Tuesday, June 14, 2016
The Civil Defense Show
I was a kid in grammar school back in the duck and cover days of civil defense. We used to have drills where we'd all file down to the basement lavatory. Somehow that was supposed to protect us from atomic warfare. All I could think was that we were going to die in a stinky bathroom. While the room was in the basement, it was lit with a long row of chicken mesh windows at the top of the ceiling. Even as a little kid that didn't make much sense to me.
Since I showed some interest in bomb shelters my mother gave me a bunch of civil defense handouts to read. I was probably in the 3rd or 4th grade. By then I was reading a few years above my grade level. Government literature is generally written at about the 6th grade level so it wasn't that hard to understand.
Soon I came to realize that the self defense drills had very little to do with self defense. It confused the heck out of me. The adults around me didn't want to hear about how many feet of dirt we'd really need or anything about air filtration. They blindly went through the motions of doing something that was supposed to make us feel like the government had a plan and a solution.
That is when I came to realization that the government wasn't going to keep us safe. We'd have to do it ourselves. It was a harsh lesson to learn at a young age.
By the time I was a firefighter in the late 70s, the civil defense thing was a joke. Some of the basements of public buildings still had the emergency fallout shelter signs. There was a pile of civil defense supplies rotting in one of the back basement rooms of the firehouse.
The stash had been picked over pretty well. The supplies were stored in metal canisters, which by then were often repurposed as trash cans. They had some very low quality paper goods including feminine supplies. Woe be it to any lady who would actually have to use them. There were containers of hard round candy that survived the years in good shape. Those proved to be pretty popular. All in all, the whole civil defense exercise turned out to be both a deception and a waste of resources.
We can look back at those days and laugh. Then we can look around at today's TSA and Homeland Security and cry.