Surviving the dotards

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Another year has come and gone. I congratulate to the world for surviving this one. We saw North Korea become a nuclear power with missiles possibly capable of reaching North America. Of course, US President Donald Trump went beyond the tough diplomatic rhetoric and started exchanging schoolyard insults with North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

In September 2017, Trump told the United Nations General Assembly: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Kim retorted: “A frightened dog barks louder.” He would later add, I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.” In reality, Kim’s use of the archaic term “dotard” – the translation they found for the Korean term for “old lunatic” – only set social media on fire.

But then, in January 2018, Kim said he had a nuclear button on his desk and that all of the US was within “the range of our nuclear strike.”

Part of Trump’s response was to tweet, “Please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Later they would meet, and tensions cooled down with the possibility of North Korean denuclearization. However, new US sanctions targeting North Korea seem to be stirring the pot.

It reminds me of growing up during the Cold War, with the impending threat of a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States along with their respective allies from the late 1940s to the late 1980s. We were all aware of the possibility and it influenced our lives.

In the late 1970s, I was part of a team of archeologists working in the Caniapiscau region of Eeyou Istchee. At the end of summer, William Rabbitskin, his wife and I were the last people to leave. The next morning was foggy and while walking around the camp I heard what I believe now was a low flying jet. After it passed over I heard a huge explosion. I thought that a nuclear missile had targeted the dam Hydro-Québec was building.

I quickly got on our two-way radio trying to find out what happened. Due to the fog I couldn’t reach anyone and was freaking out. Every now and then I would try again and fortunately for my sanity a passenger jet passed overhead. I asked how things were in the world and was told everything was okay. They contacted the company that was coming to take us back to Mistissini. I think they knew I was a little… well, very stressed out and had a stewardess talk to me while they were in range.

Can you imagine the thoughts that went through my mind? Besides the dams near Chisasibi, I knew Chibougamou was a target because of the NORAD radar installation there. That meant family and friends would die, nuclear winter would happen and how would I be able to repopulate Eeyou Istchee?

Those fears I had growing up are missing in this latest match-up between two nuclear powers. The leaders of both countries don’t seem to be as reasonable or worried about the consequences of a nuclear exchange as world leaders were during the Cold War. The Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 was the closest we came to ending the world, but luckily the situation was defused through compromises by both parties.

Trump has said that there would be another meeting between him and Kim in 2019. Hopefully the new year will see a positive result ensuring another year of survival for Mother Earth and her inhabitants.

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