Thinking is a requirement, not a privilege

Recently I happened upon a newspaper article from the Albuquerque Journal written in 1954 on the subject of what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. This of course came smack-dab in the thick of the Red Scare, when communists were constantly attempting to sabotage the United States or worse, directly attack.

Now of course there are things that we've all heard of, like ducking and covering under your wooden desks or everyone building a bomb shelter in their basement so they can tough it out. I thought I'd share a few of the other gems that were included on the list. In the section titled "Before Bomb Falls," there were several tips that would help minimize the impact of a nuclear explosion. They include keeping trash cans covered, raking up and destroying dry leaves and trash around buildings, cleaning attics and basements of flammable materials, putting the family auto in closed garage, or at least closing all the windows.

I assure, the entire list was not so ridiculous. There were genuinely helpful suggestions like not lighting up a cigarette that may have been full of explosive gas from broken lines, or shielding your body from flash burns during the blast by covering up with newspaper, a raincoat, or wood. Okay, so the last one wasn't all that helpful.

At this point you should be wondering where all this is leading up to. You're almost certain that I'm going to rail against the war on terror, or just general fear-mongering. Obviously I'm one of those Libertarian-types who fervently shouts that any government or authority at all are against the Constitution, and people should do whatever they want.

No, my purpose is not so narrow but much more simplistic. As you read this list some 50-odd years after its audience was supposed to have been vaporized, it should cause a chuckle or two. Eyebrows will be raised and perhaps even a guffaw will shoot forth from your lips. However, the point is not just to highlight the inaccuracy or the ridiculousness of the information, but to get you to think about the consequences that entail from its dissemination.

If you're listening to an argument or a debate and someone makes a convincing point, don't take it at face value. Or, if you'd like, accept the contention but make it a point to verify the information at a later date. If you read something in the newspaper (yes, even the Opinion section), don't merely celebrate it or ignore it: learn about it. Disagree with something? Make your voice heard, certainly, but take the time to research your facts instead of merely just spouting things you believe to be true.

This is not intended as a criticism of any specific thing, or even necessarily any contemporary issue (though almost certainly there are subjects that this would apply to). Instead this is a desperate plea, a sharp cry in the dead of the night for scepticism and contemplation. I don't care who you are, what you do, or what you believe in. Just be a human being, the most essential qualities of which are inquisitiveness and the capacity to learn.

And in the event of a nuclear strike, stay out of your automobile - the gas may ignite and cause an explosion.