Table of Contents:
- Hooray! We’ve Succeeded In Scaring Our Kids
- Rising anxiety levels in youth
Child psychiatrists, psychologists and educators are report rising anxiety among today’s youth, thanks to all the doomsday talk about the destruction of the planet.
When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, the Cold War was in full flower. The geopolitical chess and rhetoric went back and forth between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, both of which held nuclear arsenals some claimed were sufficient to destroy the world multiple times.
A survivable nuclear war was an accepted concept back then. School kids went through drills for nuclear attacks just like for schoolhouse fires. Some families even invested the time and money to build and stock underground bunkers where they could hole up to wait out the inferno.
Because we lived about 20 miles from Ellsworth Air Force Base, east of Rapid City, SD, folks probably didn’t harbor much hope of survivability. Home to a B52 bomber wing, the base was suspected of being a primary target in a preemptive strike. Of course, that area of western South Dakota was ringed by lots of underground missile silos, too. In fact, the late Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) used to say that if the Dakotas ever seceded from the Union, the two states would constitute the third-largest nuclear power in the world.
All the while, armaments continued to grow more powerful and fearful. The first bomb dropped in Japan was estimated as equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. A few years later, the first hydrogen bomb was pegged at releasing the energy of 10 million tons. Later, a Russian megabomb was said to pack the wallop of 50 million tons of TNT.
Back in those days, the news was full of technological breakthroughs, not at the dizzying pace of today, of course, but the sky seemed to be the limit as the American economy hummed, and the U.S. and the Soviets reached for the promise of space. Regional conflicts continued to percolate around the world, with the U.S. and the USSR generally supporting opposing sides. Over all of them seemed to hang the potential for escalation to a nuclear confrontation.
Needless to say, the threat was real – not perceived. For instance, I remember the angst – in adults and kids alike – as we followed news coverage of the 1962 faceoff over Soviet missiles in Cuba. And when the Soviet Union finally imploded in 1991, we learned just how close the Soviets had come in the 1980s to pulling the trigger on a preemptive strike on the West.