This page is an archive from the previous version of The Row Boat, which is why it doesn't look and work the same as the current version. However, these archives are fully functional and integrated with the new system.
Why does this site permit advertising?
Powered by Little Logger
The Row Boat
"Had we but world enough, and time..." *
Fallout and Banality1/09/2007 16:30:30
The other night I had the second dream that I can remember vividly about an air attack. These dreams are completely terrifying, filled with an overpowering sensation of helplessness and awe and madness. The attackers, of course, personify only as machines, or chemical forces (explosions, sounds), or imagination. This last dream was about a nuclear attack. I was in a house an hour away by car from the city where it struck, with some friends. What I remember most of all is the sound of the blast, distant yet completely immanent and absorbing. The sound absorbed me, so loud that nothing else in the whole world seemed possible. Then a moment afterward was the sensation of disbelief. With the sound now gone, could I be sure that it had really happened? Memory would give anything to answer No. And then waiting. Would the shock wave come? It didn't? And the fallout? We could only wait for the invisible spirit-world of radiation to become manifest, waiting to get sick, waiting for friends to die. Finally, nothing was worse than the question, the logic, of What human being could have caused this to happen? Don't they know? How could they? I am amazed, actually, how well my dream knew, how deeply it caused me to feel the sense of absolute madness that it is the goal of human societies to eradicate.
When I woke up I came across an article in the New York Times (
U.S. Selecting Hybrid Design for Warheads) about new plans in the US military for building new nuclear warheads to replace our aging arsenal. The gimmick for these new weapons, of course, is more anti-terrorist safeguards to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. And of course this is a tremendous worry since the whole discourse of post-9/11 foreign policy has been a sort of bullying version of nonproliferation: we go bananas and threaten violence whenever other sovereign countries try to build a bomb. The US, however, clearly shows no interest at all in setting the example of a world free of the "nuclear option" - we answer by ensuring our ability to blow up the whole world a dozen times over is in no way undiminished.
If there is any good about this insanity that has replaced the insanity of the Cold War, it is that finally we have no pressing need for the same vast nuclear arsenal. "Terror," our declared enemy, can't be blasted out of existence by a big bomb. Doing so actually would make terror worse, since it is a human emotion that happens to be caused by senseless violence. The least we could do (and this would be easy) would be to decomission the old weapons without replacements, keeping the thousands that are left, and declare that a step toward detente. Ideally, we would disarm the nukes completely and demand that Iran, France, Israel, and the rest do the same.
So what is the theology of the nuclear weapon? It is opposed to the banality, the soldiers, politicians, and scientists who build the weapon of God for small reasons: small fear, small careers, small money, small pride. I think in a case like this theology can begin with the dream, the experience that seeks as much as it can to know its own effects and meaning. Also, the Cold War as a record of experience, as a kind of behavior, as a kind of madness, is coming of age as a source for self knowledge. Its madness can reveal the present madness, and then to show modes of madness that reply. The prophets of the Cold War and Vietnam who were proven right now deserve to be our Sources and Wisdom.