Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Dr. Strangelove, what about you?

Have you ever been out to the Aran Islands - in particular, Inishmaan, one of the most beautiful, if strangest, places on earth? Should you ever suffer a bout of heart-scald, it’s a destination to consider.

I spent a couple of soothing days there once. Now granted, the weather was spectacular – the sun was splitting the rocks and there’s no shortage of boulders on Inishmaan. It did occur to me, however, that there must be long spells of rain and low cloud cover that could drive a man to drink, or worse.

After a day’s exploration capped by an hour or so sitting in Synge’s Seat awaiting inspiration, the auld heart was feeling a good deal better when a ferocious thirst hit me - always the first sign of recovery. And so, wouldn’t you know it, I made my way to the local pub – An Córa.

The scene within verged on the surreal. Six elderly men, in dark suits, white shirts and ties were murdering pints of Guinness while they watched the movie, Dr. Strangelove, on an antiquated 17” black & white television set.

They appeared to be having some difficulty comprehending Stanley Kubrick’s farce about a nutty American general ordering a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, for they were firing questions at a young barman who was attempting to translate the zany dialogue into Irish for their benefit.

After some minutes of this inquisition, the barman lost both patience and cool, “Ah will yez ever shut up and figure it out yourselves. I’ve a pain in me arse explaining this thing to you!”

I often feel the same way when elucidating on the goings on down in Washington, DC to some foreigner; for instance, try getting your head around the recent debates, votes, threats, pay-offs and eventual begrudging ratification of the START Treaty with Russia.

Any kind of agreement that would lead to some form of inspection and verification of 23,000 stray nuclear weapons would, you might think, be a no-brainer, especially for those of us who grew up saying the rosary every night in hopes that the godless commies wouldn’t lay a big one on us in our sleep.

I happened to mention this paranoia while in the Soviet Union years back and got the instant reply, “Why do you think we drink so much vodka, you guys actually used nuclear weapons - twice.”

Actually, I used to feel a lot more secure when the comrades were ruling the roost over there – atheists are less likely to push the button since they don’t expect to be seeing Jesus later in the evening.

I much prefer them to Senators Kyl and DeMint who scare the hell out of me with their concern that signing nuclear treaties over Christmas is somehow sacrilegious. Then again, the prospect of Jim DeMint running for president would have been too farcial for even Kubrik to include in Dr. Strangelove. Such is the world we live in.

But it’s the horse-trading around this START deal that really boggles the mind! In order to secure ratification, poor President Obama, decent man that he is, had to promise to pony up 80 billion bucks for three new nuclear bomb factories and100 billion for new delivery systems. Add that to Michele’s Christmas present and no wonder the deficit is exploding.

I haven’t even mentioned the undisclosed but astronomical cost of a missile defense system to be placed around the perimeters of Russia, with a couple of first class shields around Arizona tossed in to ensure that Senators Kyl and McCain get a decent god-fearing night’s rest.

Apart from the fact that missile defense systems rarely work, do these nuclear warriors really think that the mafia now running Russia has the least interest in blowing up the “West” when all they really want to do is sell us vodka and bootleg Celtic Woman DVDs?

Sometimes I think we’d all be better off out on Inishmaan sculling pints and explaining Doctor Strangelove to them auld fellahs in the suits. It would be a damn sight simpler than figuring out what’s going on in Washington DC.

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