I was born in 1958 which means I grew up in the Cold War era. Although I didn’t live in constant fear of bombs raining down on us, newscasts infiltrated my kid brain and I wondered if there would come a time when humans would blow each other to kingdom come with weapons of mass destruction. I grew up to be a peacemonger and progressive activist, a tree-hugging crunchy granola hippie. I attended anti-nuclear, pro-peace rallies and loved the No Nukes concert held in 1979 in Madison Square Garden, although I was not there in person. It was created by an organization called MUSE– Musicians United For Safe Energy. I felt empowered when I heard the album and played it over and over to bolster my budding beliefs that when joined in common purpose, we could make a positive difference on a sustainable planet.
Listening to NPR coverage about the nuclear disarmament meeting with DT and KJU and am still bewildered about the cavalier attitude world leaders of all countries have around nuclear weaponry. Don’t they get it, that there is no safe way to have missiles pointed at each other? It isn’t about making a deal. It is about preventing a nuclear holocaust. Two of my favorite movies about the subject are War Games and Amazing Grace and Chuck.
The first is better known, starring Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Barry Corbin, John Wood, and Dabney Coleman. It is the story of a high school genius; David (Broderick), with a wise guy attitude and an aptitude for computers, his friend Jennifer (Sheedy) and Dr. Stephen Falken (Wood), the creator of the computer that David hacks into that eventually begins the countdown to launch the missiles that could end the world. He thinks he is merely playing a game, but the computer thinks it is real.
The young people find their way to the remote island home of Dr. Falken where he has isolated himself, with an attitude of cynicism over the ways in which the world has devolved. He explains the purpose of the cyber being that he has named Joshua, after his young son who died:
Stephen Falken: The whole point was to find a way to practice nuclear war without destroying ourselves. To get the computers to learn from mistakes we couldn’t afford to make. Except, I never could get Joshua to learn the most important lesson.
David Lightman: What’s that?
Stephen Falken: Futility. That there’s a time when you should just give up.
Jennifer: What kind of a lesson is that?
Stephen Falken: Did you ever play tic-tac-toe?
Jennifer: Yeah, of course.
Stephen Falken: But you don’t anymore.
Stephen Falken: Why?
Jennifer: Because it’s a boring game. It’s always a tie.
Stephen Falken: Exactly. There’s no way to win. The game itself is pointless! But back at the war room, they believe you can win a nuclear war. That there can be “acceptable losses.”
At the end of the film, ‘Joshua’ wisely muses, “Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
The second film, Amazing Grace and Chuck is less heralded and in fact, criticized for being unrealistic and implausible. I loved its unerring optimism. The 1987 film features Jamie Lee Curtis, Gregory Peck, William Peterson, Alex English, and newcomer Joshua Zuelke as Chuck. Chuck is a star Little League pitcher whose father’s (Peterson) congressman friend takes Chuck’s class to see a nuclear missile silo. He is understandably alarmed about the implications and decides to “give up my best thing,” until there are no more nuclear weapons. On game day, he steps off the mound and goes on strike. A local news story ends up on the wire service and a fictional Boston Celtics player named Amazing Grace Smith (English) reads it and decides to join Chuck in his quest. Jamie Lee Curtis plays his skeptical agent who eventually comes around to support the cause as do numerous other professional and Olympic athletes. There are dark forces who don’t like what is going on and a tragic event occurs that only serves to strengthen the movement. Gregory Peck gives voice to the character of the President of the United States who sees the situation through Chuck’s eyes and because he wants a future for the next generations, he negotiates with the Russian Premier.
Initially, he says to the boy, “Now Chuck I can’t deny you the right to protest, that’s in the first amendment and God forbid that should change. But there’s an old saying: “You can’t run into a crowded theater and yell fire!” to which Chuck astutely asks, “But, sir, what if there is a fire?”
Would that we have someone like that in the White House, who is forward thinking and doesn’t imagine this as a war game and who is moved to prevent or put out fires instead of setting them? At the end of the film, Amazing Grace’s quote, “But wouldn’t it be nice?” is stretched across the screen. It would, indeed.
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 10, 2019