Friday, April 23, 2010

Pulp Fission

When I was a kid, the movie that frightened me most -- more than An American Werewolf in London, Friday the 13th, or Children of the Corn -- was Testament, a 1983 film about a Bay-Area community trying to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear assault on the United States. Maybe you've seen it. It featured William Devane, who, to further bolster my fear, starred in The Missiles of October, a TV movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis. He played John Kennedy.

A child of the 80s, I grew up during the denouement of the Cold War; yet the society in which I was raised, specifically as it pertained to media, left lasting fears of global annihilation. The news, late-night talk shows, Watchmen, fucking Cracked Magazine: they all managed to entertain and scare me in equal measure with alarming stories and gallows humor. Testament was the icing on the cake, and in that sense it affected me more than any horror movie ever could. The damned triumvirate of Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers had me sleeping with the light on, but even then I knew there really wasn't anything to be afraid of. Nuclear war, though? A possibility. A scarce possibility, perhaps, but a possibility nonetheless.

So it's odd, then, that I chose to live in South Korea, a nation that was still technically at war with their neighbors to the north. Initially this did bother me. But I only planned to stay in Korea for a year or two before returning home for good, and I imagined that luck -- and the geopolitical climate -- would be on my side.

Luck. As luck would have it, I ended up falling in love with a Korean woman. We had one child. Four years later, we divorced. I got custody, she got my DVD collection: a win-win situation for me because that bitch never appreciated Capra, Welles, Meyer. Two years later, I married another domestic product, and since then, through all the threats, violence, and one-upmanship attempts (I'm talking about North and South here; my current wife is as calm as an earwig hiding behind a bookshelf), I began to think that my luck, by order of Probability and Time, might be wearing thin.

Ten years is a long boat ride. Seventy in dog years, to be exact.

When the ROKS Cheonan sunk in April of 2010, it was thought, quite obviously, that its sinking was due to a North Korean attack. Forty-six soldiers died, most of them in their early 20's. The South Korean government received plenty of criticism from the public for quarantining the ship's survivors and taking too long to determine what caused the Cheonan to sink. This was a tricky issue, though; a unique situation, if you will. Militaristic retaliation could lead to all-out war on the Korean peninsula. A total embargo placed on North Korea was thought by pundits to be the better option. Then it became increasingly clear that the Cheonan, in disputed waters, was indeed sunk by a North Korean attack. The military determined the cause first; a day later, the government confirmed their findings. The weapon deployed was a matter of debate. Some said a torpedo, others a strategically placed naval mine. One ex-marine even hypothesized that a limpet mine might have been used via a trained dolphin.

I don't know the exact details. Not then, not now. I've never bothered to check. I had more pressing concerns then, and so do I now. That former is an understatement, the latter a small lie. Then, I had to flee for my life; now, I have to go back to exhume the most traumatic memories of my past. By Grace, it's only my mind that has to go back there, not my body. My psychiatrist believes this is for the best. I hope she's right. She usually is.

This is my story. This is my testament.

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