DF-SC-85-03352
An artist's concept of a Space Laser Satellite Defense System.

Knowledge Darts Vol. 2: Hell Is Round The Corner

Every day I hear stories about the stress and anxiety caused by Donald
Trump’s presidency. The world is in chaos and the White House is full
of mediocre white folks who don’t know what they’re doing, religious
zealots and white supremacists. Sounds par for the course to me! I
grew up under Republican presidents between the ages of 5 and 17
(1981-1993) and let me outline for what my childhood and adolescence
was like.

The inner cities of urban America were economically depressed, blight
was common, unemployment was high and things seemed bleak. During this
stretch, we were pretty much convinced that the United States and
Russia were going to start World War III. Elementary schools would
regularly hold air raid drills, where students would crouch down in
hallways as if an attack was underway. The nuclear arms race was
nightly news as was Reagan’s insane Star Wars Defense Plan. I’d watch
old movies like “The Planet Of The Apes,” “Damnation Alley” and “A Boy
& His Dog” with my older brother. Then one day we got a pay TV service
in Boston called Starcase in 1981 that further warped my fragile young
mind. I watched a documentary called “The Man Who Saw Tomorrow” about
the predictions of Nostradamus which was narrated by Orson Welles and
completely shook me to my core. I watched the scenes of an Antichrist
who would reawaken the King Of The Mongols and plunge the globe into
World War III. From that moment on I was essentially a little Dr.
Strangelove, I just prepared myself for the impending apocalypse.

I watched family fare like “Escape From New York,” “Mad Max,” and “The
Road Warrior,” realizing that I needed to brush up on my fighting
skills if I wanted to survive in a post apocalyptic irradiated
wasteland. I thought my prospects at survival might be pretty good
considering I was used to living in the ruins already. Back then every
third or fourth building in my neighborhood was abandoned and boarded
up. There were entire blocks with high fences covered in barbed wire
at the top, I was always confused why because the only thing in these
fields were rusted trash. We had drug addicts all over, mind you this
was even before the crack hit the inner city years later. It seemed
like everyone was struggling to get by and our president seemed to do
what ever he could to try to kill us off from his seat in Washington,
DC.

As I got older, I was attracted to comic books like “Kamandi, The Last
Boy On Earth” and cartoons like “Thundarr The Barbarian”. Only
difference being is while Thundarr was set 1000 years in the future
after the world was destroyed by a rogue comet anyone who watched it
attributed everything to the byproducts of nuclear war. Another of my
favorite cartoons of the era was 1983’s “Rock & Rule” where in a post
apocalyptic world following a nuclear holocaust, animals mutated into
humanoids and repopulated the planet. Mind you, this was a common
premise of 80’s children’s programming! I saw mind bending films like
“Blade Runner” that stuck with me the rest of my life and made me get
into Philip K. Dick’s writing when I older. There was also “WarGames”
where a hacker had discovered he was in danger of plunging the entire
world into nuclear war merely by playing a pirated computer game. I
watched TV movies like “The Day After” that depicted people trying to
survive after a nuclear attack. We still had fallout shelters in
abundance back then, the signage was visible on public buildings and
schools all over. As children, we’d watch the news and read the
newspapers readying ourselves for World War III and notification that
Ronald Reagan had pushed the button and the missiles were coming from
Russia.

In 1984, the seminal Cyberpunk novel “Neuromancer” was published.
Sci-i film “The Terminator” was released and the Crack Era was
underway. The plague of crack addiction swept through my neighborhood
at the same time several of my neighbors began to succumb to a new
disease called AIDS. Although the CDC had first named it back in 1981,
and news of it spread throughout the early 80’s, Ronald Reagan himself
never mentioned the disease by name until 1985 once his friend Rock
Hudson was on his deathbed and after the battle to prevent Indiana
teenager Ryan White who acquired AIDS via infected blood after a
transfusion to attend school with his classmates for fear he could
infect them. To recap, we had crack turning our neighbors into zombies
that would literally do anything for another toke of the pipe. The
lack of jobs and opportunity meant more people turned to dealing drugs
to make fast cash. This in turn created drug gangs who were fiercely
protective of their territory and often turned to violence to maintain
it. This led more youth either joining gangs for protection and safe
passage or a means to defend themselves from other gangs. Meanwhile, a
growing segment of the community was becoming infected with AIDS
through numerous methods because AIDS awareness wasn’t made a priority
yet. Let’s not forget that during this stretch the Reagan
Administration wanted to appear tough on crime that facilitated the
exponential growth of the Prison Industrial Complex. Soon, police
brutality and excessive force being used in American inner cities
became increasingly more frequent and commonplace while drug related
offenses were criminalized so severely prisons were teeming with brown
people. During this stretch of time the inequity gap began to widen
and widen. All of this is going on but in the hood our eyes were still
fixed to the skies waiting on the scenario to occur where the entire
world would eventually be engulfed in flames and we’d hope humanity
survived a nuclear winter. Needless to say, it created a certain breed
of young person determined to survive these strange times.

I devoured any books I could find that would give me an idea of what
to look for or gave my clues how to survive the impending apocalypse.
I knew teenagers with cars they paid for in cash (but had no place to
park them) with automatic weapons that would kill anyone who
threatened their cash flow or disrespected them in any way. Step on
the wrong person’s Adidas and you could be outta here. I tore through
seminal books like “1984,” “Brave New World.” “Fahrenheit 451” and
such short stories as Kurt Konnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” I then
moved on to books like William Gibson’s “Neuromancer.” Philip K.
Dick’s “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said” then to numerous comic
books, graphic novels and manga with similar themes like “American
Flagg.” “Fist Of The North Star.” “Akira,” “Appleseed,” and “Grey”.
Whenever I saw someone either in public or in school reading similar
materials we gave each other a knowing glance. They were also
preparing for the impending apocalypse like we were.

Every law that was passed further pushed us toward the brink of
ultimate destruction. Back then apartheid was still in existence in
South Africa for god’s sake! We threw ourselves into distractions to
better cope with this chaos swirling around us that seemed to be
tearing our world apart and killing our friends off. Something else
happened during these years, we slowly realized that back during the
60’s and the age of the counterculture that generation fought back
against the status quo in order the change the future when they
thought the world was headed to the brink of ultimate doom. As the
government pretty much waged war against the youth and any segment of
the population who demanded freedom, equality and equal protection
under the law they continued to fight during one of the most
tumultuous times in recent history. The world didn’t end then, we had
to fight to make sure it didn’t happen now, either.

Many of us forget that even while Bill Clinton was president we still
had events like the 1999 WTO protests otherwise known as “The Battle
In Seattle” where the news media did such a terrible job accurately
covering what was going on in real time. It was the first time we used
internet-based journalism and alternative media to fill the void and
report what was actually occurring versus the false accounts in the
New York Times that N30 protestors hurled Molotov cocktails at Seattle
policemen. We tend to discount the fact we made it through the
post-9/11 stretch where the world again seemed to be on the brink of
World War III and our collective freedom was put in danger by signing
of The Patriot Act back in 2001. We later discovered in Michael
Moore’s documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” many of those who signed the
bill never even read in the first place so they weren’t aware of where
it repeatedly violated basic human rights. That’s not very reassuring
to someone who is hoping there’s still a world to wake up to whenever
they go to sleep at night.

To recap, I’m currently 41 years old but between the ages of 5 to 17
and 25 to 33 I’ve been pretty much preparing for the end of the world
or for society as a whole to collapse all around me plunging
everything into chaos. In the short two weeks that Donald Trump’s been
president I’ve seen adults on public transit reading books I read back
when Ronald Reagan was in office and feeling the same anxieties about
surviving this presidency I felt when I was a kid. I might not survive
this presidency, but I’m pretty sure the world will find a way to go
on even with a complete idiot in the White House who seems hellbent on
plunging us back into the Dark Ages. What we need to do is resist
every step of the way.

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