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Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Vladimir Putin and the rules of the sandbox

Dear President Putin:

I am writing to make a plea to you to grow up, or at least realize how your behavior may be affecting millions of young people by festering fear of imminent war, death and destruction through actions that you now champion.

When I was growing up, I had to watch television as one of your predecessors, Nikita Khrushchev, pounded a desk at the United Nations and promised to “bury” our country. I listened to my father describe your country’s nuclear tests underground and in the atmosphere, almost daily, in violation of a bilateral moratorium between our countries. In 1961 and 1962 alone your country set off nearly 240,000 kilotonnes of nuclear yield, about 70 percent of that yielded in all tests between 1949 and 1990.

At that time, my father pointed out to me that American leaders were concerned because radioactivity was showing up in milk in some Midwestern states, quite far from the testing sites. Since milk was the first thing I ever consumed, I was very frightened I may be eating my future breakfast cereal while swallowing radioactive material or having it with water or another substitute.

I listened to President Kennedy tell of missile silos being constructed about 150 miles south of my home, in Cuba. He told Americans during a televised talk in 1962 that reconnaissance aircraft disclosed a number were being built and appeared to be ready to be armed with nuclear weapons that could strike half of the United States. I knew instinctively that such an attack would pulverize me and everybody else to smithereens. A drape of fear wrapped every aspect of my life for months after that was resolved.

Mr. Putin, the fright that goes into a child who learns at such an early age that the world is not a safe place, that adults in charge of huge countries are intent on killing them, engenders a sense of fear and discomfort that follows them all the days of their lives.

Right now, millions of children all over the world are watching you do what even they aren’t permitted to do in their own backyard sandbox. That is, taking over property by force that doesn’t belong to you.

These rules are a no-go at playtime, and they are that way for grownups like you.

Children in Israel have to live in fear daily that Iran will develop a bomb and launch it at their country as repeatedly promised, and you have supported this stance to a degree.

I know you like children; you take every opportunity to be photographed with them. Please realize how your actions, even if not one gun is ever fired, affects them in ways not even they may realize for years to come. I’m appealing to your sense of decency to show the world an example by acting rationally and in accordance with law.

I pray that you will somehow take a sober view of life and how you damage the Russian people, risk Russia’s economic future, perhaps risk the future of the entire world, and set young minds afire with fear and doom by your selfish, irrational and insane actions that serve no purpose. There are so many far more suitable and much less risky solutions to attain your ends if you will just realize that the world is not filled with people of your same mindset.

All the vast majority of world inhabitants want is peace and a life filled with joy without the threat of war and annihilation. Why is it that the people at the top are so often so out of touch with the people they “govern”?

I always thought that as an adult I would understand the world better. It’s more difficult for me to grasp it now.

Perhaps the children who will be most affected by conditions in the years to come should have a say in how it’s run.

After all, the rules of the sandbox apply to all.

Tony Zappone is a former Tampa Times and Tampa Tribune reporter.

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