February 19, 2001
I was trying to explain nuclear weapons to Yyuran, my friend from Mars (never mind, it's a long story) the other day and he was having a lot of trouble with the concept.
"If it hadn't been for our nuclear weapons," I explained, "the Soviet Union would have taken over the world."
"The Soviet Union doesn't have any nuclear bombs?"
"Actually, it's not the Soviet Union anymore," I said. "The Soviet Union split into several countries, including Russia, which now has most of the nuclear weapons."
Yyuran spun his head 180 degrees in each direction, a gesture that I had learned meant confusion, and I could see that I wasn't getting through.
"Forget that, it's not important. Anyway, Russia has plenty of nukes, thousands of them, enough to blow the world up several times."
"Why would Russia want to blow up the world?"
"Maybe they don't anymore. But they did before because they wanted the world to be communist."
"But how could the world be communist if they blew it up?"
For a guy smart enough to fly a space ship he could be awfully stupid. "They didn't really want to blow it up. They just wanted us to think they would so we would give in to them. It was all a bluff."
"If they aren't really going to blow up the world, then their nuclear bombs are useless. As are yours."
"Our nuclear bombs aren't useless. They are the cornerstone of our defense!" I said rather heatedly. "If anyone threatens us, we can blow them to pieces."
"You mean you would blow up the world too?"
"I didn't say that!" I said sullenly. He was deliberately twisting my meaning around. "Anyway, I'm sure, pretty sure, that the Russians aren't going to attack us with nuclear weapons now."
"Then you will destroy your weapons."
"No, of course not. As long as Russia has them, we have to keep ours. Some other countries have them too and you never know who else will develop them. Some rogue states are working on them."
"Yeah, terrorist nations, like Iraq and North Korea, for example," I said.
"These are very powerful nations?"
"Unh, no. They're pretty small and weak. I don't think they have any nuclear warheads yet, but if they do, it's only one or two, something like that, and they don't have rockets powerful enough to hit the U.S. with them anyhow.."
"But then their nuclear bombs are useless too."
"Unh, well they could sneak one into the country. Some nukes are small enough to fit in a suitcase."
"Then all those missiles and bombers and submarines you have couldn't stop them?"
"No," I said, seeing where he was going. "But that doesn't mean our nuclear weapons are useless. If one of those terrorist nations should hit us with a suitcase nuclear bomb, we'd obliterate them!"
"Then surely no rogue state would do that," he said. "It would be suicide."
"Yup," I said proudly.
"And your country would be guilty of mass murder."
I was outraged. "Of course not! We'd be just protecting ourselves. Anyway, I'm sure that our leaders would never let things get so bad that they would use nukes," I said. "Or the leaders of Russia either," I added, trying to be fair.
His head spun again. "Let's forget those rogue states for a moment. The leaders of your country and Russia control most of the nuclear weapons that can blow up your world?"
"They consist then of groups of your wisest men?"
"Not exactly. Two men, the president of the United States and the leader of Russia, control almost all the nuclear weapons in the world."
"Two men! The fate of your world is in the hands of two men?" He acted like he didn't believe it. He was kinda naive, like I said. "These two men, they are the wisest men in your world?"
"Nah. They're both politicians and not terribly bright. The latest joke is that our new president is a 'post turtle.'"
"What's a post turtle?"
I wasn't sure he really understood our jokes, but I told him anyway. "When you're driving down a country road, and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top... that's a post turtle. You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he can't get nothing done while he's up there, and you just want to help the poor thing down."
"And this man is in charge of weapons that can destroy your world?" Yyuran said as if he didn't believe me. At that his head began spinning so fast that I became alarmed. By the time I reached his side, he had badly sprained his neck and is still recuperating in my bed.
I'm not sure that Martians will be able to adjust to life on earth very well.
Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic, a woman he had met in an Internet discussion group. Deckert and Hromic were married six months ago and are writing a book about their experience with Internet romance, Cyberdance.
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