People are talking about their fear and anger at current events above, as they have been for a while. One thing that really struck me is how many are saying something in the neighbourhood of "So this is what it's like".
In contrast, I remember this feeling very, very well. Not that this helps at all. I actually envy those feeling this for the first time - it's worse knowing by experience that we as a species seem to find a way to inflict this on each generation.
It's the mid-eighties and I'm a young teenager travelling home from school on the train. An adult in the carriage has a newspaper and I can see the headline. The United States has just bombed Libya. We'd watched Threads a few months before in Chemistry class at school (our teacher was a bit nuts) and so I had vivid images in my mind of a nuclear holocaust being triggered by just such an event in the Middle East. I remember being both completely debilitated by the fear (which was widely shared at the time) and stunned by the emotional detachment of those who seemed to think that this event was only small news.
Even more amazing (to a teenage me) were those who seemed complacent about the fact that this "game" being played by the US was, in fact, a very real gamble with the lives of every man, woman and child on the planet.
Until very recently I would tell this story (of being afraid of Mutually Assured Destruction) to people five years younger than me or more and they would grin in the sort of semi-embarrassed way people reserve for "old-timers" and their crazy stories about the Cold War. And didn't we win in the end? So there wasn't anything to be really afraid of, right?
No-one seems to be grinning now, and that makes me feel sick. Call me a fool but I liked that grin. It was a grin that meant maybe things were getting better.
I am not concerned, here, with arguing the merits or insanity of war with Iraq. I just know that September 11, 2001 brought this feeling back, the feeling that we were all teetering on the edge of an abyss, and nothing that any country or leader has done yet has made this edge we walk seem safer. On the contrary, today just made it far, far worse.