Category Archives: Apocalyptic America

Get Out: What it Really is (and Why it Really Matters)

(warning: major spoilers) Get Out, Jordan Peele’s hugely successful directorial debut is killing it–box office bonanza, critics’ favorite, thinkpiece heaven and somewhere, I promise you, some doctoral student is burning out an iMac writing a thesis about it. Main character Chris, ensnared in a modern day coon hunt with a twist, has stumbled on a mini market of black zombies.  That’s right. This is a zombie movie.

Get Out trades on all sorts of movie tropes and motifs, as good filmmaking does, connecting us not only to a new story but also a new way of looking at ourselves.  At its heart lies a surprisingly familiar undead corpse–the zombie.  While the word zombie may give you visions of decomposing walkers or World War Z‘s running meat bags, Get Out returns us to the original body of the zombie story. The keys to the zombie story are mind control and bodily manipulation, a focus not on head shots but on enslavement. What’s more, looking at Get Out as a zombie movie helps audiences regain an empathetic lens to see black pain.

Like all good monsters, zombies, and zombie stories, are outsiders. They come from somewhere else–in the case of the zombie story, Africa.  The origins of the idea of the zombie come from West and Central Africa.  In West African spirituality, Orishas may ride devotees: possession not like the exorcist but more like catching the holy spirit, so one individual controlling another has spiritual precident. Possesion and control are also potential outcomes of rituals and spells. Powerful spiritual practitioners may control both living creatures and also unliving entities using the practices that are a small part of the religion  of Vodun.  The idea of using spiritual methods to control others’ bodies manifests in a complex and quite different way in Benin than the brain eaters clogging up the streets of Atlanta in the Walking Dead.  Of course, the original story was dragged onto ships and enslaved along with millions of Africans, landing in Haiti. Like the Africans themselves, the story of what a zombie was and how we should feel about it was transformed under the crushing pressure of whiteness.

Imagine you are newly enslaved, shocked by the brutal middle passage and blistering in the sun of the new world being worked to death to grow sugar for the tables of the European elite.  Thes people are going to beat you to work until you die as you have seen happen to so many around you .  You are exhausted, malnourished, tortured, traumatized and caught between fighting to live and wanting to die.  But you cannot die. Your body now belongs to the master, and death seems to be exclusivley controlled by the evil who weild power. It’s not a far leap to invoke the story of possession from home to create the Haitian zombie: this is no brain craving corpse, but a sentient being, enslaved and brutalized that needs to be freed, not stabbed in the head.

Enter Clarvius Narcissus.  Poor Clarvius was just minding his own business when he was turned into a zombie using a powder of plant-based toxins and made to work on a sugar plantation for decades before eventually getting away and returning home, ragged and brain damaged but still Clarvius.  His was not the only documented case of real life zombies, and there was even some evidence of a market for people drugged into compliance who could be forced to work for free. Again, the three keys are mind control, bodily manipulation and enslavement–in both real and imagined places.

Shifting to America’s silver screen, we find at first that the origins persist.  White Zombie, a Bela Lugosi classic horror tale features a sugar plantation of enslaved blacks–and one white woman who of course does not belong there and must be saved.  Even George A Romero, the father to the modern American zombie craze originally featured a black lead in Night of the Living Dead, maintaining the black gaze–the story was his.

The scary thing in these kinds of zombie movies was that it could happen to you. The empathy in the story lay not with the person who enslaved the zombie, or even those that may fear the zombie.  The empathy in zombie stories is supposed to lay with the zombie. The enslaved Africans were the victim, not the monster, The trafficked laborers, like Clarvius, were the victim.  Zombie movies were about seeing and sharing black pain. Until the Walking Dead.

The modern obsession with zombies in this century started with the cultural explosion that is the Walking Dead.   The show is excellent has been excellent, and I count myself a fan. But unlike the zombie story which asks us to throw our lot in with the oppressed, The Walking Dead returns white people, free people and zombie haters to the center of the story.  Rick, our flawed hero, reminds everyone that they need to stick together–so nice.  But early seasons of the show find him repeatedly refusing to entertain any lasting interest in curing the walkers or even caring about them.  Zombie myth reformed.

Get Out, though, reclaims the zombie genre.  I know, I know- you probably didn’t think it was a zombie movie when you saw it.  No wandering corpses, no hoards chasing down brains.  But in the sweet sunshine of the Armitage plantation, the whites are commodifying black bodies, enslaving them using neurological means–toxic powders replaced with a scalpel.  Catherine sends Chris to the Sunken Place, and like poor Narcissus, he is still conscious, but cannot overcome the spell he is under to take agency and get free.  We see those that steal the brains are the real villains– different than Georgina, Andrew or Walter: the victims, their bodies ground up in a system that wants only their skills and not their souls. Mind control, bodily manipulation, enslavement to the extreme: zombies.

Understanding the creatures that we have been taught to fear is an important function of monster movies, especially when they are monster mash ups.  Anne Rice and True Blood’s vampires, Penny Dreadfuls Frankenstein’s monster, even Twilight’s teams give us alternative readings of monster life, helping us to care about creatures living at the edges, to see that those that are hurt and broken are still deserving of love, perhaps even moreso.  Returning the zombie to its rightful place as sympathetic victim, and reconnecting the zombie with its critique of whiteness makes Get Out not just a good movie, but an important movie.  Diversifying Hollywood has to include pushing and challenging narratives to help us see what is too often rendered invisible.

Eyes play a major role in the film, from the key shot of Chris’s face seen in the movie to Chris’s photography to the planned transplant to “get your eyes, man”.  The film asks us to see out through the eyes of the ensnared, to feel the terror of being trapped.  Where the Walking Dead teaches us a thousand ways to kill a zombie,  Get Out brings us to the sunken place where the zombies get stuck.  We see Chris stabbed with the pain of his lost mother, falling, silenced.  This is black pain separated from any of the usual stereotypical symbols of black pain like a crack pipe, gang flag or welfare check.  This is a place where Chis suffers with his humanity intact, wanting not brains (he has plenty of those) but freedom.

What is it to fall into a zombie state and witness your own brutalization?  Like having them love your body, but not you. Like watching others being rewarded for what you are penalized for. Like working yourself to death for minimum wage while being blocked from having any of the accouterments of your own labor and being blamed for wanting Jordans. Like having to choose when to speak up because you are just. so. fucking. tired. Like police videos. Like when there are so many police videos that you stop seeing them. Like protesters being pepper sprayed. Like watching the Clan take the White House.

Get Out makes black pain, as conceived of and acted by black people, visible.  Far from the sunken place, the film gives voice here in the real world to the complex nuanced nature of racism in2017.  It gives viewers of every race a story that requires them to empathize with black pain–which is too often abstracted to sell records, clothes or policies.  The vast majority of movies and TV shows frame blackness as a problem to be quashed by white supremacy.  The few films that cast blacks as innocent victims frequently require that whites still be the heroes. This film gives us neither slaves nor gangbangers and in their absence, we get a lens into a more authentic, relatable and human understanding of race and racism.  If we are ever to evolve past systems of privilege we must first make them visible.

In the end, Chirs’s woke friend Rod is the only hero that can save him, and he’s got plenty of lessons for us to remember. If you wait on the state to save you, you’re in trouble but when the ensnared work together, they can get free.   Rod’s concerns at first seem overblown, but he trusted his own understanding of racism even when others denied it. You’ve got to refuse to ignore evidence that supports what you know to be true.  Rod gave a shit, and not just because he was dogsitting.  Commitment to your brothers and sisters is key.   We too, have to keep looking.  It’s too easy to hear the clink of white supremacy and feel ourselves falling into the sunken place. Stay woke.

 

 

Ripped from the Movies: Five Films Explain Trumpland

Movies are more than just a tumble of images to fill our time; they are stories crafted from human ideas, fears and longing.  To look into a movie is to look into the human animal. These days the wildest animal around is the marmoset that’s running the country:

How to make sense of these times run by a tiny-handed (look he can barely hold a piece of apple!) comb-over-wearing primate hellbent on dismantling our democratic institutions? Let’s go to the movies! Much has been made of the connection between Trump and George Orwell’s 1984, so much so that the book has been flying off the shelves since the election. But what about other films featuring a world gone mad? These five films shed light on the devious nature of humans and the horror that we create when we let the worst of us be the first (family).

Manchurian Candidate

This 1962 thriller tells the story of a President controlled by a foreign administration–China in this case, or “Gyyna,” as Trump would say.  In the film, the Manchurian candidate is brainwashed after being captured in war.  In the Trump tale, the candidate was pee-washed in a Russian hotel room and paid off by Putin and his cronies.  With the film character, at least there was some hope of breaking through the brainwashing, but in our own sad story, we can only work to wake ourselves up from brainwashing.  Without a closer look at Trump’s taxes, it will be hard to find the financial connections purported to exist.  And if congress–Trump’s loyal lackey so far–get’s its way you’ll never get to see his taxes. Sidenote, the Manchurian candidate was easily controlled for a few reasons, one being he was not the cleverest guy in the room: looking at you, Don.

Children of Men

This is a tale of a world facing the ultimate decline–no more babies.  Before I make a joke about seeing Trump every day and a failing libido, let’s look deeper.  In the world of the movie, an undiagnosed infertility slowly takes hold till the world’s youngest person is 7 years old.  Trump’s plan to gut Planned Parenthood and restructure health care will leave women’s reproductive care underfunded and unmandated.  It’s a bad look to ignore the care of our human-making machines, especially in an age when infertility, just like in Children of Men, is on the rise for unknown reasons.  Also in the film, the government responds to the crisis by beefing up a police state at war with immigrants because of course when the country is crashing, a safe distraction is mass deportation…..insert side-eye here.

Elysium

Speaking of treating whole groups of people horribly while the elite watch the world burn from their castle, Elysium takes the wall of Trump’s dream to astronomical proportions. Like our own real and fragile earth, in this film, the Earth can no longer support our fabulous way of life as is, so the elite make sure everyone has a new home say fuck y’all and build a space station where they hog all the good stuff, including life-saving medical care.  Elysium helps us see why health care has to be a human right if we truly hope to retain our humanity. Members of the Trump administration and their cronies, including associates of Peter Thiel, have no problem creating health interventions that will only be available to the wealthy. Meanwhile, Trump is busy trashing Obamacare with no viable replacement plan in sight. it seems like former representative Alan Grayson’s prediction is coming to pass.

If you don’t want to have to steal a space ship to get an MRI, you better keep an eye on the fast-moving health care bill and the fallout sure to follow.

Idiocracy

The world is full of stupid people, controlled by corporations, dominated by an absurd media environment, where intelligence is attacked, and sensible responses to climate change are demonized.  That’s the movie.  Wait, no, that’s now.  Hmm, maybe this movie, as bizarre as it is, is too close to today to be impossible. Similar to Brave New World–and different from 1984–people in this dystopian future are controlled not with fear but with pleasure, full of food and mindless distractions until they are simply dumb downed fodder to be controlled by the corporatocracy.  So don’t let the promise of America’s glorious past, the GMO’s and the tweets lull you to sheep–stay woke.

Gaslight

Much has been made of Trump’s use of a psychological manipulation technique referred to as gaslighting, named for the 1944 Ingmar Bergman movie Gaslight.  The term refers to someone–in this case our marmoset-in-chief– trying to make you think that you are losing your mind a la I-never-said-that-even-though-you-have-a-tape-of-me-mocking-a-disabled-guy.  I went back and watched Gaslight, and found even more alarming connections: not only does Gregory the Gaslight villain try to make poor Paula (Bergman) think she’s losing it, he plans to scam her before they even fall in love.  It’s not casual manipulation, it’s a planned conspiracy to defraud and destroy a person he would pretend to love–feeling the burn yet Trump voters?  Like our own Cheif Cheeto, Greg the gaslighter is a con man, pretending to take on a role he is ill-suited to so he can swindle poor Paul out of her estate.  In the end, caught dead to rights and confronted by Paula, the con man simply cannot acknowledge the truth.  A con to the very end.  Let’s not wait 4 years to expose the con man in our own story.

So build a watchlist for this weekend–and keep you thinking hat on. We’ve seen this movie before, but this time we’ve got to rewrite the ending.

 

T(rump) Minus 6

We landed in Washington D.C. yesterday, a gaggle of activist students, their queer polis-sci professor and me, afro flying my flag of blackness above my airplane seat.  The airports, the streets are awash with pink pussy hats and red white and blue patriotic chic.  The air contains just a hint of pep rally. The grim reality gives off a scent more like that Aztec ballgame where the losers are decapitated.

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In just six hours, a few miles from here Donald J Trump and his creep squad cabinet will take over the country that I have lived in and loved my whole life.  He has promised to enact policies that will hurt the people I love and care about, including each of the students with us on this trip.  The pink hats are so cute (thanks, Aunt Kathie!) but make no mistake this is a fight.

Scene: Interior, day before the inauguration, hotel lobby. Beneath the altar of CNN on the big screen a bunch of liberals from Boston–identifiable by our Boston swag and the girls’ Olivia Pope outfits, and in that corner three women painted in stars and stripes.  The hotel staff watch the action like tourists on safari.

Hotel manager:  Ha ha, hope there’s not going to be a rumble!

Trumpette: grumbling loud enough for all to hear. I wouldn’t mind seeing that.

Me: Ha, ha…You don’t want to catch these hands.

Trumpette: Let’s be peaceful….(to her cronies.)  I hope they remember to be peaceful on Saturday [for the anticipated Women’s March]

Me: (to students) Saturday you’ll get to see the amazing tradition of nonviolent protest that is such an important part of our country.

End scene.

Would I have rumbled with an older lady in the hotel lobby?  In the rarefied air of the inauguration, the hate and division are real and palpable as my anger hurt and fear over this election and the 4 years to come. yesterday evening I replayed the scene in my mind–how easy it was for me and a stranger to escalate to threats lightly veiled in laughter in just seconds. These past few years have required me to swallow more than a little anger and hurt. I had to admit that it is too easy to slide into the playground taunting.  But in a quiet moment, I remembered that I’m not about that, no matter how much they spoil for a fight. In the land of the walking dead, its is key to remember that you are not them.

So, old lady, you may not catch these hands, but I am coming for you with the full force of resistance and that really packs a punch.  And the fight is just about to start.

This Is Why We Fight

In trying to make sense like so many of you today, I looked into this moment for an opportunity–and I found one. Sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia are no longer the monster under the bed or hidden beneath napkins and polite conversation at dinner.  These insidious beasts that  have stalked our nation are now out in the open.  This past year’s contentious election has shown us all who wants to stand with us, and who doesn’t.  Maybe this isn’t a moment we can’t imagine.  Tonight I saw mass protests of women and men and trans people and whites and blacks and Latino and disabled people and people that love all those people unified together with clear and common purpose. Maybe this is the moment we find our common purpose and rise to meet it.

This moment is not about Donald Trump or 2016 or the Republican Party.  No, this moment is a long time coming, the moment when the immovable object of white supremacy comes face to face  with the unstoppable force of the demographic shifts that will make American a minority-majority country.  This moment isn’t the first  battle but could very well the last stand of white supremacy against the truth of the multicultural coutry we already are.

Is: the present tense. Not was, the word of the past.  Not will be, a magical future that is always the day after tomorrow and never the now.  Is. Present . Right now. If you weren’t an ally before, it doesn’t matter. If you’ve been fighting and you’re tired and you want to give up, that was before.   If you think it will be better in two four or eight years, so what? This is now. Focus on the present.

Why is more important that what or how. What justice looks like and how it arrives requires a multitude of views, a flock of answers, a riot of solutions, more ways up the mountain.  But the why is steadfast, unchanged and still the goal even extending into the future.  To form a more perfect union.  That was why  in the past  and will be why in the future but most importantly is the why now.  In a world that makes you feel like you are drowning this why is your life raft.

We feel new feelings. We have never in our lives felt more threatened, or been more ready to fight.  We have spent these last years mobilizing activating, networking an connecting.  You were the left hand.  You were the right foot.  Parts of the giant of the electorate have shaken themselves from slumber. We were woke separately by issues specific to important aspects of our identity. We are awake together now.  We have been building the will and skill to organize, maybe in preparation for this very moment.

Fight: that is what comes next.  Fight is what ancestors who lived and died in slavery did even with no end in sight.   Fight is what women did who secured the vote and the right to choice. Fight is what we did when police shot our brothers and sisters in the streets. Fight is what they are doing tonight at Standing Rock.We don’t play, guess, plead or wish. We fight.  We fight hard and clean and often and together and separate in big and small ways.  We raise our fists and our signs and our voices and our children to fight.

When you want to know how this could be, when you cry tears to make room in you to keep going, when you ask what we should tell the children I offer you my unconditional love, and a mantra.  This is why we fight.

image credit: Samuel Mitchell, from the Boston Trump protest march 11.9.16

Apocalyptic Cinema: Better Living Through Science

Since the beginning of the century, American films have explored stories of the apocalypse as commentary on our own modern challenges.   Stories of the horrors science can create when man tries to play God lurk beneath the most popular zombie shows and in the cool futuristic sci-fi  of super humans.  These stories are equal parts inspiration and warning–a look over the cliff over science to the abyss of possibility that lies ahead of us.  These stories, in turn, look into us, into our longing to be stronger, more powerful and to live forever.

In Apocalyptic America, we’ve been looking at the questions posed to us by the modern world that we live in–advances in science, new technologies and a host of problems caused by the postindustrial human condition–and the answers film gives us.  Apocalyptic movies allow us to seen through a glass darkly at a world that awaits us as a consequence of our now.  So it is with movies about humans tinkering with the laws of nature.

Some things that might get your sci-fi imagination going:

If you could use science to modify your body, would you? If so, how would you modify your body?

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probably not this…

Would you diet or using science to make you super shapely or strong?

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After having 10 cosmetic procedures in 1 day, Montag struggled emotionally, lost her show and is appearing this season on reality tv therapy show with her mother.

Would you choose the sex of your future baby? Or ensure their special skills?

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Gender selection is banned in some countries, but not the US.  Gender selection that occurred less scientifically as a result of China’s one-child-per-family rule is being blamed for a massive imbalance between males and females, having long-term consequences for marriage, births, and elder care

Would you modify your body to survive a disease or environmental crisis?

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Before you say you would never alter your body, think instead about modification on a continuum from small changes like piercing your ears or wearing glasses all the way to the more extreme iterations like lizard man or gene therapy. As futuristic as some modification technology is, altering the body is nothing new. How acceptable these procedures are seems to connect to how much what they provide is “needed” according to cultural conventions and norms.

Medical Augmentations: Altering or adding to the body to compensate for disease or deformity is most acceptable with widespread support for advances.

Cosmetic modification: altering the body to improve appearance according to common beauty conventions is somewhat acceptable, especially if you meet the conventions conventionally.  The more extreme the augmentation, the more unacceptable it becomes.

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Genetic modification: Altering genes to change the structure of the body or object is controversial whether you are a tomato or a zygote.  Genetically modified fruit–sometimes called Franken fruit–is blamed for a host of problems for humans and their environment, but also ubiquitous in our grocery stores.  Modifying human embryos is illegal–today.

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The gene-ie (ha! I got jokes in writing!) is already out of the bottle. Like our exploration into artificial intelligence and technology, the question is really no longer would we or wouldn’t we, but to what degree should we. Sadly, ethics around biological advances in science are far behind the technology.

Films approach a few of the ways that changes in human engineering could play out in our culture, affecting power, capital, and social relationships. Many movies prior to 2000 focused on the disastrous consequences of genes gone bad. Human-made monsters because of the lack of control of genetic processes.

As we move into the era of apocalyptic dread the stories shift a bit.   As humans become more skilled at making changes to nature and potentially humans, we explore—and fear—the possibilities of what we might create. Here are some examples and the questions they ask

If we make humans, what rights do they have?

Human cloning hits new levels of skill—and for new reasons in this upbeat thriller. If we could make people, would we grant them the same inalienable rights we claim are for all? Note: we do have a hard time ensuring humans rights for all humans now a days. On the plus side, so far we have no structure for identifying babies born using genetic enhancements or fertility treatments.

How would capitalism manage the availability of advances in health tech?

Repo Men is the story of a world where people can buy organs to replace failing ones. Like a new car, if you don’t pay, the corporation sends someone to retrieve your organs. Healthcare costs are already a leading cause of bankruptcy. How much would a heart cost? Probably not less than Wheelock.

What would we do with Superhumans?

A host of movies like Lucy and Limitless and, of course, Xmen find ways to hack the human brain to open up our full potential. Oddly, the movie never ends with a world peace accord. Overwhelmingly advances in humans are coopted to earn capital or fight battles. How culturally hegemonic.

The ideas about what it means to be human and how easily we can lose all that we think we know is nothing new to your COM250 experience, Apocalyptic Americans–these are the common questions that underpin lots of Apocalyptic movies, and, truth be told, they underpin humanity’s grand story as well.  The questions about how to navigate the boundaries of power, class and privilege in an era of evolved humanity are also the same questions about how to restructure society in the wake of wokeness that we have seen all semester. Just as we can’t imagine an end without us, robots without us, so we can’t imagine a new breed of super-humans without us either.

So what’s new in human engineering?  Is there truth hiding inside these movies or is this boogie man solely in the mind of Hollywood?

Cosmetic Alteration

Paying a surgeon to give you the body of your dreams becomes more popular every year–the number of procedures is up in 2015. Cosmetic augmentation is common with more than 15 million cosmetic procedures performed last year. The most common procedures are botox, fillers, and chemical peels–all aimed to turn back the hand of time.  Speaking of turning back, butt implants continue to be one of the fastest growing invasive procedures.  Yeah, Kim!

Medical Augmentation

From 3d printing new limbs to growing new organs in a lab, medical science is moving ahead by leaps and bounds. Pop star Viktoria Modesta and her fantastic light up leg shows how transformative new technology can be in redefining ability. Advances in medical technology will increase your lifespan, but many ethical questions—including who can afford it—abound.

Genetic modification

Since the human genome was first mapped in 2003, our knowledge of the role genes play in making you you has expanded rapidly. If we can manipulate the genes of fruit to make the fruit we desire, might similar techniques be used to create the children we desire?

All of these futures before us are rife with the kind of possibilities that come with consequences we can only dream of.  Far more serious than a few butt implants, the implications of all this tinkering are beyond even Hollywood’s wild mind.  The challenges couldn’t be more real. Just a few months ago a US based organization, endorsed by over 150 experts int he field called for a moratorium on human  genetic modification, warning that once we begin, the irreversible process can have implications beyond the boundary of any of these movies.  Truth, it seems remains stranger than fiction.

I teach a course called Apocalyptic America where we explore film and TV about the end of the world and find out what they tell us  about the challenges of our own world.  The above is a makeup blog lecture (a blecture?) from a recent class. If you made it this far, you get an A for the day.

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Need to be convinced that we’re obsessed with the end of the world? Or maybe you are obsessed with My little pony?  Well if you can say yes to both, have i got an infographic for you!

Big big-ups to Andrew Kahn, Apocalyptic America student and IT jedi for this fantastic infographic he created tracking the millennial obsession with the apocalypse.  Explore below or click to get a close up to find out how we’re going to end the world.  Hint–better get that Cipro.

apam pony infographic

The Day After Is Today

Have you ever noticed that you’re surrounded by zombies and invading aliens and survivalist?  Stories about the end of the world are everywhere these days, from The Walking Dead to Elysium.  Despite the fact that we can breathe a sign of relief with 2012 behind us, visions of the apocalypse still dance in our heads.  So, to explore, I have been teaching a class at my college called Apocalyptic America, where we are trying to find out why our culture is so obsessed with the end.  The answer is complicated and fascinating.

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Stories of the end of the world are as old as the world itself, but if you think we have a particularly bad case of the apocalyptic blues, you’d be right.   Rapid changes in society, advances in technology, and a changing geopolitical landscape gave us any number of avenues for our fears to run down.  Aliens, Dawn of the Dead,  and The Matrix showed us that the end was at hand by robots, or aliens or worst yet ourselves.

Even with Y2K a dud, the obsession with the end continued to snowball down the timeline from 2000, past 9/11 and straight towards 2012.  Literally dozens of movies and television shows have played out the chess game of our imminent demise and the dark future that awaits us beyond the boundaries of our modern world.

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This week, the class took a look at the 1983 made for TV film The Day After.  If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the hubbub around this film.  Nearly 100 million people tuned in, and the film was followed by a televised debate on nuclear weapons, and accompanied by a toll-free hotline with counselors, school curriculum, and even a five episode series on conflict on Mr. Rogers to help children cope.

I had debated including the film.  With so many films to look at, The Day After seemed a bit dated, the Cold War seems a distant memory to my students.  Though conflict, obviously, has been an all too present headline throughout college students’ lives, the threat of wholesale nuclear annihilation seemed to belong to another generation.

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But this past weeks events in Crimea and Ukraine made this 20-year-old movie seem as relevant as ever.  At last week’s CPAC conference, keynote speaker Sarah Palin leveled criticism at Obama for choosing diplomacy over force in her  usually eloquent and well thought out way.

Sadly for Momma Bear, and all of us, she is woefully wrong.  As terrifyingly demonstrated in The Day After, nuclear war leaves no winners, only casualties.  Stopping Putin with nukes in Crimea is a recipe for MAD–mutually assured destruction.   But even with all we know about the consequences of nuclear war, I was surprised to see news headlines this morning heralding a return of the nuclear age.

The number of nuclear weapons stockpiled by countries, armed and ready has declined through consistent and concerted efforts of antiwar activists.  However, the amount of plutonium available through commercial production opens and avenue for rogues to obtain material for bomb making easier than ever before.

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The tension in Crimea reminds us that we still have work to do to make our world a stable safe place to live and grow in.  We can’t ride in Grizzly-style and fight nukes with nukes, and we can’t think that nuclear war is a threat of the past.  Instead of encouraging brute strength, use your political power to vote, advocate and petition to stop nuclear proliferation.

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Ronald Reagan watched The Day After, and he wrote in his diary that it changed his idea of a winnable nuclear war.  He said , “we have to do all that we can to be sure that there is never a nuclear war. ” Shortly thereafter, Reagan helped to end the Cold War.  So do me a favor:  send Sarah Palin a copy of The Day After, and let’s not fight nukes with nukes.