I cannot sleep.
I was a little girl when the Cuban Missile Crisis scared the wits out of us. I was in second grade, and I still remember kneeling in the hallway of Overbook School as Sister Mary Martin led us in the rosary. I remember my knees grinding into the floor as I recited the responses. I remember my relief — our national relief — when Mr Krushchev turned his ships around and the threat of nuclear war receded.
When I heard the President threatening North Korea today, snarling like a teenage boy intent on winning a game of chicken, I had to wonder where he was in 1962.
Tonight as I said my bedtime Shema I asked the Holy One to spare us. Not only us, but all the people living in range of a nightmare: the children of South Korea, of Japan, of Guam, of anywhere the North Korean missiles (and any other missiles!) can reach.
A few years ago I had the honor of getting to know a woman who grew up in Fukuoka, Japan during World War II. Fukuoka is 280 km from Hiroshima, and 153 km from Nagasaki. Her home was between the two bombs we dropped on Japan. Later, during the occupation of Japan, she married a G.I. and moved to Georgia.
I did not plan to ask Mairi about her experience in the war. She was very elderly and did not need curious questions. I was only a friend helping out for a few weeks while her son had to be away. But one day something came on TV that reminded her of the bombs and she began to talk about it. I will never forget the pain in her voice, talking about the things she had seen.
And yes, I know that the Japanese had done terrible things in the war. I know Mr Truman felt it was better to drop those bombs. I suspect he had no idea of the horror it would set loose on civilians, things that would haunt survivors to the end of their days.
Now that we know, and we know that the weapons in our arsenals are much, much worse, how can we think of using them? And how could our President think that taunting the North Korean dictator, a man who seems to care little for the welfare of his own people, is a good idea?
I have to wonder: have we learned nothing?
Hashkiveinu, Adonai, Eloheinu l’shalom, v’ha’amideinu malkeinu l’chaim. Ufros aleinu sukkat sh’lomecha, v’tak’neinu b’eitza tova mil’fanecha.
Let us lie down, O Holy One, our Ruler, in peace, and raise us up, our Sovereign, to life. Spread over us the shelter of Your peace, and guide us with Your good counsel. — from Hashkiveinu, the prayer for peaceful rest.
“Guide us with your good counsel” — Yes, guide the leaders of our world, help them to see the paths of peace. Give them wisdom, and give them the courage it takes to step back from the brink.
We ask this of You, who knows the hearts of each of us, and we ask it for the sale of your Name. Amen.