Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick

Photo by Paul Sableman | CC BY 2.0

I had just turned 15 when the Cuban Missile Crisis suddenly erupted. Like everyone else my age I had been propagandized from early childhood to see the Reds as America’s mortal enemy and to fear their designs to wipe us off the map. So in October of 1962 I was shocked to learn that the Soviets had installed nukes only miles from our shores. It went without saying that we were innocent victims of a deadly plot. How monstrous! But it wasn’t long before I was also frightened, darkly so. The images I had seen as a child of about eight of the desolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came back to me and I suddenly realized that the same fate could befall us. How had this happened?

Thus for the first time in my life I questioned the world view fed to me since I had reached the age of reason only to discover (albeit gradually) that reason and logic were far from operative in our world. It dawned on me then as never before that if the American response to the crisis was a military one then we were finished. Just how perilous the situation was I would only fully appreciate much later but the fear was real enough at the time. Though I had been a newsboy I had never really read newspapers but began devouring every story on the crisis. My neighbors, like my own family, were inner-city working class people who didn’t pay much attention to politics but suddenly there was a palpable tension among adults. In the local A&P supermarket canned goods…

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