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Why doesn't 'Taliban' scare us the way 'communists' used to?

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

As a kid, I knew little about politics. To me, Jimmy Carter was a man who liked peanuts and Ronald Reagan was a former actor who thought jelly beans were so cool he had some stashed away on a space shuttle for astronauts.

I spent more time listening to First Lady Nancy Reagan telling me to “say no to drugs” than any of the president’s proposals to fix the economy or his take on the state of the union.

But when Ronald Reagan used words like “communism,” “Soviets” and “nuclear weapons” I knew, without question, how serious it was.

Growing up, we had nuclear fallout shelters in our schools and were drilled on what to do if that horrible siren ever sounded.

“Nuclear war” and “nuclear weapons” struck fear in my heart.

I knew when I saw a highly-decorated military man on television carrying a metal briefcase—attached to his arm by handcuffs—that the world’s future could be determined by what was inside that box.

Even immortalized by Genesis as a puppet in a video, I knew when Ronald Reagan broke out in sweat while looking at a red button everything was about to be a “Land of Confusion.”

I had nightmares about missiles and watched “The Day After” with classmates. We braced ourselves for communists parachuting onto our homeland like in “Red Dawn” and believed a person might just be able to start World War III by messing around with computers like in “War Games.”

My cousin and I built a fort out of bags of used aluminum cans and planned what we would do if any communists dared near us. Our family was ready, too, with stockpiles of food in the cellar. Guns were as easily accessible for hunting as they were to defend home and honor from the Soviets.

I cried when the space shuttle exploded, not just for the lives lost, but for the fear communists might do something in space before we did.

As Americans, we yearned for the world to know our freedom but stood proudly behind the president as he pushed forward in the arms race.

Star Wars was more than a movie; we believed its anti-ballistic missiles would keep us safe from harm. We were M.A.D. with the thought the U.S.S.R. and the United States were so militarily powerful that our mutually-assured destruction was the one thing that stopped both of us from pushing that button.

As I stumbled through middle school at the end of the 1980s, I rejoiced when Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev started talking about an end to the arms race. In that moment, we saw the Soviets as defeated and knew the flexing of the U.S.’s military might had preserved our safety and way of life.

I lived through all of that without a single nuclear bomb being dropped. No U.S. city was ever decimated by an attack and no communists parachuted onto my school’s grounds.

I came out scared, but unscathed.

Yet some 20 years later a version of my nightmares finally played out. The U.S. was attacked. Terror was unleashed on American soil. American cities and their people were changed forever. Thousands died, and no missile system, no arms race, no in-class preparation could have stopped it.

In its wake, the president of the United States used words like “terror,” “Taliban” and “weapons of mass destruction.” He tried to drive home the dangers before us. Our modern day Soviet enemy was given a face as a turban-wearing, radical Muslim named Osama Bin Laden.

And while Americans stood paralyzed momentarily by the attacks, we quickly returned to our lives, uniting only temporarily the way future generations had. Were we numbed by the fears instilled before? Was the threat of one enemy really greater than the other?

Today, when the president calls for more military power, more weapons and more might, much of the American public turns away. As a whole, we refuse to listen and condemn leadership for the direction this nation is going.

Instead of uniting, we wage war on ourselves.

The American people survived the threats of the Cold War because we stood together. We can only pray now we survive this one standing apart.

stacey manning is the managing editor at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or editor@brunswickbeacon.com.