Vice President Dick Cheney is pressing the fear button by claiming terrorists could set off a nuclear weapon in the U.S. That’s why we’re supposed to support the administration’s wars. That’s why we have to give up our hard-won civil liberties. That’s why we need to vote (assuming they’ll let us vote at all) for George W. Bush.
Now, I’m not as old as Cheney, but I personally remember a bit of the last half of the 20th century. During much of my early life, this nation lived under the threat of total nuclear annihilation — not just one city being wiped out by a nuke, but most of the country, along with the rest of the world. As far back as the late 1950s and early 1960s this concern was so prevalent that it spawned a whole slew of movies and books still remembered (by some) today: Fail-Safe, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, among others.
Oddly enough, we were able to weather that threat without wholesale abridgement of the ideals of the nation. In fact, civil and sexual rights were expanded during the era of the Cold War. Various administrations fought change — it’s what administrations do — but there was overall progress.
Nor were we locked into a single party’s candidates. From the time the Soviet Union developed its first nuclear weapons to the fall of the USSR, control of the White House changed party hands five times: in 1952, 1960, 1968, 1976, and 1980.
I’d love to see someone ask Cheney why America under Bush and the Republiwimps is so weak that it can only deal with the threat of terrorism by clamping down on dissent when we once we able to simultaneously expand our freedoms and stare down the threat of global destruction.