By Jim Poling Sr.
Thunder Bay, Ontario – I’m sitting on the Hillcrest Park stone wall overlooking the city where I was born and raised. The view of Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant is magnificent, as always.
So are the memories. Except for one.
I can see into downtown and the side street that once housed my favourite pool room. That brings a painful memory.
I was leaving the pool hall one day in the early 1960s when the air raid siren began blaring. Canada’s national defence department had installed air raid sirens in strategic cities across the country to alert citizens of a nuclear attack. Those were Cuban missile crisis-Cold War times.
We had been told that when we heard the air raid siren we should take cover wherever we could find it. I dived under a bus stop bench down the street from the pool room.
The siren was just a test, but finding cover was considered good practice for the real event.
The air raid sirens were dismantled in the 1970s because missile technology was so advanced that a strike could occur 15 minutes after launch, instead of four hours in the 1960s.
So here we are 50 or 60 years later, once again hearing nuclear strike threats.
Earlier this month the New York emergency management office released a short online video showing New Yorkers the steps they should take if “the big one has hit.”
Emergency officials said the likelihood of a nuclear attack is “very low,” but if so, why release a video telling people what to do when a mushroom cloud obliterates the city?
The fact is that chances of a nuclear attack are increasing rapidly.
Sad Vlad Putin, the lunatic with his finger on the nuclear buttons, said the other day that he will “make use of all weapon systems available” if need be. “This is not a bluff,” he added.
“The horsemen of the apocalypse” are on their way, the equally crazy Dmitry Medvedev, said recently. Medvedev is a former Russian prime minister, now a security council chief.
He also says Russia’s nuclear doctrine does not require it to be struck first before launching its own nuclear warheads.
Russia is said to have 6,000 nuclear warheads, the world’s largest nuclear bomb stockpile. Threats of using them have increased as Putin’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine has heightened his humiliation over how badly it has gone for him.
Putin is a kleptocrat and trained killer who has a reputation for becoming more vicious the tighter he is pushed into a corner. The fear is that if he is pushed much farther, he will make good on the threats.
“I fear that they will strike back now in really unpredictable ways,” Rose Gottemoeller, a former deputy secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),” told the BBC recently. “And ways that may even involve weapons of mass destruction.” Some commentators say nuclear strikes would be only with dialed down tactical nuclear weapons. The experts call these non-strategic weapons because they don’t take out large cities and kill millions in surrounding areas.
As I sit staring out over the city and the 30 kilometres of water separating the downtown and the rocky Sleeping Giant peninsula, I recall the legend of Nanabijou.
The local Indigenous people referred to the Sleeping Giant as Nanabijou. They said Nanabijou guarded a silver-rich little island known as Silver Islet.
If any intruders tried to reach the island to dig its valued silver, Nanabijou would awaken and roar with thunder, toss lightning bolts and blow destructive winds.
These were warnings that invading Nanabijou’s territory to steal the silver would mean certain death.
Stealing the valuable silver from the little island the Giant protects, is an issue no longer. But I like to think that when the Giant throws a summer tantrum across Thunder Bay, it is warning of something bad to happen.
Nanabijou’s roar is still loud and shrill, its lightning bolts still sharp and the winds still powerful enough to whip Lake Superior into giant waves.
When the nukes start flying – non-strategic or not – Nanabijou will still be around to roar. The trouble is, no one will be left to listen.