War Games

"War games" is what Dorothy Day called New York City's air raid drills in the 1950s. Beginning in 1955 Day and the Catholic Workers purposely parked themselves on benches in City Hall Park during the city's annual air raid drill. For defying the Civil Defense Act, which ordered everyone to take shelter during the 10-minute drill, they were arrested. "We wanted to act against war and getting ready for war," Day wrote in Loaves and Fishes. By 1960, when the city held its final drill, more than a thousand people had joined in the protest against "sham air raids."

In the 1980s the U.S. government is again trying to convince the public that the country can survive a nuclear war. In April, 1982, the Reagan administration presented to Congress a $4.2 billion, seven-year civil defense plan.

Last April Reagan officials requested congressional approval of $252 million for the fiscal year 1983 component of the program. Congress cut that figure almost in half, to $147 million--a resounding defeat for the administration. In January, 1983, Reagan requested $253 million for civil defense in 1984 virtually the same amount that Congress refused last year. According to Stan Norris of the Center for Defense Information (CDI), this request may signify the administration's intent to carry out the seven-year program, beginning one year behind schedule. This would be an unwise strategy, given the record of past civil defense programs and the response of the U.S. public this past year.

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