As part of the Sci Fi channel's Thanksgiving Weekend programming they aired the 1983 Made-for-TV movie The Day After.
For those of you not familiar with this movie, it was a Reagan era nuclear war protest movie showing the worst potential results of a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Russians. As horriffic as a mutual assured destruction scenario would be, this movie is exceedingly bleak due to the utter dispair of the characters in the story. As the movie winds down there is absolutely no hope for any kind of future. American citizens completely revert to a primtive state – a little over the top, but it was the 80's.
In 1983 I was 11 years old, in the sixth grade. I remember distinctly the original broadcast of The Day After – primarily because my parents wouldn't let us watch it. It was a big deal at the school. I don't remember now if the teachers were advocating watching the movie, or just responding to the questions of the students, but it was the talk of the school for several days. Of course, I was the only one of my friends who didn't get to see it, not that I fault my parents for that. It probably wasn't good viewing material for an 11 year old.
The biggest thing that struck me as I watched this classic piece of cold war media was how much our world has changed. From the 1950s to the 1980s the whole world lived under the spectre of a nuclear attack that could have destroyed civilization as we know it. Now, the worst that we could possibly picture is a single madman setting off a single device, probably closer to a dirty bomb than a 25 Megaton ICBM. While terrorist activities are still valid threats, they are literally many degrees of magnitude lower than what we faced a mere two decades ago. In spite of the diminished threat and relatively safe world we currently live in we still allow a constant fear cloud our political and social decisions. Of course, the 9/11 attacks did unequivocally demonstrate that terrorism can and will happen here in the US. Still, it's unfortunate that our society isn't able to mature and face threats rationally.