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Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Haves, The Have-Nots, and The Bomb


When I was a little girl growing up in Detroit I saw Khruschev on the television banging his shoe. I don't know whether he scared me or all of the media hype surrounding him did the job. There was a great fear of "Commies". Russia had the bomb and was going to drop it on my neighbohood. We had bomb drills at school during which we practiced squatting under our desks with our arms covering our heads. I never understood how crouching in a "duck and cover" position would protect us from the blast of an atomic bomb. The only thing that could "save" any of us was a bomb shelter and my family couldn't afford one.

Most working families couldn't afford one nor could they escape the bomb shelter adverting blitz in the papers and on the television. I was not the only kid who worried every night about being bombed and my family and me being hurt or dying. The kids in Iraq were probably scared too; when they saw Bush on TV b
efore the Americans bombed Baghdad.

There was one family in our neighborhood that had a bomb shelter. Their twin girls were in my class. Their father did not work in a factory. They were so rich that he probably had an office job like Beaver's father, Ward Cleaver.

The twins had a birthday party and invited the whole class. Did I mention that they had a swimming pool? Even though Lake St. Clair was a mere three blocks away a swimming pool was a big deal! It was a pool party but that was not all. The girls' birthday would be eclisped by another event.

The "rich dad" called us all out of the pool and asked for silence; he was going to make an announcement. They had just finished installing his brand new super-deluxe bomb shelter and as an extra treat, we were all to have an open house bomb shelter tour. He separated us into small groups and led one group at a time down the steps into temporary safety. It was only equipped to shelter and support six people not an entire fifth grade class.

Once inside, like a gadget hawker at a county fair, he demonstrated all of its wondrous lifesaving features. The bunks folded up and down so there would be living space during the day. The table was also hinged and would hang from the side wall when not needed. Cushioned benches served as storage units for canned food and bottles of water. Cardboard boxes of additional food and water were stacked floor to ceiling in the second chamber of the entry (the first chamber would be closed off by a door with an anti-contaminant seal). A small cookstove, counter, and rack filled with pans and utensils served as the shelter's kitchen. There were six cubbyholes for personal posessions, hooks for hanging clothes, a sort of a port-a-potty thing in a small closet, a generator, a sewing box, and shelves filled with board games, books, pencils, and paper.

He showed us a vent pipe that journyed up through the ground to provide air. I found myself wondering if the air wouldn't be contaminated but when I asked he said that the filter would decontaminate it.

You wouldn't think that a tool box would inspire nightmares, but when our "rich" neighbor opened the large container and and began explaining the importance of the tools it contained, the visions that would plague my dreams for months began to form in my eleven year-old mind.

The tools were for rebuilding. Everything, he told us, as far as we could see.... everything, everywhere, would be totally destroyed. The devastation would be worse than that which remained after the Enola Gay dropped its load on Hiroshima. A moonscape littered with charred and twisted broken bits would be all that remained of the familiar that we all took for granted in our daily lives. "Rich dad" had prepared for this eventuality. He would salvage what pieces he could, take out his tools, and build a new life for his family. Not only did he have an office job; he must have, at one time, been a Boy Scout.

My heart was about to explode; I could hardly breathe. What about our house, my friend Kathy's house about four doors down, and Rosemary's house around the block? What about my Grandma's house, our school, and Al's Drugstore on the cornor? What would happen to all of us? We kids looked around at each other only to find in each set of eyes a reflection of our own terrible fears. We were all going to die but the twins with their rich dad and mom would not. We all felt shame, too, for what we did not have. I wanted to get out of there. I needed fresh air. I went up the steps, crossed the yard, and dove into the pool.

I decided if I didn't eat as much, get sick, just wore my old clothes to school, and didn't ask for anything for Christmas maybe my family could save up for a bomb shelter. Every night, I fell into a fitful sleep after trying to figure out if we could save ourselves by running down to the basement, or if we could dig down under its floor to survive and how we could make a "vent" that would filter radiation.

The Russians never dropped "The BOMB" on my neighborhood and I am sure that Dwight D. Eisenhower had something to do with preventing it. "Ike", unlike the childish, petulant George W. Bush, was a strong, intelligent man who had seen the worst of war and abhorred it. War was not an option as far as Eisenhower was concerned.

Most people at that time, hid the fact that they were building or had a bomb shelter for fear of being over run by shelter seeking friends and neighbors. Why did the "rich dad" show off his super-deluxe bunker and scare a bunch of kids? I think it was because he suffered from the manic materialism that affects so many Americans even today. The manic materialist needs possessions to define his or her self; say like paying extra for clothing with a brand name prominently displayed on the pocket or across the behind and wearing it in an attempt to gain status. Free advertising, anyone?

More than anything, the "rich dad's" acquisition and actions highlighted a painful truth for all of us children; that in America the "haves" get to live while the "have-nots" are expendable. There was no attempt during this period of time to provide affordable bomb shelters for all American families and let's face it there would not have been enough time for most people to get to public shelters during an attack. The average American family was left to fend for themselves or die.

Recently, the average American family was advised to have duct tape and plastic on hand to ward off a possible chemical attack. If duct tape will do the trick, why do the taxpayers pay millions to protect the president, cabinet members, and the members of Congress in special shelters? Duct tape is cheaper.

Many of my generation are skeptical, outspoken, and definetly rebellious because we grew up with the "duck and cover" Cold War hype and then had our middle class and working class peers drafted to fight that other war that was based on lies. We were expendable once again as those who started the Vietnam War and the offspring of the wealthy and the elite did not have to bear arms in combat in Asia. The current Administration's fear mongering terrorist hype is old hat to many of us. We've been there and done that and it doesn't wash.....now let's get on with life. We can start by recognizing and learning from America's mistakes.

My experience with the "rich dad" and his family blasted a hole in my innocent Disney, Cleaver, Father Knows Best illusions of fairness in American life. I had been exposed to the harsh, cold truth. Even though I liked and trusted "Ike" (a Republican) who did a good job as president, ever since the birthday in the bomb shelter, I have traveled the path of a liberal progressive working for change in our society. It is time for the "Haves" to become responsible citizens. They should give up their mostly ill-gotten, protected-by-legislation gains, and fight in the wars that they start. It is time for the "Have Nots" to be paid more, taxed less, and valued equally. No one is expendable.

***NOTE - Pacific Islanders have become the "new expendables". They are being recruited to serve in "Uncle Sam's War of Lies" in Iraq. Many of their jobs have gone to China and they have been left with no way to make a living. Since families in the states are actively discouraging the enlistment of their children, Pacific Islanders are filling in the gap.

I have been writing this over a period of time while packing for a trip and taking care of many other things so must apologize for not being around. I hope that everyone is well and that the heat will leave us all soon.

...............Kitchen Window Woman...........................

8 Comments:

Anonymous Tom Harper said...

That "rich dad" sure sounds like a tacky bastard. He was probably a totally insecure little shit, and he compensated by flaunting his wealth. "Hey, kids, I have money, so I'll survive The Bomb, but you won't since you're poor and insignificant."

What a cowardly little man.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

Your contrast between Ike and El Shrubbo couldn't be more on the mark. Ike was a Republican with a brain and compassion, neither of which El Shrubbo possesses.

You think about some of the exceptional men who held the office of President, and then think about who holds it now, and it is enough to make you want to cry.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Window Woman said...

TOM...You know, I can't remember what the "rich dad" looked like but I remember the inside of the bomb shelter and vividly recall the fear. Each on of us was thinking, "but what about us?"

"Rich dad" was a cowardly little show-off who enjoyed having power over others...no Ward Cleaver, he.

Jolly Roger...the more I learn about Eisenhower, the more respect I have for him. The more I learn about George W. Bush, the deeper the needle on the "respect" meter dives into negative numbers. In my book, he started off with ZERO respect!

"Ike" was also gracious and respectful toward others which enabled him to be a skilled negotiator along with being a natural leader. George W's posturing, threatening, and sword rattling when measured by Eisenhower's standards, earn "W" a place among his peers - crazed nutless squirrels.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

what a great post! The young in America have been kept away from the history that the world and this country have gone through and thus we are doomed to keep repeating the same errors all over again.

I remember in the early 80's worrying about the Russians dropping the bomb during Reagan's "Evil Empire" phase. A different time than yours to be sure, but for young kids, fear knows no timeline.

Excellent comparison too about the difference between responsible conservative leaders and total morons. In the end, liberal or conservative won't matter much. What matters is how we treat each other.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Seriously, bravo. Nicely done.

Every leader we have ever had used fear to their advantage, maybe none better than this one. I wonder when we'll all get wise to it.

10:28 PM  
Blogger OTTMANN said...

Very lame, but highy emotional. Il-gotten gains? Just how would you know that? Your ASSumptions are insanely inane.

Too bad the libs are out of touch with reality.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Window Woman said...

KEN...I hadn't really thought about the young people being out of touch with history. I have always loved history and feel that it is an important tool that can be used to improve life on this planet.

I was worried in the 80's, too. My two youngest were tiny and I did not want history to repeat itself with America's threatening stance against countries (Russia) that did not do their bidding. Some of the same people who are responsible for the current "quagmire of senseless death" are "repeats" having served in Reagan's administration...Cheney, Rumsfeld, Feith, Perle, Abrams, etc.

How we treat each other is key. I think treating other nations as we ourselves wish to be treated would do wonders for foreign policy.

That's what makes this issue of Americans employing torture and lying about it pretty scary. Captured Americans and British soldiers (kids) are likely to reap the treatment that their respective countries sowed.

BRAD...This administration uses fear for several reasons: keeping the population hyped up on fear guarantees a receptive audience for a mythologically "strong" leader (a legend in his own mind), fear is easy to feed to the masses once they are hooked, fear is great for directing attention away from the hidden adgendas of those in power, and most of all fear depletes energy and is mind-numbing.

I have always liked this line from the following quote and have put it to use many times over the years.

"Fear is the mind-killer."

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when....
it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain"

Frank Herbert, Dune, - the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

"NO PROFILE" OTTMANN...like so many conservative bloggers you hide behind your flaming words.

You guessed right about "lame"...how'd you know that I use a cane because osteoarthritis has damaged my knees? But your ASSumption about me or my writing being "highly emotional" is dead wrong.

Most women, like myself, control their emotions. It is one of the skills required when one has the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of so many family members dependent upon her. One cannot manage a household and serve as the heart and the hearth of a family by being a hysterical, wimpering, frightened, weakling of a woman. Sorry to destroy your fantasy.

I am emotional when I "choose" to be and as controlled and logical as a Vulcan when decisions need to be made, I am in search of information, or "checking up" on our leaders.

You however, are extremely emotional! Your every word is loaded with rage and your phrases are punctuated with hate. There are many competent, compassionate therapists who could help you deal with your anger. At this rate you are in danger of stroking yourself out.

To address your question about the ill-gotten gains, etc. I read history, the financial pages, and have files going back years on members of this administration and others who lie, cheat, and steal in the name of the American people or god. I am not emotional. I am passionate....especially in my distaste for phonies.

P.S. Just check out the riders tacked on to various pieces of legislation, or better yet, ENRON, WorldCom, ENRON, WorldCom!

10:45 AM  
Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

Good post Kitchen Window Woman and welcome back to the blogosphere!

I think one major flaw in Bush's philosophy that the Conned Conservatives of America have generally failed to see is the fact that Bush defines terrorism as any act of war by fear and terror that is perpetrated by non-American interests or non-allies. Anything bad that HE is directly responsible for is not terrorism. In the same token, any act of treason that he commits or supports is "for the cause" but if anyone else does something that hurts our rights and freedoms, they are a traitor. The CCA are either truly brainwashed or truly insane. Not all conservatives are in this category but far too many are.

8:41 PM  

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