A view of Yerevan, the capital city of the Republic of Armenia, with the backdrop of Mount Ararat (locally known as Masis). Photo: Serouj Ourishian/Wikimedia Commons
“You have not seen Mount Ararat how I saw it growing up. I promise, one day I will take you back home.”
Since childhood, my grandfather grew up listening to these words of his great-grandfather, Baghdasar, who fled to Armenia with his family during the 1915 genocide.
My grandfather recollects how Baghdasar would tell stories of their home in Bayazet, or Doğubeyazıt in modern Turkey, in the shadow of Mount Ararat, and promise his grandchildren that one day they would return to their home. In 1915, to save his family from the massacres, Baghdasar closed the doors of his house, crossed the Araks River, which flows along the borders of Armenia and Turkey, and ended up in the Armenian city of Gavar. According to my grandfather, when Baghdasar died, he still had the key to his old house in his pocket. Continue reading →
Congress should address our nation’s looming retirement income crisis by increasing Social Security’s modest benefits. (Photo: Courtesy of AFGE, Flickr | CC 2.0)
Social Security defenders on Thursday celebrated news that the Biden White House has withdrawn a regulation pushed by the Trump administration that, if finalized, could have stripped disability insurance benefits from hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people.
One of several attacks on Social Security the Trump administration attempted to complete during its final days in power, the proposed rule would have subjected some disability insurance recipients to more frequent eligibility reviews—a move that would have added another layer of difficulty to an already strenuous process aimed at determining whether beneficiaries still qualify for the program. Continue reading →
Activists, the UN, and even mainstream news outlets expressed dismay at the Trump administration’s decision to appoint regime-change champion Elliot Abrahams to the role of Special Representative for Iran.
Elliott Abrams speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C. Photo:Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC
The Trump administration has appointed disgraced neoconservative hawk Elliott Abrams to the new position of chief advisor on Iran after former insider Brian Hook handed in his resignation earlier this week. “Special Representative Hook has been my point person on Iran for over two years and he has achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday, “Following a transition period with Brian Hook, Elliott Abrams will assume the position of Special Representative for Iran, in addition to his responsibilities as Special Representative for Venezuela.” Continue reading →
President Donald Trump speaks during an event on kidney health at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on July 10, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Screenshot: YouTube
The Trump administration is reportedly planning to intensify its assault on Medicaid by granting certain states permission to convert federal funding for the program into block grants, a move critics slammed as a cruel and likely illegal attack on vulnerable people.
“Donald Trump and his advisers know that this will kill people, and they do not care. Every current and future Social Security beneficiary must band together to defeat this horrific proposal, or else all of our earned benefits will be next.”
Activists are working to raise public awareness and outrage over a little-noticed Trump administration proposal that could strip life-saving disability benefits from hundreds of thousands of people by further complicating the way the Social Security Administration determines who is eligible for payments.
The proposed rule change was first published in the Federal Register last month but has received scarce attention in the national media. Last week, the Social Security Administration extended the public comment period on the proposal until January 31, 2020. Continue reading →
Alright, you want to make this country a better place for yourself, your children and the many generations to come. So you make a donation to a political candidate you believe will fight for a better country.
But, in reality, you are wasting your money. Here’s why.
Television has long been the golden goose of political advertising. The conventional wisdom is that the candidate who can spend the most on it will most likely win. Continue reading →
Days after the U.S. ditched a Cold War-era weapons treaty with Russia, President Vladimir Putin on Monday said his country would move to develop new intermediate-range nuclear missiles if the U.S. did so first.
“If Russia obtains reliable information that the United States has finished developing these systems and started to produce them,” Putin said in a statement, “Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles.” Continue reading →
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona is among the public lands which could be threatened by the appointment of William Perry Pendley to oversee the Bureau of Land Management. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr/cc)
Control over nearly 250 million acres of public lands was placed Monday in the hands of a former Reagan administration official who has argued that all federal lands should be sold to fossil fuel and other corporate interests in accordance with the goals of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt appointed attorney William Perry Pendley as acting head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), sending fears throughout conservation groups that many of the country’s minerals and resources will soon be handed over to oil and gas companies. Continue reading →
State Department assures that “disruption of services” has been minimal, but women’s rights groups decry loss of the massive and destructive healthcare services in impoverished countries around the world
Health clinics in developing countries were put at risk for losing funding last year when President Donald Trump announced he would reinstate the global gag rule, taking U.S. aid from NGOs and their local partners unless they agreed to stop providing abortion care and counseling. (Photo: World Bank/Flickr/cc)
Women’s rights groups on Thursday denounced a report issued by the State Department on the impact of the Trump administration’s reinstatement of the global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy—saying the misleading document ignores the clear negative impacts the policy is having on poor communities and women around the world that have lost access to vital health services.
Yet in its review of Trump #GlobalGagRule, @StateDept omitted that clinics are once again shutting down & does not address predicted impacts on people losing critical health services. #maternalhealth
As a teenager, I remember being horrified about the possibility of nuclear war. I watched daily news reports about the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and listened to music about “what might save us, me and you,” as Sting’s 1985 song “Russians” put it (the answer: “If the Russians love their children too”).
But I especially remember the television event of 1983: “The Day After,” a fictional, made-for-TV movie that imagined a nuclear attack on American soil. The debates and discussions the film spurred make me wonder if a similar sort of high-profile cultural event would serve the country well today.
The water cooler event of the decade
At my junior high school in Southern California, “The Day After” was what everyone was talking about leading up to (and following) the night it aired on ABC on Nov. 20, 1983.
By all measures, it was a major media event. An estimated 100 million viewers tuned in. The White House phone lines were jammed and ABC headquarters in New York received more than 1,000 calls about the movie during its East Coast broadcast.
“The Day After” imagines a scenario in which America’s policy of deterrence fails. It depicts a nuclear attack through the experiences of Midwesterners – doctors, students, children, the pregnant and the engaged – followed by an extended (and, though grim, fairly unrealistic) consideration of post-blast repercussions.
Leading up to the attack, there is quotidian normality, followed by localized shock at the terrifying sight of missiles being launched out of the ground from Kansas missile silos. Panicked anticipation of an incoming nuclear attack follows, replete with period novelties such as huge lines at pay phones.
Although dated and artless in many ways, the representation of the blast remains horrific, if only by virtue of what it forces us to consider: the fire, wind and chaos; the widespread damage and suffering; the desperate need for medical care; and the futile desire for order and assistance.
Society as the characters in the movie knew it – just a day before – was a thing of the past.
“The Day After” was controversial even before it aired, with critics like Tom Shales of The Washington Post deeming it “the most politicized entertainment program ever seen on television.” Reverend Jerry Falwell organized a boycott against the show’s advertisers, and Paul Newman and Meryl Streep both tried (unsuccessfully) to run anti-nuclear proliferation advocacy ads during the program.
In the text that scrolls at the end of the film, “The Day After” declares its intention to “inspire the nations of this earth, their people and leaders, to find the means to avert the fateful day” – to, in essence, scare some sense into anyone tuning in.
Pro- and anti-nuclear groups used the film as a rallying cry for their positions. An Oct. 4, 1983 LA Times article (“‘The Day After’ Creating a Stir”) detailed a “conservative counteroffensive” that attempted to “discredit the film and write it off as a media conspiracy against Ronald Reagan’s strong defense posture.” Reagan supporters also hoped to defuse potential public backlash against American nuclear missile proliferation in Europe.
After the film aired, two simultaneous events at the epicenter of the film’s setting, the University of Kansas, are telling. A Los Angeles Times article titled “‘The Day After’ Viewed Amid Debate, Fear” described how a candlelight vigil in support of nuclear disarmament was joined by counterdemonstrators who “urged peace through military strength.”
As The New York Times’s John Corry wrote, “Champions of the film say it forces us to think intelligently about the arms race; detractors say it preaches appeasement.”
A trigger for serious reflection
Outside of partisan lobbying, “The Day After” opened the door for public debate about nuclear weapons.
Immediately after the movie’s broadcast, Ted Koppel moderated a riveting discussion that featured a formidable group of pundits, including Henry Kissinger, Elie Wiesel, William F. Buckley, Carl Sagan and Robert McNamara. During this special edition of “Viewpoint,” Secretary of State George Shultz also appeared to tell audiences that “nuclear war is simply not acceptable.”
The most prescient and horrifying questions from the audience and responses from the panelists on “Viewpoint” anticipate a future that’s eerily indicative of where we are today – a time of multi-state nuclear capability, where one unstable leader might trigger nuclear catastrophe.
In the weeks after the broadcast, schools and community centers around the country held forums during which people could discuss and debate the issues the film raised. Psychologists and communication scholars were also eager to study the movie’s impact on viewers, from how it influenced their attitudes about nuclear weapons, to its emotional consequences, to whether they felt empowered to try to influence America’s nuclear policies.
That was then, this is now
In the early 1980s, of course, it was the Soviet Union that posed the nuclear threat to America.
Today’s adversaries are more diffuse. The world’s nuclear situation is also much more volatile, with greater destructive potential than “The Day After” imagined.
A modern-day remake of “The Day After” would have to reckon with this bleaker scenario: a world in which there may be no day after.
The bellicose posturing that prevails in the White House today resonates, in some ways, with the public bickering between Soviet Head of State Yuri Andropov and Ronald Reagan in the months leading up to the broadcast of “The Day After.” After the film’s release, New York Times columnist James Reston hoped “the two nuclear giants” would “shut up for a few weeks” – that “some civility or decent manners” might prevail in the wake of public concern about the consequences imagined in ABC’s somber nuclear fable.
But as then-Secretary of State George Shultz pointed out in the Koppel interview, the aim of the Reagan administration was to never have to use nuclear weapons. It was to deter our nuclear adversary and to reduce our nuclear storehouse. Shultz’s words of assurance are a contrast to today’s rhetoric of nuclear one-upmanship that is totally removed from the devastating reality of nuclear war.
Trivializations of nuclear warfare on the order of “my button’s bigger than yours” undermine the grave reality of nuclear cataclysm. Such rhetoric is no longer the domain of farce, as in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” in which erratic, incompetent leaders bumble their way into the apocalypse.
Perhaps some modernized version of “The Day After” could function as a wake-up call for those who have no real context for nuclear fear. If nothing else, “The Day After” got people talking seriously about the environmental, political and societal consequences of nuclear war.
It might also remind our current leaders – Trump, foremost among them – of what modern nuclear war might look like on American soil, perhaps inspiring a more measured stance than has prevailed thus far in 2018.