When Kish and I lived in Washington, D.C. in the early ’80s, a “Ban the Bomb” protestor camped in Lafayette Square Park, just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. His protest area featured a number of hand-lettered signs about the perils of nuclear weapons that featured photos of the devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In those days of the Reagan Administration, nuclear weapons were a big issue: some American communities were declaring themselves “nuclear-free zones,” as if municipal ordinances could repel nuclear warheads, and President Reagan was accused of being a dangerous war-mongerer.
Then the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist, and the United States and the Soviet Union talked about eliminating their nuclear stockpiles, and the worries about Mutually Assured Destruction and “duck and cover” seemed to be quaint issues that were behind us.
But, 35 years later, the “Ban the Bomb” protest is still there in Lafayette Park, with its little encampment and crude signage. And the nuclear issue, unfortunately, is still with us, too — except now the concerns aren’t about the Soviets, but about Iran, and North Korea, and ISIS, and rogue terrorist groups using nuclear weapons to advance their inexplicable political and religious agendas. Nuclear weapons are back on the front page, and the issue seems to have curdled and gotten worse, and more dangerous than ever.
Nobody seemed to be paying much attention to the protest area, though. Maybe we should.