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Perspective: Falling in love with a bad idea

public domain

A few weeks ago, my wife and I walked out of a local movie theater after watching Christopher Nolan’s, Oppenheimer, based on Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, American Prometheus.

Reviews of the film had warned audiences to be prepared to be “shattered” by the ending.

I wasn’t.

And for days afterward I couldn’t quite figure out why. At first I thought it was because I have a good grasp on the historical context on creating the first atomic bombs.

Then it occurred to me that what was missing for me is that Oppenheimer ought to be viewed with another film: Stanley Kubrick’s, Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb, released in 1964.

Robert Oppenheimer’s tormented visions of a potential Armageddon were and are still well-founded. What Dr. Strangelove does, through wicked satire, demonstrates what happens when the wrong people fall in love with monstrous tools in the execution of a bad idea. Slim Pickens’ character, Major “King” Kong, riding a nuclear bomb like it was bucking bronco at the end of the film is, like much of the film, weirdly funny and deeply unsettling. As it should be.

Both films raise an even larger question, but on a more mundane scale, too. How often do each of us, both in public and private, fall in love with bad ideas, and are blind far too long to the consequences?

Andrew Nelson has been involved in public education in northern Illinois for more than three decades.