Friday, August 05, 2005

Learning to Live "In-Between"

It is reported that Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, pounded the pilot's shoulder when the atomic bomb was dropped sixty years ago this week and yelled, "My God. Look at that son of a bitch go!" It was only later, in retrospect, that he recorded, "My God, what have we done?"

I have been thinking about the advent of the Cold War at that moment and how it led to the infamous "duck and cover" of baby-boomer schooldays. Did we really think that putting our head between our legs would make any difference? Even more frightening was the lingering terror that we felt as we cowered in the hallways waiting for the Soviets to drop "the big one." Is that so much different from the terror that lingered at King's Cross Station yesterday as they re-opened the Picadilly Line in London? Newspaper reports this morning suggest that subway ridership is down 5-15% during the week and even more over the weekend.

It seems to me that there are many different entities which have an interest in building up and maintaining this heightened sense of anxiety amongst us. Barry Glassner suggests in his book, The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things, that the use of fear and diversion tactics allow politicians and power-makers to divert attention away from society's most important and pressing issues. Frightened citizens, he posits, make better consumers and more easily swayed voters.

So, on the one hand, it is important that we remember this week the horrific power let loose over Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII, as well as the attempt to create panic and terror in London, and other major cities, by present-day terrorists. But it is also important not to give into the angst of the age and try to drown our sorrows in food, drugs, or the incessant noise which surrounds us--to learn to embrace the goodness of God's creation and the people around us who mean so much to us. Learning to live in that tension is at the heart of the Christian gospel.