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Painting by Julie Seyler

“Implosion.” Painting by Julie Seyler.


I go through stages of reading the front section of The New York Times. I find I need to prep myself before I can delve into how the world is fracturing into a thousand little pieces. Once I’m ready, I plunge into the horror show – ready for the one-two punch of being weighed down by the oppressive facts that constitute modern day living, and frustrated by the endless non-answers. However, at least I don’t feel as if I am a complete ostrich with my head stuck in the sand. After I have been brought up to date on the latest wars, murders and irresolvable Congressional disagreements, I retreat and concentrate on the stuff that makes life worth enjoying – movies, books, art, restaurant reviews and recipes. I may have a love-hate relationship with food, but I love reading about it.

On Tuesday, January 8, 2013, I was in the mood to see what’s going on “over there.” The front page of The Times delivered, with the headline “Hints of Syrian Chemical Push Set off Global Effort to Stop It”. This was the opening paragraph:

In the last days of November, Israel’s top military commanders called the Pentagon to discuss troubling intelligence that was showing up on satellite imagery: Syrian troops appeared to be mixing chemicals at two storage sites, probably the deadly nerve gas sarin, and filling dozens of 500-pounds bombs that could be loaded on airplanes.

The article went onto discuss how the near catastrophe of easily distributed killer gas was averted. Countries that usually prefer to stab each other in the back (China, Russia, the Middle East and the United States), in a rare show of cooperation, were in synchronicity that chemical warfare is bad for all of us. Hallelujah for common sense! The article explained that there are actually several factors that need to be in place for a successful dispersion of sarin gas. Therefore, a chemical attack may not necessarily be the easiest way to obliterate the planet. And of course, the denouement of the piece consisted of the pundits warning that just because disaster was avoided this time, doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. Those munitions are still out there, and ready to be used, depending on who gets their hands on them.

I was frightened. I guess that was the purpose of the story, and decided to check in with some of the guys at work to see what they thought. One friend scoffed at chemical weapons, since they can only do damage to thousands of people. On the other hand, take a nuclear weapon – now that can wipe out millions in a second. His biggest concern: Pakistan.

Another guy was much more benign. He figures if a nuclear weapon drops on his sector of the universe he won’t have time to think about it. It will be over, and that will be that. Why worry about it? I said, “But what if you survive? And it’s like the movie On the Beach?” You know that great 1959 movie with Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins about the end of the world? Well, he figures he’d find a bridge to jump off of. Geez Louise.

We never even got into the topic of biological weapons. Anybody care to weigh in?