“Remember your national emergency signal, when you see three large mushroom clouds and two small ones, it is not a drill. Turn off your TV and get under it.” (87)
I was watching Apocalypse Now last night for different lit class that I know some of you are in, when something outside my window made quite a lot of noise. It was probably just a car backfiring or some neighbor who found a rogue firework in their garage and decided to set it off before the rain hit– but I found myself totally unconcerned with the noise out my window for a good three minutes or so. Then it hit me that, unlike Martin Sheen, I was not in Vietnam during wartime and noises that sound like explosions out my window should probably, at the very least, spark my curiosity. But, because I was so engrossed in the movie on my computer screen, the real world had ceased to be real or affect me at all and I think that Bob Kaufman quote up there really laments this very phenomenon, among other things.
Kaufman is pointing at America’s numbness and de-sensitivity in this quote in the statement: “when you see three large mushroom clouds… Turn off your TV…” He is saying that in the event of nuclear attack, Americans would be so hooked to their televisions and so numb to reality that it would not really occur to them that a bomb had dropped until they saw the mushroom cloud- and even then they have to be reminded that it is not a drill. Americans would have to be reminded that what they are seeing is not on a screen, but real; the world outside their window really does affect them.
I think the most cynical aspect of this quote is the end, “Turn off your TV and get under it.” It is very easy to hide behind a television. People don’t actually have to go out into the world- the world can come to them in pixels on a screen. But, you can’t really hide behind your television in the event of a nuclear blast and getting under it would just make you look ridiculous before you died. But really, there is nothing you could at that point to prevent your death- so in a sense any national security plan for when a bomb is dropped is just as futile as climbing under your television.
I really liked this quote. It speaks the fact that maybe we’re all doomed, but if we would just turn off the screens we would at least have a little dignity in our death.