I’ve been thinking a lot about the 1985 Sting song Russians lately.  Penned in the  last years of the cold war when it felt as if things were heating up, the song asked:

How can I save my little boy
From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?
There is no monopoly on common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

I remember vividly how it haunted me. Even as a young child, I feared the bomb. Raised in a political household, I heard Reagan’s heated rhetoric and I knew that nuclear war meant nuclear holocaust.

I was not allowed to watch “The Day After”- the 1983 ABC  movie about nuclear war.  But I  remember the discussions. Indeed, ABC printed a guide for schools and families to discuss the film and Ronald Reagan cited it as a reason he pursued nuclear disarmament. (If you have never watched it and you have desire not to sleep for weeks, you can watch it here)

I remember being a kid and feeling so powerless and terrified that we could all die because leaders far away somehow believed they could win a nuclear fight. Sting’s words rang true to me:

There’s no such thing as a winnable war
It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore
Mister Reagan says ‘We will protect you’
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

The hope- echoing in Sting‘s lyrics was that the certainty of mutually assured destruction would prevent such a catastrophe. It’s been a long time since I was afraid in that way. But that fear is now back. When Donald Trump takes the oath of office, he will have the nuclear codes.  He can tweet us into a nuclear war. Trump, the easily enraged man-child, could launch a war the decades of cold war leaders managed to avert.

Sting could appeal to President Reagan as a rational actor. Such an appeal is predicated on the idea that Reagan was a) rational and b) that his actions were part of some overall foreign policy for the good of the American people.  But we all know that if Trump launches nuclear weapons, it will not be over ideology but over a bruised ego. A man who can be enraged by Alec Baldwin or Meryl Streep, will kill us all in a fit of pique. 

And so- I find myself almost thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall once again fearing the bomb. It’s a strange place to be. I look at my children (10 & 13 )and am filled with anxiety- one they cannot fully comprehend. They do not have a sense of what nuclear weapons are. They have not had the specter of a mushroom cloud lurking in the corners of their psyches as I did. This feeling of doom that I now have- the one that hung over my childhood- has been absent from their lives. Under Obama (and due to our privilege) they have had childhoods. And I don’t think I realized how powerful that was until this week.

I haven’t talked with my kids about my fears of a nuclear Trump- and we have talked honestly about the other implications of this election. But I am just not sure how to talk about this with them without regressing to my ten year old self- terrified of the bomb and powerless to stop it.

The ticking clock in the beginning and end of Sting’s song is now the ticking time bomb of our president elect.