#Imagine the United States, through the lens of Ross
-Imagine a World with No Fear of War-
Ross Wood is from the state of Virginia in the United States. Over the last five years he has spent time working in support of marginalized people in Morocco, Israel, Kenya, and South Sudan. Most recently he served as the Area Coordinator of the Yida Refugee Camp on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Currently, Ross is pursuing a Master’s degree in Conflict, Security, and Development at the University of Bradford’s Peace Studies Center as a Rotary Peace Fellow.
In the winter of 1963 my grandma begged my granddad to move away from their life-long home in Columbia, South Carolina. My grandma was terrified that the eastern seaboard of the United States would be the first place to be hit once nuclear war broke out, and she wanted to give her two children a chance to live in the mid-West of the country where she thought bombs could not reach. My granddad, not wanting to leave his home, tried to soothe my grandma’s fears to no avail. Finally, as my grandma was packing suitcases to make ready for the trip to South Dakota (or so the story goes), they came to an agreement. My granddad hired a crew of five men to construct a solid concrete bomb shelter that sat fifteen feet underneath the foundations of their house.
Beyond being afraid of mushroom clouds and nuclear winter, my grandma was afraid of what such a devastating explosion on American soil, no matter which city it obliterated, would do to the collective psyche of her community. She envisioned a scenario in which her Sunday tennis partners would transform from sweet, chatty ladies into hardened survivalists that would not hesitate to seize the safety of a known bomb shelter by force. With that grim thought in mind, my grandma insisted that the work crew dig in secret. She made sure that the entrance to the shelter was out of sight from the neighbors. Once the shelter was complete, she would stock it during the cover of night with enough canned goods to last four adults for a year.
The bomb shelter became my grandparent’s greatest shared secret. No one, not even their two children, knew of its existence until November 9, 1986 when the Berlin Wall fell.
From the perspective of a civilian living in the United States, fear and uncertainty characterized the state of global security during the period before the end of the Cold War. Civilians trembled at the thought of a powerful enemy with the ability to take out entire cities with the push of a button. Growing out of that fear, global security issues were considered in terms of the Cold War. The drug trade was thought to fund communism, and so the United States presented itself as justified in intervening in Latin America to stop narcotics trafficking. Civil wars in Africa and East Asia were deemed “proxy” wars and warranted intervention as remote Cold War battlegrounds. Put simply, before the end of the Cold War a fear of communism was a clear point of focus for the imaginings, both hopeful and terrible, of Americans.
Now that the Cold War is over, my grandma no longer trembles at the thought of a looming nuclear blast. The future that she hoped for, one in which the Cold War ended without a shot fired, went from an imagining to a reality. New fears, though, have materialized in the wake of that war. As for me, I imagine a world in which there is no fear of war. I hope that my imagining, like my grandma’s, will some day become a reality.