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With threats of nuclear war and climate disaster growing, America’s ‘bunker fantasy’ is woefully inadequate

With threats of nuclear war and climate disaster growing, America’s ‘bunker fantasy’ is woefully inadequate

The Conversation  March 25, 2022 David L. Pike

Professor of Literature, American University  At the end of the Academy Award-nominated film “Don’t Look Up,” with a meteor hurtling toward Earth, the movie’s three scientist-protagonists gather with family and friends for a last supper around a dinner table in central Michigan.

Having exhausted their efforts at action, they eat the food they’ve prepared and purchased, give thanks and pray before “dying neighborly” – to borrow a phrase coined by poet and writer Langston Hughes in 1965.

“Dying neighborly” was something of a common refrain in the small number of stories told by those writers and artists in the 1960s and 1980s who recognized the dangers of nuclear war but were unwilling or unable to accept the only measure recommended by the government: to buy or build your own shelter and pretend that you’d survive.

These stories didn’t get as much attention or acclaim as “Don’t Look Up.” But they continue to influence how the climate emergency or nuclear war is depicted in books and films today.

Shelter or die?

Faced with a Congress unwilling to fund large-scale sheltering measures, the Kennedy administration decided instead to encourage the private development of the individual shelter industry and to establish dedicated spaces within existing public structures.

Although in Europe and elsewhere, vast public shelters were built, the community bomb shelter was almost universally rejected in the U.S. as communistic. As a result, sheltering was available primarily to the military, government officials and those who could afford it. The practicality and the morality of private shelters were debated publicly. The morality or survivability of nuclear war itself seldom was………………………..

The opposite of dying neighborly was the mainstream debate over the right to shoot someone you didn’t want intruding into your private shelter.

This debate was dramatized in a 1961 episode of “The Twilight Zone,” in which desperate neighbors storm the entrance to the basement shelter of the only suburban family with enough foresight to build one.Yet as musician Bob Dylan recalled of the mostly working-class region of Minnesota where he was raised, nobody was much interested in building shelters because, “It could turn neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend.”………….
Until culture finds effective ways of telling other stories than the one I call the “bunker fantasy,” it will be difficult to sustain effective action in response to the climate emergency or the persistent threat of nuclear war………………………..

March 26, 2022 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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