Weekend Words: Nuclear

“We don’t want to start a nuclear war unless we really have to, now do we, Jack?”

Giulio Romano, “Chariot of the Sun” (1526), fresco, Stanza del Sole, Palazzo del Tè, Mantua (image via Web Gallery of Art)

On the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the United States Supreme Court, Gail Collins writes in the New York Times: “What to do? The Democrats could filibuster, but then McConnell might try to change the rules so it would only take a simple majority to push a Supreme Court nominee through. This is known as the ‘nuclear option,’ a colorful but rather unnerving nickname now that we’ve got President Trump speaking so enthusiastically about going nuclear.”

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the Internet has evolved into a force strong enough to reflect the greatest hopes and fears of those who use it. After all, it was designed to withstand nuclear war, not just the puny huffs and puffs of politicians and religious fanatics.

—Denise Caruso

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.

—Omar Bradley

Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils because of the illusions they have generated.

—Lord Mountbatten, speech in 1985

If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.

—Winston Churchill

We don’t want to start a nuclear war unless we really have to, now do we, Jack?

—Group Capt. Mandrake (Peter Sellers) to Col. Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964)

My advice is to look out for engineers. They begin with sewing machines and end up with nuclear bombs.

—Marcel Pagnol

If human beings are to survive in a nuclear age, committing acts of violence may eventually have to become as embarrassing as urinating or defecating in public are today.

—Myriam Miedzian

I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.

—Ronald Reagan

I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons.

—Donald Trump

I yell thru Washington, South Carolina, Colorado,
Texas, Iowa, New Mexico,
Where nuclear reactors creat a new Thing under the
Sun, where Rockwell war-plants fabricate this death
stuff trigger in nitrogen baths,
Hanger-Silas Mason assembles the terrified weapon
secret by ten thousands, & where Manzano Moun-
tain boasts to store
its dreadful decay through two hundred forty millenia…

—Allen Ginsberg, “Plutonian Ode”

It is my belief that the writer, the free-lance author, should be and must be a critic of the society in which he lives. It is easy enough, and always profitable, to rail away at national enemies beyond the sea, at foreign powers beyond our borders who question the prevailing order.


But the moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home; to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own culture. If the writer is unwilling to fill this part, then the writer should abandon pretense and find another line of work: become a shoe repairman, a brain surgeon, a janitor, a cowboy, a nuclear physicist, a bus driver.

—Edward Abbey, “A Writer’s Credo,” One Life at a Time (1988)

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