Several decades ago I would find myself sitting in a freshman English class trying to translate the Old English of the Canterbury Tales into country redneck. I was having no success when the air raid siren in downtown Newberry began to blow. It was a test that was repeated every weekday at noon. My English professor, a sometimes not quite sober and always irreverent guy, looked out the window and stated to the class, “If the Rooskies have enough bombs to waste on Newberry, we are f@#$ed. Class is dismissed!”
As I think back I would have to agree with my old professor and also admit that I miss the Soviets. We thought we knew who our enemies were back then, where they were, and how far we could push them. They wore certain uniforms and lived in certain countries. We knew that we were here and they were somewhere over there. It was our government against their government. Our ideologies versus their ideologies. We had theaters of war where an army would be on a particular side.
Then came Vietnam and the end of our “American Exceptionalism.” Even though the Russians were still involved and were our greatest enemy the Cold War environment began to change. Suddenly all uniforms were made of the same camouflage material that looked for the world like pajamas and camouflaged to look like everyone else BUT US. We wore the same colors and hats we always had worn but in jungle camo. The fighting took place in a jungle where you could never be quite certain where or who Charlie was. Having said all that we started to sense a blur between the two sides and two sides became three…or more. It was harder to determine just who the enemy was and now the blur has become so exaggerated, it is extremely difficult to separate the “good” guys and the “bad” guys, EVEN ON OUR OWN SIDE.
We cannot really look around and identify our enemies with any certainty with sleeper cells, pretenders, spies, double agents, and even refugees. And we must not forget the US involvement in the formation and training of so many of these groups. There is possibly only one place where we can identify the real troublemakers…we can look in a mirror. To quote Pogo and his creator Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
At least back in the 60’s there were air raid sirens that let you know something might be getting ready to happen. If you were lucky enough to be near a bomb shelter, you has some small semblance of safety even if it was just in your own mind. You knew that the Russians were coming…and still might. Today, we do not know who, how, when, or what may happen. I think I liked the sirens better.