by Hudson Saffell, Associate Editor
If I told you the reason millions of 21st Century Americans take the idea of Doomsday so seriously is because of the gut-wrenching shock of 9/11, would you believe it? Seeing that Americans ingest max-doses of media about The End, after The End, and after the after The End, and that spending bajillions on survivalist-catered merchandise a practical investment, I don’t see why not. But don’t let me sway you one way or the next—let history.
2015 marks the 70th anniversary of a global experience that spelled out a new view of warfare, and the potential future of us all: the atomic bombings on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan. Before these events—which are destined for infinite, ethical debate—the United States’ homesteaded turf of Oahu, Hawaii experienced the Imperial Japanese Navy’s bombing, and kamikaze strikes on the U.S. military-owned lagoon, Pearl Harbor, in 1941. It is this event from which our latest issue of The Abington Review takes its theme.
The U.S. responded with a multi-prong operation—including forcing Japanese-Americans from their homes into camps in the American West and Southwest, subjecting a host of military men to island-hopping, affix-bayonet combat missions in the South Pacific, and, during the next several years: the planned development, production and introduction of atomic weapons to Japan, and to the world.
The atom bomb-drops didn’t turn a new page; they created a new book, called Forever in Limbo. Nations sought out and caught the scent of sensitive nuclear specs straight from the U.S—who wishfully thought A-Bombs were going to stay as American as fast-food. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics began to mass-produce nuclear weapons in 1949, and a Commie nuke-spook boomed that climaxed during the Cuban Missile Crisis (and the Bay of Pigs behind it), creating as much (if not more) fear and paranoia in America as did the airstrike on Pearl Harbor.
During the Cold War stand-off between the Soviets and Americans in the 1950s and ‘60s, a U.S. government-induced program called Civil Defense sprang up—seemingly overnight—and preparedness ideology spread like margarine on Wonder Bread. Americans from all over the nation bought (literally and figuratively) into the idea of Civil Defense, organizing plans and preemptive solutions to cope with nuclear threats, installing fallout shelters beneath public buildings and private homes, and littering neighborhoods with pamphlets on the matter of nuclear blast, and of “surviving” fallout.
It is during this time in U.S. history that the beginnings of doomsday preparation were fueled and stoked. Television and print media laced with the idea of apocalypse now defined a new genre that grew into a widespread paranoiac phenomenon, and a lucrative market to go on…
9/11 wasn’t a nuclear attack, but it didn’t matter. The fact that America (yes, AMERICA) was proven vulnerable resurrected the fear that had followed Pearl Harbor and boiled during the Cold War. The safety net’s torn; paranoia and preparation for doomsday now got a hold on, again.
Take a look at the National Geographic Channel’s own ‘Doomsday Preppers,’ a television series entering its fifth season this year, all sponsored by the U.S. Gold Bureau (wink…).
There are periodicals that hold a place on the shelves of almost any magazine rack like American Survival Guide and Doomsday, with cover stories, “The End is Here” (Doomsday, Spring 2015) and (…wink) “Gold: A Prepper’s Currency” (American Survival Guide Vol. 4 issue 3). Americans are now entertained by a host of zombie-prone, graphically violent views of the universe and other beings; dystopian, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic films are filling up movie theaters with titles like The Book of Eli, Resident Evil, Battle: Los Angeles, Oblivion, World War Z, Pacific Rim, Elysium, This Is the End, Edge of Tomorrow, and even a remake of Red Dawn, not to mention AMC’s The Walking Dead TV series that’s been doing the zombie-walk since 2010 without let-up.
In his first address to the United Nations in 1961, President John F. Kennedy said that “every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness.” But perhaps it was madness that started it all to begin with.
Post Script. I repeat…