From the Archives: We’ve Forgotten How to Fear
I’ve been writing all day, every day, for about 25 years now, so it turns out that a lot of topics that come up in the news, I’ve written about before. So we continue an occasional series — to be prescribed solely as directed — called From the Archives, which republishes old Will Leitch columns when they are relevant to the news of the day. This is a column I wrote for Deadspin back in December 2017 — and all writers who ever wrote for Deadspin before it died in November 2019 are heretofore encouraged to grab everything they can from it before it is wiped — about how we’d been conditioned to forget about nuclear war, even though it’s just as terrifying and feasible as it has ever been. The focus of this at the time was Trump and North Korea, but the overarching premise is just as relevant today.
It is, as it goes, a day like any other. A family of five rustles around the breakfast table, in a hurry, shoveling food while rushing to get to school, to the office, to the carpool lane. They live in the city of Hamelin, a fictional suburb roughly 90 miles from San Francisco, where the father in the family works. He kisses the kids, flirts and bickers with his wife and sprints out the door with a smiling wave. The five-year-old son spills milk across the table; the two older kids fight over the television. Carol, the mom, hustles the kids off to school, where she directs the student play — it’s about The Pied Piper this year. (The little mice are very cute.) Grandma and Grandpa are coming to visit from Chicago next Easter. The oldest son is getting better at riding his bike, even uphill. The neighbors down the road have a new baby. There’s a lot going on, because there is always a lot going on. The Wetherly family in the 1983 film Testament is like every other family, every other person, every regular schmuck just walking around. Their lives are unremarkable and ordinary. They are just trying to go about their day, like anybody else.
Later that night, Dad is stuck at the San Francisco office, so the family prepares dinner while the younger kids watch cartoons and squabble. The signal on the television starts to flicker and go grey; the oldest sister frowns and pounds it with her fist. Suddenly, a news anchor appears on the…