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Drop the Big One and See What Happens

They don't respect us, so let's surprise them. / We'll drop the big one and pulverize them. —Randy Newman, Political Science

When 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis arrived in the mail, I headed over to my Dad’s house and asked what he remembered about those two weeks in October of 1962. He was just a kid at the time, only six years old. His parents had sheltered him and his siblings from the full brunt of what was going on, but they still had a number of specific instructions, right down to the portion of the basement they would retreat to in the event that an air raid siren sounded. Mostly, he remembers being afraid. His older brother would act out at times. “Why should I be good?” he would ask. “We’re just going to get blown up anyway.”

It’s sobering to dwell on just how close we came to annihilating ourselves. And if nothing else, 13 Days absolutely captures the sense that the warning lights are on, the lid has been flipped back, and that red button is staring you in the eye, waiting to unleash the end of the world.

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