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Really Cold War Robert Sheridan bobsheridan bobsheridan@earthlink.net I think it's terrific that the service men and women who served during the Cold War are getting recognition by means of a medal.

It's occurred to me that the civilians who lived through it all deserve a little recognition too.

On both sides we had a fair amount of wool pulled over our eyes. It was very politically incorrect to question why there was fuzz over our eyes, if we even noticed. I never did, not as a kid, and not as an adult, until it was way over.

How come?

Part of it is that I doubt fish can see the water they swim in. Once they're out of the water they can sense what they're missing and it's a revelation.

Oh, I knew a lot of stuff was going on, but I didn't have a lot of interest in banging a drum and asking inconvenient questions. There were a lot of other people around doing that and I generally didn't like them very much. Their message got buried by their other aspects.

What would I include in the memorial I was proposing?

Good question. Everything, but that's too much. It'll take a better artist than me to pare half a century down to essentials.

It may take half a century to gain the necessary perspective. Can you imagine summarizing WWII briefly in 1945? That would be hard. Too many details and the author or artist would be too personally involved to pick and choose unless he had a talent I can hardly imagine. Half a century later we can epitomize an operation like D-Day in a three-hour movie.

Absent someone else doing a definitive version, the answer is probably something like what you'd tell a youngster who asked what the Cold War was. You'd tell a story to fit the age of the person you're talking to and the time available before you lost him.

The fella who recently died, Joseph Heller, did that for WWII in his novel, "Catch-22." Other writers tried to write about the war. Norman Mailer, for example.

I don't know who has written a work defining the Cold War, or an artist, poet, movie maker, or architect of monuments, such as Maya Lin did for the 58,000 American service people who died in Vietnam. A hundred years from now, it may be the case that everything written and done artistically for the past half century will be so marked by having been written during this era that it/they will be as dated as a civil war uniform or a Stephen Foster song appears to us today.

It's remarkable to me nevertheless that the Cold War as a subject doesn't receive the commemorative attention that I think someday it must.

John Le Carre's Cold War spy novels are emblematic of the era, as is Fleming's James Bond novels and movies.

But there was more to it than spies out in the cold. A lot of civilians were out in the cold too. Remember the H-bomb drills? The civil defense exercises? Did you have a bomb shelter? We had a basement.

I wonder how long Four Corners would have lasted when a big one went off. Would it have made a difference if the explosion were centered on Manhattan? Or on the oil refineries in New Jersey? Did you prefer to fry sunnyside up or down?

There's a poem or somethin' in here for sure.

-rs



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