When I was a kid, I accepted that the world was going to end in my lifetime through nuclear war. In a way, it was kinda like the kids today who have never lived in a world before 9/11. Until 1990, I had never lived in a world without the Cold War. It was part of my culture. My son was born in 1990, so he barely missed it.
I was born a few years after the Cuban missile crisis, but I knew all about it. It was in my history books. Some of the first news events I noticed were about the cold war. I watched President Carter boycott the Moscow Olympics and then watched Russia boycott the Los Angeles Olympics. I watched on TV as Russia illegally invaded Afghanistan, which we didn’t learn anything from. I watched as we funded Afghanistan’s fight against Russia the same way Russia funded North Vietnam to fight us.
Everyone was fine with the United States and Russia fighting as long as they weren’t fighting each other.
In 1983, over 100 million people in this country watched The Day After, a TV movie about the day after nuclear exchanges between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It scared the shit out of us. It remains to this day the second scariest movie to feature Steve Guttenberg after Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (I had to look that up).
When the Soviet Union shot down a South Korean airliner in 1983, a lot of us kinda expected a war to start.
We all watched Red Dawn a thousand times, a film whose movie poster looked like a Lauren Boebert Christmas card and which to this day remains the second scariest movie to feature Charlie Sheen after Major League II. Later, we thought there was no way a movie could be made that made less sense than Red Dawn until they re-made Red Dawn with the Soviet/Cuban invasion replaced by one from North Korea. The original Red Dawn also featured Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, but they had to wait until their next movie together to get it on. Fortunately for the couple, Commie Soviets don’t dirty dance.
We were all told we were going to die in that shitty keyboard-heavy song, “The Final Countdown,” by Europe, the second scariest band to ever come out of Sweden after the Nazi-heavy Ace of Base (turns out “The Sign” they saw was a Swastika).
And even if the United States and Russia weren’t going to fire nukes at each other, The Terminator told us machines would become self-aware and fire those nukes at us. I’m still afraid to buy a Roomba.
Even Elton John sang about a Soviet soldier behind the wall that he’d never get to be with because of the Cold War, which didn’t make any sense because “Nikita” is a guy’s name and….Oooh. Now I get it (but seriously, despite its relevancy being destroyed, “Nikita” is a really good song. It’s a lot better than that anti-Cold War song Sting did, called “Russians.” I bet you don’t remember that one).
We were living with the acceptance that we were doomed, which was kinda OK because it would save us from being embarrassed in the future when our kids found old pictures of us wearing neon spandex and huge shoulder pads (which is less embarrassing than your kids finding your Poison cassette. I swear, son…I’ve always hated “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”). I still don’t understand leg warmers.
And then Mikhail Gorbachev came along and brought Glasnost and Perestroika. He ended the Cold War, tore down the Berlin Wall, and with the help of Nirvana, ended Europe’s music career (name a second song from Europe. You can’t). Finally, Paul McCartney was able to sing “Back in the U.S.S.R” when in Moscow when it was no longer the U.S.S.R. Maybe Putin was listening when Macca sang “those Ukraine girls really knock me out.”
Gorbachev was the last Soviet leader. It wasn’t his intention to dismantle the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact, but that’s what he did. Oppski. Gorbachev initiated economic and political reforms. He knew the nation couldn’t survive under a strict communist economic system (people wanted to buy those acid-washed jeans). He tried to turn the Soviet Union from a one-party state into a socialist democracy…it didn’t work. And despite what Sputnik Boy Ted Rall will tell you, what Russia has today still doesn’t work.
After the Berlin Wall came down and eastern European nations, who also wanted to buy blue jeans and Cyndi Lauper records (if they had heard Poison, they may have rebuilt the wall), started to leave the Warsaw Pact, Gorbachev didn’t send the military in to stop them. After a coup attempt, nations started to leave the Soviet Union. Nations like Ukraine. Today, several former Soviet States consider Russia an enemy, which is pretty much the same way I feel about Poison (and Train…and Nickelback).
Mikhail Gorbachev refused to go to war to preserve the Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin is using war to build it back.
Putin never wanted democracy and is President of Russia today through sham elections. Putin’s political opponents turn up dead or are sent to prison. Putin is a fascist and is his net worth is estimated to be around $70 billion, which is pretty good considering he’s only had government jobs his entire life.
Putin has illegally invaded Ukraine, after illegally annexing Crimea. While the Russian military pales in comparison to the U.S. military ($70 billion a year vs. $800 billion), it still sits on top of approximately 6,000 nuclear weapons. The U.S. has fewer than 4,000 nuclear warheads. All it would take to end the world would be Putin to be irritable after some bad borscht or if someone played “Hey, Soul Sister” for him.
So yeah, we’re still all going to die in a nuclear armageddon, which at the very least, will save us from future Swedish Nazi rock music. Doo-da-doo-doo….doo-da-doo-doo-doo.
Music note: I listened to more Elton John while drawing this, but oddly enough, not “Nikita.”
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