RICKTER SCALE: Nuclear chicken tough to digest

How close are Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un to crossing the line?

Rick Stibel| Contributed

It’s been 55 years since the threat of a nuclear confrontation hung over our heads and our planet in such a palpable fashion.

Although I was only 12 years old in October 1962, the images of worry etched on the faces of my parents remain vivid, a reminder of what it must have been like to be a parent during a time of such uncertainty.

For 13 days, the world held its collective breath while U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Russian Premier Nikita Krushchev stared down the barrels of their weapons of mass destruction.

People listened to the radio for updates during the day and watched the news at night on television with a tension too intense to describe as the rhetoric ramped up toward a point of no return.

At least at that time the terms were clear, the line in the sand visible and readable. If the Soviet Union refused to remove their missiles from Cuba, all of the nuclear hell and devastation we witnessed from afar in Japan at the end of the Second World War would be upon us again.

When the Russians finally relented and agreed to remove the offending warheads, the angst and uncertainty fortunately dissipated like a storm cloud blown away before it could unleash its fury.

The lessons we learned in those dark days in October so many years ago are being tested again, and the stakes are much higher this time around.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are engaged in a global game of chicken, and this time there are too many necks to count on the chopping block.

Each disparaging tweet and veiled threat from one to the other brings us an insult closer to crossing a line that has no point of return.

The fact that conservative estimates throw around the numbers of potential dead in the millions if one or the other decides to pull the trigger does not appear to be enough to deter either leader from raising their reckless stakes.

The prospect of these two men sitting down together to break bread and plot a path to lasting peace does not seem to be an option at this point in time.

We are left to helplessly hope there are people close enough to these decision makers of dubious judgment to ensure that war doesn’t unfold on their watch. If you believe in conspiring with a higher power, it’s a good time to seek some heavenly. We must do whatever we can for our children’s children to ensure that the images of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki never darken our screens again.

•••

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired journalist and Sooke resident.

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