Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Dr.Seuss Goes to War"

After reading Dr. Seuss’ “The Butter Battle Book” I had a lot of questions;Seuss’ stance on war, the intention of the book, etc. While researching Dr. Seuss’ background I concluded that the book’s message was intended to extend further than just an educational children’s book about war; there was a deeper message behind “The Butter Battle Book”. Initially upon reading the book I realized it differed from other educational material we had seen in class that intended to teach children about nuclear war; i.e. “Duck and Cover”. Dr. Seuss’ book extended beyond purely educational material, he had a creative way of discreetly inserting his opinion of nuclear war into the book. I initially interpreted the book as a quasi-mockery of the triviality of nuclear war. The way he made a book chronicling the issues of the Cold War as a battle over which side of the bread should be buttered, the competitive battle over who can create the more, silly-named, destructive weapon, and the resulting, almost comedic, uncertain ending of “Who’s going to drop it? Will you…? Or Will he…?” that came about after the whole ordeal. After researching further into Dr. Seuss’ stance on war, my perspective of the book was somewhat altered. Now, it is apparent to me that if anything, the book wasn’t intended as a mockery of the Cold War itself, but rather of the cowardice and idleness of Americans against these foreign terrorists.

It appears that Dr. Seuss was the author of a string of political cartoons calling for action against foreign threats to the U.S.; such as, the Nazis and the Japanese. He also illustrated a number of cartoons reprimanding the American “gutless” man. I’ve included some of these illustrations below:

So, as I had suspected, “The Butter Battle Book” could definitely be interpreted to speak to a further cause than just for the education of children about nuclear war. And the message the book is portraying is something along the lines of “get up, and fight!”. In consideration of some of Dr. Seuss' books and political cartoons, he did indeed, "go to war".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

'Thirteen Days' Reconsidered

‘Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis’ is an intimate look into the decision making process that President Kennedy was faced with during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The book is written by Robert Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy’s brother and U.S. Attorney General from 1961-1964, so it offers an in depth look into private conversations and thoughts JFK shared as well as information he obtained as U.S. Attorney General during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Overall, the book shines a positive light on JFK’s administration and handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it does offer the sentiment that peace during the crisis was not easily attained. It is commonly understood that during the ‘Thirteen Days’ dubbed as the Cuban Missile Crisis the U.S. came to the brink of war with the Soviets. This October, 2012, was the 50 year anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many journalists used this as a time to reflect on the decisions made during the crisis. One article I came across on the Arms Control Association website raises the question of whether the Cuban Missile “Crisis” was in fact even a legitimate crisis to begin with, and in further consideration, was any action even necessary?

First, Bernstein, the author of the article “Reconsidering the Perilous Cuban Missile Crisis 50 Years Later”, makes the point that McNamara, President Kennedy, and National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy all acknowledged the missiles as a political threat, not a military one. Next, he points out that had it been a military threat, the U.S. outnumbered the Soviet Union with nuclear missiles 4-to-1. With the immense amount of nuclear capability of the U.S. over the Soviets, they weren’t even to be considered a military threat. Especially since Krushchev made that emotional plea to JFK about the danger of a nuclear arms race—right? “The United States should not be concerned about missiles in Cuba; they would never be used to attack the United States and were there for defensive purposes only. We want…not to destroy your country…but, to compete peacefully, not by military means” (Kennedy, 67).

This brings me to the next criticism that Bernstein presents in his article, the criticism of the Kennedy administration for neglecting to attempt a secret diplomacy with the Soviets. This criticism bothers me the most of all because it seems to me that neutral communication was attempted throughout the entire crisis and it most always resulted in lies from the Soviets until they were to the point of being threatened into telling the truth. Ultimately, the Soviets, through display of their own behavior, were not to be trusted. The Soviet Union tried to deny that any missiles existed in Cuba at all until the U.S. presented photographic evidence. It is rather pointless to make an attempt at a secret diplomacy with a nation whom has already proved to be elusive when it comes to any truths of which are backed by concrete evidence, much less the truths of their intentions.

Overall, I think the principal of the mission was fulfilled—keeping the peace not only in the United States but in all nations involved. In Kennedy’s speech at American University in June 1963 he proclaimed his intentions during the Cuban Missile Crisis, “I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans, but peace for all men and women”. So, you can look back and criticize the President’s methods of handling the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I invite that—a difference of opinions is monumental to true understanding, as Kennedy would agree, but I believe that overall the Cuban Missile Crisis was truly one of the President’s ‘finest hours’ as I’m sure many would accept as being our historical truth.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Orange Fog of War

‘Lesson #8: Be Prepared to Reexamine Your Reasoning.’

The above quote is from the film “Fog of War” which we viewed in class. The above pictures are the effects of a toxic chemical used in Vietnam called Agent Orange. ‘Be Prepared to Reexamine Your Reasoning’ is right…

Agent Orange was a toxic chemical used in Vietnam by the U.S. to remove leaves from the trees in order to eliminate foliage for the Viet Cong to hide amongst. The chemical was sprayed aerially all over South Vietnam. Just as the chemical itself trickled down through the trees, so did the negative side effects onto those who came into contact with it. The Vietnamese were not the only ones affected by the chemical—any U.S. Veterans who came into contact with the chemical chanced being affected as well. As we now know, the effects of the chemical did not stop at just affecting those who came into direct contact with it, but it would also affect the unborn children of those afflicted with the chemical poisoning.

In pursuing my interest to fully understand the dangers of this toxic war mechanism I came across an article in the Washington Post from this past summer (2012) discussing the continued discovery of negative health effects caused by the use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. To this present time, victims of Agent Orange are still being revealed. The irresponsible use of a weapon of war has continued to breed negative effects on people generations removed from the Vietnam War. Agent Orange’s effects are continuing to be displayed not only on the people of Vietnam, but also on American citizens. The affects of the chemical are atrocious to begin with and the fact that there are people still being affected generations later makes the decision to use Agent Orange highly regrettable. Although I’m sure I didn’t have to bring that reality to attention—the pictures speak for themselves.

The Vietnamese are still affected worse than Americans because it wasn’t until five years ago that they sealed off some areas where high concentrations of Agent Orange were still found in the soil and water. Until these areas were sealed off the Vietnamese were still living, eating, drinking, and breathing in areas highly contaminated with the toxic chemical. According to the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as many as five million Vietnamese citizens have been affected by Agent Orange. Although, we cannot be certain of the exact number because Agent Orange can cause birth defects to children born of those exposed for generations to come. The year 2007 was the first direct involvement of the U.S. to help eliminate Agent Orange from areas in Vietnam, but hopefully while “reexamining our reasoning” more assistance may be provided.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Most Peculiar Underground Project

In March of 1963 a one of a kind fallout shelter was constructed in the Roosevelt neighborhood in Seattle. The shelter was the first and only constructed on public property, built underneath Interstate 5. The fallout shelter was actually constructed as part of the highway, using the 4 ½ feet of backfill and 429 tons of sand piled on top of the thick concrete and steel structure not only to protect against the effects of radiation, but also to support the public roadway. Since this particular fallout shelter is an apparatus of public construction and use, it was a $67,000 project funded solely by the federal government—no wonder conservatives were not for the construction of fallout shelters, if for no other reasons considered, by the extent of the fiscal demand alone.

I found a video that tours the shelter (inserted below). The shelter was constructed as a “prototype community” fallout shelter that could protect and sustain up to 200 people for 2 weeks in the event of a nuclear attack. Nowadays, as you come upon the entrance of the shelter, once known as the "door to survival", all you'll find is graffiti and overgrown brush. As fear of nuclear attack diminished, so did the importance of this, once admired, one of a kind shelter.


Becker, Paula. "State of Washington breaks ground for a fallout shelter under the Seattle Freeway (Interstate 5) in Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood on May 15, 1962." the Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. Last modified August 9, 2010. Accessed October 12, 2012.

"A Cold War-era fallout shelter exists under I-5 in Seattle - KCPQ." - KCPQ. Last modified June 26, 2011. Accessed October 12, 2012.,0,3734081.story. 

"A peek inside the Green Lake fallout shelter – My Green Lake | Seattle's Green Lake Blog." My Green Lake | Seattle's Green Lake Blog. Last modified May 12, 2010. Accessed October 12, 2012. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The 'Silent Generation'

The sexual revolution is most often associated with the free-loving era of the 1960s, but according to  historical findings the sexual revolution actually began as early as the 1940s and 50s. U.S. Census Bureau statistics provide evidence showing that the frequency of premarital pregnancies and single motherhood was on a rapid incline between the 1940s and 1960s; increasing from 7.1 to 21.6 newborns to every 1,000 unwed women during that time. This generation of people was deemed the ‘silent generation’, because sexual activity was on a rapid incline, but no one was talking about it. No one was talking about much of anything substantial taking place in society, actually. Americans were falling into a moral gray area with regards to many of the predominant issues of the era.

University of Florida historian, Alan Petigny, put it best:
“After 15 years of Depression and war, there was also a desire on the part of Americans to live in the moment and enjoy life, and they were accordingly less likely to defer to traditional restraints on their behavior.”

The idea of silence and secrecy that had begun with the construction of the a-bomb during the Manhattan Project developed further into a State of National Security, which in turn, had an effect on American Culture to the extent that individuals were displaying the magnitude of moral changes in their personal lives. With regards to the Manhattan Project and the State of National Security, in its entirety, the level of silence and secrecy can be explained by the moral ambiguity of the a-bomb project. This same logic can be applied to the rapid increase in unwed and single mothers, during the same time frame. American citizens were falling victim to the corruption of the country as a whole, resulting in a mass moral digression. American ideals appeared to be ones of hope, optimism, and unity in the face of atomic warfare during the 1940s and 50s, but realistically the public was becoming consumed by ideas of fatalism, silence, secrecy, ambiguity, and moral downfall. The sexual revolution had begun in the 1940s and 50s during the, properly termed, ‘silent generation’, but it is more often attributed to the 1960s because this is the time when the pressure of decades of silence finally erupted into a steadfast, vocal, and active revolutionary movement. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Atomic Popular Culture in Las Vegas

After our last class discussion I left intrigued about the effects of the nuclear age on American popular culture. I was specifically interested in the propaganda and marketing strategies of the nuclear age. In class we listened to “Atomic Cocktail” by The Slim Gaillard Quartette (1946) and “You Hit Me Baby like an Atomic Bomb” by Fay Simmons (1954). We also discussed the invention of the “atomic cocktail” by bartenders and the origin of the bikini, coming from the Bikini Isle atomic bomb testing. All of the previously referenced popular culture pieces that originated from use of the atomic bomb are positive reflections on the weapon of mass destruction. Coincidence?—I think not. Through use of American popular culture, the atomic bomb was glorified using propaganda and marketing strategies in order to eliminate the widespread fear amongst Americans and encourage pride in the invention and use of the new weapon—our “original child”.

One of the places where propaganda and marketing was most widely used is Las Vegas. In Las Vegas atomic popular culture ran rampant. Atomic popular culture can be recognized in the creation of the ‘Atomic Hairdo’, ‘Atomic Cocktail’, and ‘Atomic View Motel’. ‘Atomic’ became a positive connotation, and the marketing industry ran with it. With nuclear testing in New Mexico visible by Las Vegas residents, the city became a major influence in atomic popular culture. This was the beginning of the “sacralisation of commercialism” (Brown, 1998). Las Vegas was a “crass, banal, decadent, sinful, mind-numbing” illusion of reality (id). The golden desert bred an illusion that American citizens fed into. Atomic popular culture was embraced, even celebrated. Las Vegas became the “temple town of the American Dream”…”the city that stands on the edge of the desert, the end of the world” (id). The hype around atomic popular culture in Las Vegas helped suppress the eminent fear of Americans by exalting the nuclear age as a time of innovation and celebration. The atomic age produced the mogul of popular culture propaganda in Las Vegas—the basis of the city’s prosperity today.

Atomic bomb test - mushroom cloud with Fremont Street Casinos in foreground. April 18, 1953 (Las Vegas News Bureau Coll # 0049, Photo # 0414)

Parade float, "Nevada's First Atomic Bomb (Collection # 0107, Photo # 0018)

A girl showing off her "atomic hairdo" with a photo of the atomic blast that inspired it. The mushroom cloud-shaped-do is described in the caption as, "an old fashion and something dangerously new". (

Referenced: Brown, S. (1998). Marketing apocalypse: Eschatology, escapology and the illusion of the end. (New ed., pp. 87-101). Routledge. Retrieved from cocktail 1950s&ots=MnPJ0owSG&xsig=LzbZ2Dw-KYAgT81tauNTEzcdCIA

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nationally Secured, Secrecy...?

The permanent association of National Security with a high level of secrecy, discussed by Garry Wills in the book Bomb Power, enticed me to take deep consideration of the effects of executive secrecy on American Democracy. In the United States we elect officials to represent us through the Democratic Process. It is our responsibility to choose the candidate who we feel would best represent our views in their presidency. The process then seems to be lost in the delegation of responsibility as an American presidential candidate to reveal ones true intentions and policy to the citizens. This high level of secrecy which has been accepted as a part of American Culture is what allows this perversion of politics to exist.

How can Americans be expected to elect officials to represent them when we are kept in the dark on the most important issues? Daniel Patrick Moynihan offers one explanation in his book Secrecy: The American Experience, that “policy is often disabled by the withholding of information from knowledgeable critics” in order to benefit the country in the long-term. In reference to Garry Wills book, in Chapter 2 “The Oppie Machine” is recounted. “The Oppie Machine” offers a perfect example of Moynihan’s idea of keeping knowledgeable critics in the dark. Teller and Strauss worked to strip Oppenheimer of his security clearance to discredit him in order to continue with their plans for the hydrogen bomb because he was in opposition to the creation of the “intrinsically immoral” weapon. If a long-term cause is justifiable, I don’t think that it should ever be necessary to go to great lengths in order to prevent someone in opposition from having further knowledge of the cause. Secrecy is not what this country was built upon in the constitution and it is not what it should subsist on in modern society. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Social Reality of the Nuclear Age

Upon viewing A Child is Crying and hearing that infamous line, “you created me!”, I began to ponder on the U.S. Government’s involvement in trying to recreate children like the little girl in the film. Lily, the child in the film, is a prodigy in math and science and due to her exceptional abilities is considered a “national resource” by the government. In her evaluation it is decided by the congressman and army official that she should be stripped from her family and kept in the laboratory to benefit the nation with her exceptional scientific knowledge. She is essentially robbed of her innocence as a child to act as a resource to U.S. National Security.

By the end of the film Lily is returned to a “regular”, child-like state by use of an antidote that leaves her in shambles, crying with all the men surrounding her forced to view the shattering of her innocence, which they have produced. In the words of the scientist, “all we can do now is stand in the dark and gloom and watch a little child cry”.

The theme of nuclear warfare robbing U.S. citizens of their regularity continues on in the next film, Atomic Attack.  When a nuclear attack is staged on New York City, it is apparent that the “regular” is also disturbed. The eldest child in the house, Barbara, has to assume the role of a mature adult by caring for their boarding guests and her little sister who’s been effected by radiation. When one of the doctor’s in the film remarks that Barbara is just a “kid” and is not equipped to deal with such tumultuous situations her mother replies, “Kids? Not Barbara. Not the way she’s grown up this past week”.

In both films, it is easy to see the shattering of children’s innocence is a main theme—an agenda of desensitizing, if you will. This theme is carried on into reality if you look into the history of the nuclear age.

These films both prompted me to think of the change in the school curriculums when concerning math and science in the nuclear age. I found a book by John L. Rudolph which supported my train of thought. The argument he makes in his book is that the exploitation of education began in the mid-1950s in order to create a society of scientific elitists. Scientific knowledge became the “price of survival” in a country which was now empowered by nuclear weaponry. The life-adjustment curriculum which existed prior to nuclear warfare was now on a steady decline to give way for a focus on math and science education. After the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and into the Cold War, ideals such as, social, personal, and vocational needs previously focused upon in school curriculums were now forgotten and the U.S. Government was geared towards engineering scientific prodigies such as the child in A Child is Crying in order to fuel this nuclear nation—scientific expertise was the National Security arsenal.

In short, the science fiction films, A Child is Crying and Atomic Attack, seem not so fictitious when put into the context of the social reality during the nuclear age.