Welcome to the forty-first issue of CEE News!
A few years ago, my mother and I were rummaging through an antique store in North Bend, Oregon. We came across stacks of Life magazines, and dug through them until we found a copy from January of 1962 – the year that I was born. I had expected to find quaint articles on fashion – with tweed suits and coordinating pillbox hats à la Jackie Kennedy – or a feature of one of movies released that year like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Miracle Worker, or Lawrence of Arabia. Instead, the edition was devoted to nuclear fallout shelters. Against the backdrop of escalating tensions with the Soviet Union, President Kennedy urged Americans to build bomb shelters in a speech he delivered the previous October.
“We owe that kind of insurance to our families and to our country… The time to start is now. In the coming months, I hope to let every citizen know what steps he can take without delay to protect his family in case of attack. I know you would not want to do less.”
Seeing that magazine from the year I was born was sobering. I realized that I was born during one of the most terrifying years of the Cold War – one in which the president of the United States essentially warned its citizens that they were on their own in the face of imminent annihilation.
Looking back, I realize that childhood has a way of warping our perspective. I had equated Kennedy with Camelot and his challenge to put a man on the moon as inspiring Americans around a collective purpose. Instead, I learned that Jackie Kennedy essentially crafted the Camelot tale just four days after her husband was assassinated in order to promote his legacy. The space program was opposed by the majority of American adults as a dumb idea and a waste of money.
It’s January of 2019. I’m dedicating this year to finding common ground, and that starts with challenging the basic assumptions of what I’ve always “known” to be true.