Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Everything that’s happening in the world right now, from Russia and Ukraine to the pandemic to global warming to book banning to tainted Olympics, can make a body feel like the apocalypse is finally upon us. You might wonder how anyone can go ahead and bring children into this catastrophe of an existence, but that idea got me thinking about the possibility that things are always terrible. That is, the larger picture. There are always bad things happening, natural and human-caused, including wars and disease and world-wide injustices.
And that got me thinking about how it was when I was a little kid. There I was, just getting my feet wet in first grade, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. That was the day the sixties really began, in my opinion, and I can only imagine the existential angst adults must have been feeling in the aftermath. We can’t forget that also looming over everything in those years was the threat of nuclear war. It looms over us still, as Putin’s aggression in Ukraine reminds us, but in those days it was something that might occur to people on any given day. Only a year before Kennedy’s death, the Cuban Missile Crisis tested the fragile safety mechanisms on the nuclear triggers.
Meanwhile, things were heating up in Vietnam. American cities started burning because of racial injustice. George Wallace blocked African American students from passing through the ivied portals of the University of Alabama. It’s no wonder young Americans turned to drugs in the years that followed; it was actually sensible to “turn on, tune in, drop out.”
By the end of the decade, four major figures had been assassinated, the war had killed 2 million Vietnamese people and more than 50,000 American soldiers, and all we had to show for it was a couple of guys walking on the moon.
So what I’ve come to understand now is that life on earth has always been fraught, and not just because survival is hard. The human species is kind of a dick, actually. Self-interest trumps big ideas. Greed is good is an axiom that seems true when you look at most highly successful people. The teachings of Jesus Christ are best embroidered on pillows and put aside because they ask too much of us. We’re only human, after all.
It’s always been tough. These bad things going on now are par for the course. So much so that we’ve already pretty much forgotten what we did to Iraq two decades ago. Those horrors (where have you gone, Lynndie England?) have been replaced by more recent crimes, such as separating children from their parents at the southern border and storming the U.S. Capitol. Ho hum.
At bottom is our tendency to wear communal blinders, but every now and then, as history whips around like a live wire, we get a real good glimpse at what we’re doing to one another on this planet, year in and year out.
But hey, the new iPhone 14 comes out later this year, and season 2 of Bridgerton premiers in March!