Nathaniel Kublin | Brown University
I remember sitting in class as a 12 year old learning about the Cold War. I remember being shown videos of school children practicing drills in case of a Russian attack, where students would tuck and cover underneath their desks as a siren blared in the background. I remember the next video, in which atomic bombs were tested. I remember entire buildings being decimated within seconds. I remember thinking that there was no way that tucking beneath a desk would help. The last thing that I distinctly remember was the feeling of powerlessness from simply watching these videos. I couldn’t even fathom what it must’ve been like to live with the looming fear of war at all times.
Fast forward to this past week. I was sitting in the Blue State coffee shop inside the Brown University Bookstore getting a chamomile tea and preparing to do some reading for a class. While waiting in line, I glanced to a TV showing the CNN headline, “North Korea Warns of Nuclear War ‘At Any Moment.’” I expected to be taken back to my 12 year old self, worrying about the looming threat of nuclear war, but I wasn’t. I felt nothing. I looked around the crowded coffee shop, and no one else seemed to care either.
I don't think my lack of fear towards the headline is representative of how I feel about nuclear war. Believe it or not, I would much rather not go to war. I think, rather, it is the result of desensitization.
News moves a mile a minute, and it is difficult even keep up with every headline. With a president that is actively tweeting, and numerous news sources covering it with their own twist, information transfers at a rate never seen before. The over-saturation of the coverage is making it difficult to keep up, and this is more of an issue than it may first appear.
With time, it becomes increasingly exhausting to know all of the main news headlines. While the 2016 election may have seen a sharp increase in the number of people actively consuming news, the number of negative news stories lead to people becoming apolitical. Even further than solely losing an audience, the stories themselves are not receiving the attention they need to. Right now, there are concerns about North Korea, the president’s connection to Russia, numerous high profile sexual assault allegations, the take a knee movement, the trustworthiness of mainstream media, national parks, islamophobia, white supremacy, gun control, and tax reform. While this is just the tip of the iceberg, it provides a glimpse as to how much is asked of a consumer to stay up to date.
What’s unfortunate is that every one of those articles deserves to have a wide audience and extensive public discourse. The solution is not to have less news, but rather to remain committed to keeping up to date with world events. While this process is not always the easiest choice, giving up and becoming apolitical only adds to the long list of issues facing the world right now.
On a personal, honest level, I struggle with this on a regular basis. My most recent example was feeling disheartened after seeing the president of the United States retweet multiple islamophobic videos that had the intent of spreading hate. While it may be easier to ignore the videos, that would have made me complicit to the message. It is actively staying involved that makes a change, and vocalizing opinions that gets your voice heard.
The desensitization I feel towards nuclear war frustrates me deeply, and it is something I actively strive to overcome. Taking a moment to consider the situation as a whole can remind you how wildly unacceptable it is, and reignite the spark that has been drowned out. It is important to not let something become normalized as result of how often it is referenced. If it is continuously discussed, that's probably because it matters.
Also, the ice caps are melting.