Earlier this month, I spoke at a panel in Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. During the talk, I showed a photo of a young Yemeni boy in the province of Mareb (which was hit by five drone strikes this month), demonstrating how he ducked in his school as soon as he heard the sound of a plane. He was not sure whether it was a drone or a fighter jet, but he has become used to ducking this way ever since his village was hit and his friend hit with a shrapnel.
The next day, I received an e-mail from David Swanson who was on the same panel. He pointed out that the photo of the Yemeni boy reminded him of the photo below, of children in the US in the 1950s ducking in schools for fear of a nuclear explosion.
The two photos are strikingly similar, both children ducking to save themselves from bombs that kill, wound, and displace people. From the early 1950s until the end of the Cold War, the US government taught “duck and cover” to generations of school children and adults as a method of personal protection in the event of a nuclear war.
In 1951, the American Civil Defense film, “Duck and Covered” geared towards children, portrayed the act of ducking and covering by Bert The Turtle. Wouldn’t it be ironic, if we use the lyrics of this American film to teach children in Yemen today how to “duck and cover” from American planes?
BERT THE TURTLE [THE DUCK AND COVER SONG]
“There was a turtle by the name of Bert
And Bert the Turtle was very alert
When danger threatened him he never got hurt
He knew just what to do
He’d duck and cover, duck and cover…”
“Now, you and I don’t have shells to crawl into like Bert the Turtle, so we have to cover up in our own way.”
“Sundays, holidays, vacation time, we must be ready every day, all the time, to do the right thing if the atomic bomb explodes. Duck and cover!”
“First you duck, then you cover. Duck and cover tight. Duck and cover under the table.”
Yemeni children living in areas of conflict have the same feeling of fear that has engulfed millions of children around the world. Their own government has also abandoned them. No films are being made to teach methods of self protection, no warnings given before US and Yemeni planes strike, and when wounded or when their houses are demolished, no apology or compensation is given.
It shouldn’t matter where the person is from, where he/she is living, what religion they follow or don’t; human lives are equal, and they all deserve a chance to live in peace and with freedom to move and enjoy this earth that we call home.