A 60-year old photo of our family picnic under the cherry tree on my Grandma and Grandpa’s Farm fills me with joy and hope. Despite the dangers and our fears in June 1962, we avoided nuclear war. The Cold War ended. No matter how great the dangers in 2022, no matter how great our fears in 2022, today’s enemies can become tomorrow’s friends.
I have a favorite photograph. It’s a photo of a family picnic at the Harner Farm in Holley, New York (a drive of about an hour and a half east of Niagara Falls).
We’re eating hot dogs, corn, and other fruits and vegetables grown on the Farm.
My Grandma and Grandpa are there, sharing the bounty of their Farm and beaming with pride.
The table is in the shade under the gigantic black cherry tree in their front lawn.
Facing the camera (seated along one side of the table), are my mother and father with my sister and me. My sister was almost eight. I was almost seven. My Uncle Gerald and Aunt Lois are seated with their eldest son (who was about three).
This idyllic setting was worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting.
But this facade was broken when I turned the framed picture over and saw the date: June 1962.
We were approaching the climax of the Cold War.
On these trips to the Farm, I remember scary news bulletins “breaking into regularly scheduled programming” on my grandparents’ TV to report that the Russian Army was delaying the movement of our troops near Berlin at “Checkpoint Charlie”.
We never knew if the bulletin was going to tell us that World War III had begun!
The climax of the Cold War—the Cuban Missile Crisis—came a few months later in October 1962.
I remember my Aunt Lois telling my mother that she had put my cousin’s snowsuit in the basement in case they had to take shelter there.
If there was time, however, the plan was that we (about 20 people, including aunts, uncles, and cousins) would take shelter at the Farm. It would take my family about 45 minutes to drive west from Rochester to reach the Farm.
The two most likely nearby targets for a nuclear bomb were Niagara Falls (hydro-electric power for defense industries) and Kodak in Rochester (film for military uses such as the spy planes flying over Cuba and Russia).
Considering the inaccuracy and power of the Russian nukes, bombers and missiles that could reach Niagara Falls and Rochester in 1962, it was possible that we could survive the explosions and the resulting radiation.
The Farm had a well for water and many jars of homemade canned food. The first floor of the farmhouse was made of massive stones that would help provide protection from radiation. For added protection from explosions and radiation, the Farmhouse had a basement with a stockpile of coal for the furnace.
Until recently, this 60-year old picture of a family picnic under the cherry tree on the Farm filled me with joy and hope. Despite the dangers and our fears in June 1962, we avoided nuclear war. The Cold War ended.
On a personal note, our daughter’s husband was born in Leningrad. When he was four years old, he and his family emigrated to San Jose, California. At their family gatherings today, this older generation frequently talks among themselves in Russian.
Tragically, Russia has recently gone backwards, plunging the world into the dangers and fears of a new Cold War. None of us knows if nuclear war can be avoided in Cold War II.
Nevertheless, I still take hope from this picture of our family picnic under the cherry tree on the Farm in June 1962.
No matter how great the dangers in 2022, no matter how great our fears in 2022, today’s enemies can become tomorrow’s friends. They can even become members of our family, celebrating together at holidays and at birthdays of our grandchildren.
Similarly, Niagara Falls is a symbol of hope.
In the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the British Empire (including Canada) was our arch-enemy. We defeated the British to win our independence. They defeated our attempts to conquer Canada.
In 1813, we captured and burned government buildings in the Canadian capital (modern-day Toronto).
In 1814, the British retaliated by capturing our new capital, Washington, D.C., and burning government buildings such as the White House and the Capitol Building.
Nevertheless, we are now great friends with the British and with our Canadian neighbors. Our border with Canada (including Alaska) stretches 5,500 miles without any military fortifications or deployments.
Similarly, the United States and Russia can overcome today’s dangers and fears to become great friends.
Furthermore, Ukraine and Russia can overcome today’s dangers and fears to become great friends.
I hope and pray that someday, Ukraine and Russia will have a secure, peaceful border without any military fortifications or deployments.
I hope and pray that someday all Humanity—including Americans, Russians and Ukrainians—will know the Way of the LORD. (Micah 4:1-2).
I hope and pray that someday all Humanity—including Americans, Russians, and Ukrainians—will beat our swords into plowshares so that no one will fear anymore. (Micah 4:1-5).
I hope and pray that someday all Humanity—including Americans, Russians and Ukrainians—will be friends and families living at peace under our own fig trees—under our own black cherry trees! (Micah 4:4; 1 Kings 4:25; Zechariah 3:10).
Technically, we were threatened by “the Soviet Union”, but we called them “the Russians”.
To read how King David, Alfred the Great, Jesus, and Abraham Lincoln used the Power of Mercy to bring lasting peace with their implacable enemies, please read the chapter “David Establishes the Work His Hands with Mercy” in my book Healing the Promised Land, at pages 45-55.
For my thoughts about establishing Peace, please read my blogs “Blessed Are the Peacemakers”, “Ending Violence: Putting Faces with Names”, “Ending Violence: Embracing the Spirit of Peace”, “Curtailing Force: Replacing Nails with Glue”, “Spilling Coffee”, “Chess Lessons: Playing for a Draw”, “Game Lessons: Sustainable Risk”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Multiple Choice Exams & No-Win-Scenarios”, “Deceptive-Drawings-Designed-To-Deceive-and-Divide”, “We Need Inspiring Visions of a Bright Future. Why?”, “Nationalism Is Patriotism Gone Astray”, and “Establishing Peace Without Limit”.
For related thoughts, please read my blogs “Jesus Climbs the Temple Mount”, “Nationalism is Patriotism Gone Astray”, “Keeping the Powers of Money, Religion and Kingdoms Separate”, and “How Do We Build a Civilization That Is Good—That Is Very Good?”.
For more of my thoughts about the need for systems of laws and customs to combat hatred, racism and violence, please read my blogs “Spilling Coffee”, “Individuals and Systems, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable”, and “The Webb Space Telescope: Many Parts, One System”.
For my thoughts about the American Civil War, and about World War I and its aftermath (especially in light of post-Cold War diplomacy and the war in Ukraine), please read my blogs: “A War That Spun Out of Control: The American Civil War”, “A War That Spun Out of Control: World War I”, “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: The 1920s and 1930s”, “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: Blaming Germany”, “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: America First”, “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: Tariffs and Trade Barriers”, and “A Peace Lost by Wishful Thinking: Weapons”.