, all of which we have the ability and resources to avoid, how might our species that brought art, philosophy, medicine, and science to the Earth fair? How would you feel if our last and final testament of humans was not curing cancer, eliminating poverty, or exploring space but finding ourselves extinct because of our own petty differences; arguing over lands, water, and archaic tribal god-figures? When, one day, an extraterrestrial stumbles upon Earth only to find that we, ourselves, came to extinction because of our own stupidity? And that aliens says, "However incredibly stupid were these humans? They destroyed themselves? Saving themselves was as plain as the nose on their faces."

Cinematic history is filled with philosophy. Films exploring the past, present, future, civil rights, inequities, and human strife. While such pioneers as Gene Roddenberry's [creator of Star Trek] share a bright future of humanity where we have put aside our differences and strive to better ourselves, sometimes we must look at the terror of what we are or could become; search ourselves and look in the mirror asking, "what should we be?" In that light, I encourage you, actually, I plead with you to view at least one of these films below about the horrors of nuclear weapons.

I have only been able to find some as "bootlegs" on Youtube; such important films forgotten with age. They are of limited quality but they share some thoughts you've may not considered.

I know some of my friends and colleagues support Donald Trump no matter what his transgressions may be, but I implore you to watch these films with an open mind and contemplate their stories.

As a favorite female character in a film once said, "Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too."

Films —

The Day After (1983)

Threads (1984)

Testament (1983)

Earth — Shot on iPhone, courtesy of Apple