In 1983, ABC Television broadcast a “made-for-TV” film entitled “The Day After.” This film helped shape the consciousness of a generation of young people who watched it. It tells the story of what would occur if a nuclear war actually occurred between the then-Soviet Union and the United States. Watching the film today, nearly 36 years later, one is aware that, artistically perhaps, it has not aged well. Regardless, the message remains the same. To engage in a nuclear war would be catastrophic.
The then-President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, viewed the film several days before its television broadcast and in his diary, the President stated that it was “very effective and left me greatly depressed.” In 1987, he signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, eliminating all land-based ballistic and cruise missiles.
If you are old enough to recall those days when nuclear war was considered a true existential threat, you might now have a sense of déjà vu. On Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, the U.S. announced that it was ending its agreement to the 1987 treaty over alleged Russian violations. The Russian Government countered by denying the veracity of the U.S. claims. Russian President Putin stated that his nation will now also pull out of the treaty and ordered that such land-based weapons be created as soon as possible for Russian use. Putin said that he would deploy them only if the U.S. does first.
The Doomsday clock ticks closer to midnight once again. Pray that cooler heads prevail and that President Trump and President Putin and their diplomats can come to an agreement that will ensure the safety of our nations and of the whole world. In these days, it might be good to recall the words of St. Paul VI in his 1965 address to the United Nations:
“As you know very well, peace is not built merely by means of politics and a balance of power and interests. It is built with the mind, with ideas, with the works of peace. You are working at this great endeavor, but you are only at the beginning of your labors. Will the world ever come to change the selfish and bellicose outlook that has spun out such a great part of its history up to now? It is hard to foresee the future, but easy to assert that the world has to set out resolutely on the path toward a new history, a peaceful history, one that will be truly and fully human, the one that God promised to men of good will. The pathways are marked out before you and the first one is disarmament.
“If you want to be brothers, let the arms fall from your hands.”