Imagining a world free of nuclear arms
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His book, and the film it inspired, awakened us, in no uncertain terms, to the dangers of nuclear war, leading countless Americans to commit to seeking peace. I was among them.
Two years after “The Day After” premiered, I took a course called Conflict Resolution as a freshman at SUNY Geneseo. The professor, a stout, hard-nosed military reservist, taught me about “mutually assured destruction,” or MAD, the defense doctrine that was the basis of our Cold War national security policy –– and in many ways still is. It states, essentially, that we must have enough nuclear weapons to wipe the enemy off the map. Then, the belief is, the enemy will never fire first, knowing that we can ensure its destruction if we are attacked.
It is a ludicrous principle, my professor noted, because one madman can upset the power balance. That’s why, he said, we must –– must –– work toward the eventual elimination of nuclear arms. No doubt, he said, that was a very big dream, but he insisted it was possible. Scrapping nuclear arms could become an industry unto itself, employing thousands of people for decades, he said.
Around that time, a friend told me about the Peace Corps. I decided to join after college, and signed up shortly before I finished graduate school. From 1991 to 1993, I served as an English teacher in Bulgaria, a Soviet satellite from the end of World War II to 1990, when it opened to the West. It is now a member of the European Union and NATO. The U.S. recently conducted joint naval exercises with Bulgaria and Romania in the Black Sea.
Bulgarians showed me that good people are the same everywhere. My students at the Vasil Drumev High School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences in Veliko Turnovo showered me with flowers at the start and end of each school year –– so many that my apartment resembled a floral shop. I was continually fed lavish meals.
We mustn’t give up the fight for peace, which Bulgarians craved. We must imagine a world in which all nations are united behind principles of democracy and justice.