LEXINGTON, KY – A CNN article updated on the 7th of August declared that North Korea should not be a threat outside of its immediate neighbors in East Asia, despite their increased missile testing. The article states that experts on North Korea hypothesize that the country’s ultimate goal is to create an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of completing a nuclear strike on the United States were the US ever to attempt to depose Kim Jong Un.
Now my hands actually shake as I type this. Telemann’s oboe concertos chirp nonsensically in each ear. I will sleep tonight with the train tracks across the parking lot rattling my window, as they have and do and will. Meanwhile the notices on the news apps defy statements I made mere days ago.
On the 8th of August, US intelligence confirmed that North Korea had created a nuclear warhead capable of fitting inside a missile and Kim Jong Un threatened to attack the US Pacific Territory of Guam in light of UN sanctions regarding their ballistics testing.“I am become Death, destroyer of worlds,” thought J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoting the Bhagavad Gita, upon watching the world’s first atomic explosion at Trinity, New Mexico—his doing as the director of the impossibly highly-classified Manhattan Project.
That same day, the 8th, President Trump threatened North Korea with the now infamous and widely derided “fire and fury” statement.
On the 9th of August, Wednesday, North Korea declared a plan to strike Guam would be ready within days. It was not specified if the attack would be nuclear, nor if it would even be executed. On the 10th, a post on the CNN website said that to avoid war with North Korea, all we need to do is to just not make the first strike. I hope it's right, and maybe it is, but we must understand how serious this situation is. We must be very, very careful with what we do and say, because, right now, we and the world agree that we have been reckless."I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.”
I think of the T. S. Eliot poem, “The Hollow Men,” a line from which was given to the title of a 1957 futuristic novel about the aftermath of World War III, “On the Beach”. The poem is a representation of a Europe ravaged by the First World War, and yet we’ve been applying it to nuclear holocaust scenarios ever since nuclear holocausts have been possible:
“This is the dead landThis is cactus landHere the stone imagesAre raised, here they receiveThe supplication of a dead man’s handUnder the twinkle of a fading star.”
I thought we had put too much effort, too many decades of work, into avoiding a war like the one that may be awaiting us, to be here. To be here again, to be here still. I never really thought it would happen because I thought détente was good enough. I had just assumed it would hold out forever. I so madly hope I’m not yet wrong.