There’s news on the nuclear front. Sometimes it seems like every day. Like Monday, when Iran began talks in Vienna about its nuclear program, which the West has tried repeatedly to block. Or Tuesday, when The New York Times reported that Gen. James E. Cartwright, former commander of U.S. nuclear forces, has joined those calling for a dramatic reduction in nuclear warheads. Or probably, for that matter, today, tomorrow and the day after that.
Today’s discussions often center on how to reduce weapons and prevent them from ending up in the wrong hands. Anyone who’s spent a second contemplating a nuke-armed Al Qaeda realizes this is serious business. Which is why the recent news out of Nevada—that the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce named Holly Madison 2012 Miss Atomic Bomb and recreated the classic 1957 photograph of showgirl Lee Merlin in a mushroom cloud swimsuit—felt especially tone deaf.
It’s not that we should ignore our atomic past. The nuclear test site was a major attraction that drew tourists for bomb watch parties and themed cocktails. But embracing history doesn’t have to mean losing perspective. Just as watching atomic detonations for kicks now seems supremely silly (if not callous and dangerous), so does putting a hot blonde in a mushroom cloud and calling it cute.
Shouldn’t the great thing about learning from our history be that we’re not forced to repeat it?