Even or perhaps especially because I know they're coming, certain things, mainly pieces of music, can still shock tears from me... Christina Amphlett's raw screams near the end of the Divinyls' song "Elsie," for instance, or the endless, fading repetition of "and the year before..." that comes at the end of "Butters Lament," from an obscure 1971 album by The Family Tree, a musical biography called Miss Butters.
But this time it's something you actually may have seen, a visual from an unlikely place: part of a segment on government-funded museums from the incomparable documentary anthology show TV Nation. One three-second chunk of a wry report (original air date July 28th, 1995), one tiny slice of meaty filling in between commercials, and I still can't think about it or watch the tape again without shaking.
The kindly white-haired lady leading Karen Duffy through the Pentagon-funded military museum in Alabama pauses by one strange bit of Cold War-era preparedness: a gas mask for children.
A gas mask with Mickey Mouse's face.
It hangs on the wall with its eye sockets gaping, empty and skull-like, and it is SMILING. Smiling, as only Mickey could ever smile, promising the children of the 50s now and forevermore that, even if the bombs should fall and the fog melt their flesh away from their bones, America was, is, and will ALWAYS be the Happiest Place On Earth.
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"In a free society, the military and the police are God's special envoys."
Original content on this page ©, 1996 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.