Sam Bauman: A memory of bad old days of MAD, novel ‘Fail Safe’
I seem to have a knack for stumbling on books that seniors will remember. Latest example is “Fail-Safe,” by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler. It dates from 1962 during the early stages of the Cold War days when schoolchildren were taught how to huddle under their desk in the event of a nuclear strike. An earlier version of the “mutual assured destruction” concept was Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” or “How I Learned to Live with the H-bomb.”
“Fail-Safe” is pretty grim reading, a portrait of technology that fails and attempts to prevent the end of Western civilization. But it’s pretty exciting reading and a vivid look at how we had to live with fear daily. I’m sure some seniors will remember those days and the book.
In 1962, I was in the Air Force, having spent two years on active duty, mostly with SAC arranging car races at Air Force bases for race car fan General Curtis LeMay. But I remember wondering if I was part of that “Fail-Safe” world.
This is hardly one time that seniors may not want to revisit, but it can remind us of how far technology can take us. Incidentally, Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” came out at the same time with a much lighter tone. If you’ve noticed that about every five miles on the interstate, there’s a mile-long stretch of straight pavement. That’s because when the interstate was built in Cold War days, every five miles there had to be a mile-long stretch of straight pavement for emergency plane landings in case of war.
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I sat in with the Carson City Senior Center political forum last Friday to try and get a sense of local politics. I used to enjoy hearing from the Conservative Corner on Mondays at Grandma Hattie’s, but I’m no longer welcome there.
So I joined the forum in the lower reaches of the senior center, where four men and two women were waiting, along with a center moderator. All had strong political opinions and were happy to share them. They made sense, but it wasn’t strident; all made their points and moved on. Too bad it can’t be that way in national debates. Trump wasn’t loved and other candidates got their lumps.
And we didn’t get around to local races, such as for city mayor. But it was refreshing to hear locals expressing opinions in moderation. The forum meets the first Friday of the month at the senior center. Think I’ll join them again next meeting.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.