I was a teenager in the 80s – as numerous pictures of me with cockatiel bangs can attest. That was during Reagan’s military buildup, “the bear” ad, and his “tear down this wall” speech.
Somehow, however, I never felt that the communist threat was real. I was living in a first strike city (and have most of my life) but never feared for my safety. Perhaps if I had grown up doing air raid drills – with only my particle board desk to save me from radiation – it would have been internalized. Or maybe it would have felt real if I’d watched The Day After like everyone else did when it aired in 1983.
The idea of communism made sense to me with everyone sharing resources equally, but even as a teenager I knew it didn’t work in reality. I’d already had to do the majority of the work in too many group projects (with everyone getting my high grade) to know that it doesn’t accurately reflect the human condition.
Despite my complete lack of fear of the Soviet Union, it did give me a perfect scapegoat for everything that didn’t go my way: It was part of the communist plot. My not getting something off my gift list was part of the plot, as was not making it to the finals at a speech tournament. I’m sure even the time I arrived at school completely drenched from a sudden rainstorm was also blamed on the Soviet menace.
If the Soviet plan was to frighten the American public into submission, they failed with me – but they did provide hours of entertainment. Ma and Tom don’t remember this “phase,” but all these years later I occasionally still find myself blaming the communists for my misfortune. Kids these days just don’t understand.
Was my lack of fear of the Soviet Union unique? Or Who watched The Day After when it originally aired?