Not thinking about it, I clicked on the song. My first realization was that in light of what’s going on in Japan, that song is simply Not Funny right now. Not at all.
But the second thing I realized, maybe precisely because of the current Non Funny state of the song, was how much of it my daughter simply won’t understand. And how good that is.
In grammar school, a perennial topic of conversation was nuclear war. On the playground or at the lunch table, my friends and I spoke with the general understanding that at some point, The Button would be pressed and we’d all have about half an hour left to get our affairs in order. I’d wonder sometimes about how a person lives with the knowledge that death comes in the next thirty minutes.
I didn’t think I’d be among the survivors. As a New Yorker, I grew up very conscious of living on “the world’s biggest bull’s-eye.” That may have been a universal for my generation, though: my husband, under far different circumstances, grew up feeling the same thing but for different reasons (since he didn’t live in a city, but his father belonged to the Air Force.)
Among our in-use vocabulary were terms such as DEFCON, fallout, mushroom cloud, missiles, radiation sickness. It was a given we’d all die that way. It was just a matter of when. When we watched Tom And Jerry and heard “The White Mouse Will Not Explode,” we knew — knew it — what they were really talking about.
Do you ever wonder what it did to our psyches, growing up thinking everyone could die on the decision of a few politicians in their offices? Believing that when death came, it would come as an inescapable certitude for everyone you knew, anywhere you went? How much of our current politics, culture, religion, education — how much of that derives from the fatalism, helplessness and necessarily-repressed fear of The Bomb?
And now, twenty-five years after that song was recorded, my oldest said to me, “But isn’t Ground Zero where the twin towers used to stand?”
And my daughter looked at me, confused as to why the juxtaposition of nukes and Christmas was so hilarious.
And I have to tell you this: I’m terribly, terribly glad my children don’t understand.