Bread and cir­cuses

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Eastern Pas­sages Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

What a time to be alive. The last time I thought I might be at risk from nu­clear fall­out, I was in grade school and the air raid sirens in Hal­i­fax were wail­ing in the mid­dle of the school day, ei­ther by ac­ci­dent or technical er­ror, and we were look­ing out the long glass school­room win­dows fear­fully, won­der­ing if we were sup­posed to be hid­ing un­der our desks.

In the years since then, the chances of nu­clear pow­ers pulling the trig­ger on each other seemed to be grow­ing smaller and smaller as walls came down and trade opened up.

I mean, for years the chance of a ter­ror­ist “dirty” nu­clear weapon - a bomb meant to do less dam­age by ex­plod­ing and more by spreading nu­clear con­tam­i­na­tion - has been out there as a threat.

But now we’re in a stand­off be­tween a nu­clear rogue state (North Ko­rea) and an Amer­i­can Twit­ter-rogue pres­i­dent with the at­ten­tion span of a gnat.

One mo­ment, Don­ald Trump’s at­tack­ing foot­ball play­ers and their free­dom of speech, the next, he’s tweet­ing some­thing that North Ko­rea in­ter­prets as a dec­la­ra­tion of war. Puerto Rico may have lost more than 80 per cent of its food pro­duc­tion due to a hur­ri­cane’s di­rect hit, it may have no elec­tric­ity (and may not have any for months) and peo­ple’s lives are in clear danger, but heck, “Murica and the flag.”

Mean­while, a clearly un­sta­ble leader (take your pick) is re­motely egging on an­other ob­vi­ously un­sta­ble leader (still take your pick) and they both have nu­clear weapons and an ad­dic­tion to Dirty Harry-like “make my day” state­ments. I know the first thing I’d do if I was ever given the chance to speak to the United Na­tions would be to threaten to bomb 25 mil­lion peo­ple into dust, right? Or else, given the op­por­tu­nity, I’d lob a few test­drive ICBMs at a coun­try with enough atomic weaponry to wreck the world a few times over.

Didn’t we all know Don­ald Trump and Kim Jong-un in high school?

You re­mem­ber them - their dads were rich and gave them big cars and free gas, and damned if they weren’t go­ing to chug South­ern Com­fort all night and then get in a back­road race un­til they T-boned a fam­ily in a mini-van at a four­way stop.

They’d walk away - not the fam­ily, of course, but the rich kids, each blam­ing the other, and nei­ther one got jail time be­cause of all that lim­it­less op­por­tu­nity stretched out in front of them.

So they’d go on to their next big car and their next big crash, and re­ally the only guar­an­tee for any­one else’s safety would be if they hit a bridge abut­ment be­fore hit­ting the next hap­less vic­tim. (Come on, bridge abut­ment.)

Give me lead­ers who un­der­stand con­se­quences, not ones that wrap them­selves in flags and want salutes from the mil­i­tary. Jong-un al­ready has mil­i­tary pa­rades, and now Trump wants them too, and the only real rea­son is to see who has the big­ger mis­siles and the long­est pa­rade. And even­tu­ally the only way to prove whose car is faster or whose mis­siles are big­ger is to fire a few of those suck­ers off, even if you have no idea of where or who they’re go­ing to hit and kill, and re­ally, what’s a fam­ily do­ing out there in a mini­van any­way? It’s not like they were any­one im­por­tant or any­thing, block­ing the road like that.

And all I want is for my kids to be safe from men with no un­der­stand­ing of suf­fer­ing, un­less you count the suf­fer­ing of be­ing the one who’s got the least amount of gold gild­ing their lat­est par­tic­u­lar palace.

What a time to still be alive.

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