By Jerry Bowen
Los Angeles, CA, USA

The new year of 2018 has begun on a promising note. We all survived Christmas and a certain eight year old who is dear to me got a new fishing pole. More importantly, he survived the two bullies who have brought fear into his young life.
Jerry Bowen

They are not school bullies. But bullies just the same: The leader of North Korea with his strange hairstyle and terrifying big, shiny new missile; and, the man in the White House with his very own strange hairstyle and a terrifying case of missile envy.

Rocket-man and Orange-head are engaged in a war of words. So far, only words. Verbal jousting over who has the biggest nuclear button. If this were theater, satire, it might be amusing. But there is nothing remotely funny here. To that eight-year-old boy, it is a horror show he is trying to wrap his mind around.

The boy is my grandson. An average kid in every way. Loves baseball and basketball and video games. Can’t stand most vegetables except broccoli with melted cheese. Is crazy about the Iowa State University Cyclone football team because I am.

He is also worried. And he is too young to have such concerns. But he has heard things. Awful things that little boys and girls shouldn’t have to hear or worry about.

Jerry Bowen's Grandson at Work

“Grampa is North Korea going to bomb us?” he asked me.

“I don’t think so,” I answered.

“Will they bomb us here?” 

“Here” is Redwood City, California. Part of the Silicon Valley. 

“Maybe they’ll bomb New York,” he adds hopefully.  

New York is very far away.

Accept it or not (and I do), these are reasonable questions. They are asked at a time when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have scheduled a meeting to discuss ways in which Americans should plan and prepare for nuclear war.

The meeting, which has been on the drawing board for months, is titled “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation.” That would mean responding to injuries from fierce winds, severe burns, flash blindness and radiation sickness.

The CDC advises that deaths and illness can be lessened if people shelter in place for 24 hours to reduce exposure to radiation.*

Really? Seriously?

My grandson is full of questions. 

“Our army is stronger, right?”  

“We can send Stealth bombers to North Korea. Maybe we can attack with Apache helicopters and machine guns! Apache helicopters are really quiet.”

The United States is closer to nuclear war with North Korea than ever before according to Mike Mullen. He is the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The retired admiral says the threat is increased because of the unpredictable behavior of the man in the White House.

“I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works,” tweeted the leader of the free world. 

Not exactly diplomatic words. But President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un are not diplomats. They are very much schoolyard bullies exchanging taunts on a world stage where the stakes are extreme.

I think my grandson has reason to be concerned. We all do.

“Remember you have lockdown drill at school today,” says his Mother. 

“What’s that?” I ask.  

“We have to get under our desks and huddle like a little turtle,” he tells me.   “And then the policeman will come and tell us it is safe to come out.” 

Lockdowns are meant to keep students safe from the threat of gunmen who might invade the school grounds.

Sixty years ago I participated in a different drill meant to save kids from a different threat, the same threat my grandson is now worried about. The drill was called “duck and cover.” Hide under your desk to be safe from the nuclear missile the Soviet Union has fired. It would not have worked. It was the best plan available in those years of fear.

My wife remembers visiting a friend’s basement, which had a corner converted into a bomb shelter with cement block walls and a heavy door. Inside there were shelves of food, bottles of water and beds for the family to sleep in. A place to survive Armageddon.

My grandson believes he has an idea of what is coming. 

“I don’t want to have to carry an AK47.”  

“Why would you?” I ask. 

“The Korean kids have to fight with AK47s.”  

He said he saw that on the news.

If the missiles come my grandson says he has a plan. 

“I’m going to dig a ditch where I can hide. But I will make air holes so I can breath and the bombs won’t hurt me.”

How sad is that? How awful to have such thoughts. Such questions.

It makes me angry. 

The President did not create the North Korea threat. But there is little to indicate he has the temperament or intellect to meet it.

My hope is that wiser heads will prevail and that the diplomacy given such little respect by this administration will be used to find a solution.

My grandson’s future depends on it. He shouldn’t be asking me about nuclear missiles.

He should (and will) be asking, “Grampa, when are we going fishing?”

The New Fishing Pole

*The CDC has since decided to temporarily postpone the gathering to focus on the nation's very serious flu outbreak. The new date is pending.


Jerry Bowen is a three-time Emmy Award-winning news correspondent now in retirement after 33 years with CBS Network News. He lives in Los Angeles but escapes regularly to commune with the coyotes and cougars on his family farm in southwest Iowa.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.