Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, April 19, 1960
April 19, 2010 | 1:42 pm
Let's Look at What Happened in London
With the odd feeling of an outsider looking in, I read the news accounts of what happened in London yesterday.
There was a parade, seven miles long. More than 100,000 people were either in it, or awaiting its culmination in Trafalgar Square.
And there were thousands more lining the curbs along its route. Cheering.
The biggest demonstration in London since V-E Day, one wire service dispatch called it.
Not much, admittedly, compared to what happens in Pasadena on New Year's Day.
But just the same, it was a remarkable parade.
Remarkable because there was no football game to go with it. No baton-spinning girls with goose pimples on their bare legs. No breath-taking floats artistically decorated with 30,000 chrysanthemums and 20,000 carnations.
The only inspiration for this parade was that 100,000 people didn't want to die. They didn't want all of us to destroy ourselves with our knowledge of nuclear physics and they weren't afraid to exhibit their fear in public.
They swallowed their sophistication, their complacency, and went out into the streets and marched.
I can't help but be glad that they did. Because I'm a share holder in their fright.
But at the same time, I'm more than a little ashamed that I had to be among the outsiders. That the people of the United States should be placed in the position of gawking spectators to this kind of a mass demonstration.
As a nation, we've assumed one hell of a lot of material responsibility in the free world today. But as individuals, we seem to have cultivated a knack for passing the buck when it comes to moral leadership.
With a summit meeting with Russia just a few weeks away and the existing possibility that a feasible formula for an international nuclear weapons ban can become a reality before everybody's blown to bits, we're showing an amazing apathy.
The U.S. and Russia are pretty obviously the economic and military leaders of today. It would be nice to be able to pin 50% of the blame on the Russian people for their "indifference" to the threat of annihilation.
Nice, but dishonest. You can't blame the Russian farmer or office worker or auto mechanic. He won't dare march in a protest parade that wasn't party-sanctioned.
But we don't have that kind of restriction.
We have rights like nobody in the world has rights. But somehow, we seem to be frightened, or perhaps bored, by our own powers as individuals. We'd rather be associated with the mob than risk a neighbor's criticism by offering a new thought.
This bit about self-preservation, saving the world from annihilation.
We seem to regard it as a kooky sort of scheme. Crackpot.
'Hollywood for Sane'
Last September an organization known as "Hollywood for Sane" came into existence. It's a branch of the national movement for sane action with nuclear energy, with the purpose of preventing the end of civilization as we know it.
If there's a better "cause" to crusade for, tell me.
Yet, some of the Hollywood personalities -- including Robert Ryan and Steve Allen, who currently co-chairman the entertainment industry branch -- have had some rough moments because they dared to express their personal feelings.
My personal feeling is that we find it hard to accept the possibility that our families, our cities, might be wiped out simply because we -- unlike the British -- have never had to face the holocaust of modern warfare in our own backyard.
If that's the case, I think it's time we started reading some of the books that were authored by men and women who lived through the London blitz.
And maybe then we'll have some parades of our own.