Thursday, April 20, 2017

Boldt Words & Images: When the stars begin to fall

Art Institute of Chicago, original building
By Bob Boldt

In 1962, I was attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. For 13 days that October, the world was poised on the brink of universal destruction over the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember crossing Michigan Avenue on my way to class and noticing a construction crew pouring curbing at the corner of Michigan and Monroe Streets immediately north of the Art Institute. I wondered whether, before the concrete had set, we might all be dead. The fear and apprehension was just that immediate, just that concrete in everyone’s minds.
    Now the world seems set on another, even more serious path to destruction. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has even moved the Doomsday clock to two and one-half minutes to twelve.

We had a fine arts station in Chicago, WFMT-FM, that played classical music, folk music, and other programs of social importance. Each day during the crisis they signed on and signed off with the spiritual hymn, “Oh Lord What a Morning” (when the stars begin to fall).

    To this day I cannot hear the piece without experiencing a visceral return to that terrifying time. Not since the death of FDR had the nation felt so universally united – in his case over the passing of the man who had brought us through the greatest war in history. The Cuban Crisis represented our people’s coming together again in a time of nearly universal personal fear of death. We came together again a year later after another great tragedy, when the man who had successfully sheathed the swift sword of nuclear annihilation met his own untimely end, in Dallas, Texas.

    I had hoped that after the Cuban Missile Crisis we would actually have had enough of this MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) foreign policy, which has so often since nearly brought us to the brink of nuclear winter.
    We never seem to learn. One of the perils of having reached nearly four score is you see the same insanities repeating over and over. As President Kennedy said:
    We seem more successful in silencing the voices of sanity than ending the wars they warn us of.

Copyright © 2017 by Bob Boldt

1 comment:

  1. Wow this one really speaks to me. My grandparents lived in Key West which we must have heard a million times was only 90 miles from Cuba. There was still a Navy base and a Naval Air Station in the Keys and it was not unimaginable that the first bombs might fall right there. Patrick AFB was 10 miles north and has nukes as well and for sure, we reasoned,it would be hit. A few years later a local DJ put the wrong "cart" in place which sent out a signal that we were under nuclear attack. I was on my way to our church where I worked part time and went on. Figured I'd be as good there as anywhere. That was probably 1971.