Dear Baby Boomers,
Your children and your grandchildren need you right now — their lives may depend on it. I know, because I am one of them.
My only memory from the Cold War is the fall of the Berlin Wall. The only reason I remember that day, however, is because my mother told me I would remember it. At the time, I had no idea why she was so excited about the demolition of a ugly concrete wall that was covered in graffiti. I was six-years-old.
I never had to do duck and cover drills in school. I was born 20 years after President John F. Kennedy went on national television to urge Americans to build fall out shelters. I was still a baby when Carl Sagan and his colleagues discovered and publicized the prospect of nuclear winter — a development so significant that it helped initiate the de-escalation of the nuclear arms race.
My generation never felt the anxiety of the Cold War, and few of us feel anxious about the current North Korea crisis. Although the risk of nuclear war is now as high as it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the majority of Americans “believe a major war is imminent,” we don’t seem to grasp the gravity of the situation, nor understand that even our own families could be at risk. Nuclear expert Alan Robock confirms that “most people, including high-ranking defense officials, are unaware that a nuclear war occurring halfway around the world from the U.S. could seriously harm the homeland.”
A few months ago, we mobilized in record numbers to prevent Congress from repealing the Affordable Care Act because we understood how losing Obamacare would negatively impact our lives. Now we are barely mobilizing at all around an issue that could have even more dire consequences for our health. Instead, we argue about nuclear war as if it was just one more issue on the political battleground that divides us. Even the activists amongst us are focused on other issues.
Author Jonathan Schell seemingly foresaw our predicament in 1998 when he wrote, “a new generation, innocent of the divisions of the Cold War… do not feel the urgency to escape the nuclear danger that some of its parents felt. The call for abolition should therefore be, among other things, a call from an older generation to younger one.”
In 1982, your generation organized the (then) biggest demonstration in American history to protest nuclear escalation. Your success was largely a result of your visceral understanding of the devastating effects of nuclear war.
I know many of you are retired, and even more of you are tired. I know you already did your part in the 1960s with peace and love and all that. I know it is supposed to be our generation that takes responsibility and demands an end to the senseless escalation of threats. But we’re not doing it.
We need our parents and our grandparents to help us one last time.
We need you to speak out again.
Generation X and the Millennials
Lisa Fuller spent the past eight years working in war zones such as Iraq, South Sudan and Sri Lanka as a senior staff member at Nonviolent Peaceforce. She recently discovered that she is a member of the Xennial microgeneration. Follow her on Twitter: @gigipurple.