Roger Marolt: Like red droplets of blood suspended in the air
November 8, 2018
It looks something like a snow globe; you know, those clear half-dome, palm-sized trinkets that you shake and set on the table and watch small plastic snowflakes swirl like a cozy holiday blizzard around an idyllic miniature diorama of a make-believe village in a part of the world that has no problems.
It's exactly like that except, when you shake this thing, what are snowflakes in the traditional globe are more like deep red droplets of blood that stay suspended in the air, hovering and bouncing above a plane void of scenery, waiting, portending, dare I say predicting complete destruction of the planet.
It is a souvenir, if I may call it that, from the Cold War. I've had it since I was a boy and don't recall how it came to be in my possession. The red balls are in some sort of vacuum tube in the center of the clear container and when you shake it, the balls rise and are somehow suspended in the air. Supposedly it detects concentrated radiation moving through the atmosphere and, while I am sure that is not a scientifically adequate explanation, if the balls fall, it means a nuclear warhead has been deployed and you should seek shelter immediately. Ha! It seems like a joke now.
Honestly, what would I do if a nuke was imminently nearing ground zero and I had advance warning of about 15 seconds: Crawl under my desk and assume the fetal position? I mean, that's exactly what they told us to do. We practiced doing it. Every so often at school we had drills, and there we would be, sniggering at each other under our desks with the teacher barking out that simple instruction while scampering for the light switch. I understood that part of the charade least of all. Was it purely symbolic? Sorry kids, it's lights out for all of us.
So, I kept the nuclear portable ICBM detector all these years, first as a toy, then an interesting relic, and now an ironic reminder that the damn thing was pretty much a useless device intended to save lives but realistically offered nothing more than a false hope of immediate survival followed by a tortuously slow death wandering through a decimated landscape completely void of life and even a sip of drinkable water.
Maybe the threat of assured mutual nuclear destruction has passed. I don't see how as there are more and more powerful nuclear weapons on the planet now and it does not appear human nature has changed all that much over the past four decades, while the stability of men's minds with the authority to launch does not seem to be seeking wisdom so much as the tighter grip in a tenuous handshake for political photo ops, but we do not seem to worry too much about getting nuked anymore.
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I recall these things while trying to digest the news of people getting shot to pieces in our schools, places of worship, shopping malls, concerts and now a country and western bar in California on college student night. The one futile attempt we have made to try protecting ourselves and our loved ones from this madness is trying to convince our political leaders that something has to change in the way we control guns in the country. They push back and tell us it wouldn't help, all the while things get worse. Then they argue that, if more people had guns, things would certainly get better. When the solution comes down to that, there is no hope. The red balls have dropped. You might as well crawl under your desk.
Maybe we really do need to come up with a plan if suddenly we find ourselves in a public place and a gunman shows up. Maybe we should teach our kids how and where to crawl and practice it. Do you run in a zig-zag pattern to safety like they do in the movies, or do you drop where you are and play possum? Surely there are experts in the matter who can tell us where our best chances for survival lie. Let's run public safety announcements that tell us what to do. Let's put signs with diagrams on the doors of public gathering places. Plaster them on the sides of buses and billboards so that we are constantly reminded of the clear and present danger and never let our guards down.
If they are going to continue advocating for more guns on our street to make us safer, I am going to encourage the people I love to wear bulletproof vests every time they leave the house. There's an industry for you — lightweight, comfortable, bulletproof clothing, don't forget the hats. It's less ridiculous than a portable nuclear fallout detector.
Roger Marolt knows that all civil rights of victims in mass shootings have been extinguished at the expense of protecting one right for a madman to own a gun. Email at email@example.com.
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