“In a certain light, wouldn’t nuclear war be exciting?” he said.
There I was, on what would turn out to be the middle of a long string of Scruff dates that would lead nowhere but a weekday drinking habit.
He was in the Navy, maybe an officer if I remember correctly (which, I probably don’t). My Digital Black Book says his name is David?, but sitting here, now, I’m pretty sure it was Daniel. We were at a craft cocktail bar on the edge of the re-gentrifying part of the University Heights neighborhood in San Diego. I was drinking a French 75 and he was having a White Russian. I think drinking White Russians on a date is deplorable— making your breath reek of day old mushrooms and mildewy butterscotch candies— but that’s a story for another time.
“Ehm…” I choked on my drink.
I was … surprised. I don’t know if I was more surprised that he was asking me this psychopath question— in what light would nuclear war be exciting? Is it in the infinite light of death that precedes the mushroom cloud in a flash? I’m as nihilist as anybody, but even I don’t think that’s a certain light that I would be excited about.—or was I surprised that he was asking me an OKCupid question like it was original thought, like it was chit-chat, like he was name-dropping a low-rent version of the Proust Questionnaire.
“Ehm… no. I don’t think nuclear war would be exciting,” I said. “It would be, by definition, devastating and horrific.”
“Oh,” he said, “I dunno. There’s something about surviving that sounds exciting. It would shake things up, at least. Get our country out of this rut.”
This was 2014-ish, before Nazi Billionaire gagged his first primary, so at the time, it was just a question. Still, I didn’t like it, and I would discover over the latter half of this long string of San Diego date-nights that I didn’t really like people who did like that question, either, or even people who responded in any kind of affirmative. When faced with the prospect of nuclear war, what the fuck are you thinking if you think you’re going to be good to go in any conceivable instance?
“Ehm. No, I don’t see that.” I remember my drink being more green than a French 75 should have been, but I suppose memory changes with time, my mind filling the glass half full of trinitite or something. Maybe bile. “In fact,” I continued, “I think nuclear war is so extreme that the only people who would be leftover would be the kind of people who got the world — fuck this country, I mean the entire world— into a rut to begin with. I think instead of valiantly forging your way through the aftermath of our genocidal oligarchy, you’d be shanked for your paracord bracelet and left to die of sepsis because you couldn’t afford private insurance after all our public systems are shut down or burnt out.”
Even then, back when this was still just a stupid question, it wasn’t just a stupid question. It was a strange barometer; its very existence was like the canker that pops up to let you know your kissing cousin has the herp. If this question exists, there must be people who think nuclear war would be exciting, people would would applaud the use of nuclear force, people who … people who can’t even be considered human, as I understand humanity. Monsters.
“Yeah, but,” he said, smiling, thinking we were having some kind of adorable first date banter, “even if it’s chaos, it would be exciting chaos, right? Like, when you’re afraid for your life, that’s a kind of excitement.”
The waitress came over, asked if we wanted another, I jumped at the opportunity because, yeah, I needed a drink to get through this. David?/Daniel declined and asked for the check (he paid the full check, not because he was being chivalrous, as I thought at the time, but because he was reifying some backwards gender stereotype where he buys the drinks and I suck the cock. I found that out later, but whatever, I got my drinks for free.)
“I think you and I have a very different understanding of excitement. What you’re describing sounds tedious and exhausting; it sounds like poverty; it sounds like despair.”
As of today, this writing, Early August 2017, the world is on alert. Nazi Billionaire is ready to engage in nuclear war with North Korea. There aren’t enough Douglas Coupland tropes in his entire canon to have prepared me for this, to have prepared me to prepare for actual nuclear war.
Having been a toddler at the very end of the original Cold War, I have no real concept of what nuclear war means. To me, war is something fought over oil, in countries with a lot of sand. War is rarely ideological, never laudable, and more computerized than human. War isn’t a whirlwind romance for a summer, or even a quick relationship that lasts a couple years— it’s more like a marriage, with no end in sight when you begin it. And, really, war isn’t something you pay much attention to. You protest it, you know people who have been part of it, you might even know people who have died from it… but mutatis mutandis, the same is true of breast cancer, or heart disease. Unless you’re directly affected by it, you’re not really that affected by it.
But nuclear war… I dunno. That seems different, somehow. I don’t know what the numbers are for the amount of people the US Government has slaughtered in our oil wars over the last three decades. I don’t know how many people would be burnt to death or poisoned if we dropped a nuclear bomb on North Korea. I don’t know about fallout, wind patterns, shock, awe, or any of it. And frankly, I don’t care. Enumerating the horror won’t make it less horrific.
No, there is certainly no light in which nuclear war would be exciting, just as there is no light in which nuclear war should ever be considered an option. Only monsters— real monsters— could imagine otherwise.