The Nuclear Bubble
In June 1989 the press carried accounts of a project which had encouraged adolescents to write to Congress about the issues of most concern to them. Over 5,000 seventh- and eighth-graders had done so. The top seven issues mentioned were drugs (25 percent), sex (17 percent), the environment (10 percent), crime (7 percent), education (5 percent), child abuse (5 percent), and suicide (5 percent). Other issues adduced ranged from health care to helmet and skateboard laws.
An addicted reader of information on the young like myself was bound to note an extraordinary omission—there was no mention of nuclear warfare and how to avoid it. How could that be? After all, it had been drummed into us that the fear of a nuclear Armageddon was haunting the adolescent imagination. Indeed, less than a year before we had learned from the august New England Journal of Medicine that nuclear war was “one of the greatest concerns of American children and adolescents.” The implications were said to be profound: in an accompanying guest editorial, a well-known professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School declared that these apprehensions might well affect “impulse control and capacity to delay gratification, the formation of long-term ideals, the ability and willingness to form relationships, views of death, the capacity for intergenerational trust, the development of social responsibility, and interest in planning for the future.” In short, just about everything.
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