Monday, January 30, 2017

The Button

A friend of mine who is a bit older than me told me this morning that she hasn't seen this kind of political climate since Vietnam. And even then, she said, this is different.

I know people are just beside themselves on social media for a number of reasons. Some are mad that other people are against a man they support. Others are just so upset by the terrible news, they wish they could find a break from it. They want Facebook to go back to puppies, meal pictures, and memes. I felt that way about a week ago. Now I don't. (Though I still watch any and all videos of dogs doing funny stuff.) Now I feel compelled to stay involved. The news is awful, but I can't get complacent.

Try not to get too stressed out about my battery life in this screenshot.

It's not just Trump who scares me. It's Steven Bannon, an alt-right conspiracy theorist who now has way too much power. If you're not sure who he is, google him and prepare to be terrified. Bannon, Trump, Ryan, Conway, Pence - - you just know their first year at Hogwarts, the sorting hat yelled SLYTHERIN before it even hit their heads.  

I'm scared that these people are in charge. I've been thinking a lot about a story I heard a couple years ago on of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab. The episode was called Buttons, Not Buttons. They covered a variety of unrelated stories having to do with buttons. But the one that really shook me was the story about a man named Roger Fisher, and in this case the "button" was the nuclear code button.* Fisher was a Harvard law professor who specialized in negotiation and conflict management. He also worked as an adviser for real political conflicts such as the Middle East conflict. Having served in WWII and seeing many of his friends killed in war, he was interested in how to avoid war, which leads me to my point. Fisher had a radical idea for how a US president might avoid nuclear war. And this idea blew my mind:
My suggestion was quite simple: Put that needed code number in a little capsule, and then implant that capsule right next to the heart of a volunteer. The volunteer would carry with him a big, heavy butcher knife as he accompanied the President. If ever the President wanted to fire nuclear weapons, the only way he could do so would be for him first, with his own hands, to kill one human being. The President says, “George, I’m sorry but tens of millions must die.” He has to look at someone and realize what death is—what an innocent death is. Blood on the White House carpet. It’s reality brought home.
When I suggested this to friends in the Pentagon they said, “My God, that’s terrible. Having to kill someone would distort the President’s judgment. He might never push the button.“
— Roger Fisher, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1981[10]
As they said on Radiolab,"the strongest objection is it might work."

I'm not saying I'm for or against this idea. But I've been thinking about it the last few days as I've thought about all the refugee children dying, starving, scared. Their parents beside themselves and hopeless. I've felt sick and disheartened. I wonder how someone could feel good about making this call - turning away these people who are desperate for help.

In the midst of all this I've also felt motivated to work harder, love harder, look for more opportunities to reach out to people in positive ways. I've been encouraged by the many, many people out fighting against these policies. I have to do more. Do I think posting a meme or a status update on Facebook is going to change anything? No. But am I going to stop? No. It's important to me to express these feelings.

I don't want to be angry all the time. But I also don't want to stop caring. This is all just too important.

*There really isn't a single button - it's more of a metaphor for making a call to go to war.

1 comment:

violet50 said...

Well said! I don't want you to stop. This is a critical time in our history whether or not people realize it. The people "he who must not be named" has appointed are, almost to a person, awful people-people whose ideas do not represent the heart of the American people. At least one hopes. Things could go horribly wrong at any time with their anti-any kind of rights attitudes. We are all going to have to be on the alert for the possibility of our rights slipping away or simply, loudly being pulverized by a sledge hammer of perverse power. Last days? I think so. But there is always hope and a higher power.