Peace in our time?

April 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

I’m getting rid of a lot of old papers and miscellaneous junk right now, a lot of it from high school.

I came across a form letter from long-time NDP MLA Frank Mitchell, one of the letters of congratulations sent to all graduating high school students from their local Provincial politician. Dated July 1984, it includes this phrase,

“My greatest wish for you is that our world will survive and peace will become the norm”.

Rather alarmist for a routine form letter to students, wouldn’t you think? However, it’s easy to forget the context in which that sentence lies, especially for this Spring’s new crop of high school graduates (most of whom were born in 1992–a year after the end of the first Gulf War).

The first half of 1984 was filled with uncertainty on the international front. The unexpected death of the Soviet Union’s Yuri Andropov and the obfuscation surrounding his illness caused concern over who was running the country and more importantly, who had the finger of the nuclear trigger. Andropov’s equally feeble replacement would die just over a year later. Also in the news that Spring was Andrei Sakharov’s hunger strike, the Soviet Boycott of the Olympics and negotiations regarding weapons in space. Violence and terrorism in other parts of the world made headlines as well, but none had the impact like the ongoing tensions between the West and the Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The world has survived so far, but have we achieved the peace Mitchell hoped would be the norm? The cold war of my youth gave way to a hot war–or more accurately, a simmering war–in Iraq and Afghanistan; a half-hearted crusade that has dragged on for the better part of a teen’s life with no clear resolution in sight.

Peace for our generation meant keeping the superpowers from blowing up the world. I’m not sure but I suppose today’s generation thinks of peace as something more complex; not merely the absence of war, but a global application of social justice.

In advance of Monday’s summit on nuclear security, CNN screened a copy of the old ABC TV movie “The Day After” for a group of Pakistani students. Their responses in a large part mirrored our reactions when the mockumentary first aired in the fall of 1983.

“Nobody wins, it’s a lose-lose situation,” said Saadullah Zia, 13. But when asked whether Pakistan should keep its nuclear weapons, he added: “Some of the countries right now have it, so if we give it up, nothing will happen. Instead, India will be more powerful than us.”

Let me know if you have a similar letter from your local politician that reflects (or ignores) the zeitgeist of your graduation year.

Entry filed under: social issues, Uncategorized.

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