A Balloon

It started with a simple balloon.  Well, not so simple really as the balloon in question was the size of two full-size school buses and, depending on which side you believe, either a simple weather balloon or a spy tool being used to gather intel on the United States’ defense systems and communications.

In a perfect world, one totally the antithesis of the world we live in today, I would love to believe the weather balloon gone awry story, but of course I don’t.  We no longer have the luxury of living in a fairy tale world where our neighbors are Mr. Rogers and the concept of evil can be disavowed.

This world of innocence where we believed nothing nefarious happens in our government, where the world of spying and CIA agents live mostly in fiction novels, went away during the Vietnam War. The time, which was partly due to my age and mostly due to the expansion of news coverage into a world America had never been forced to face before, opened my eyes to the underworld of espionage and the technology that countries and even individuals use to conduct clandestine spying and treachery.

During World War II, news reels airing prior to an in-theater movie depicted the horror of war while being designed to show the heroics and patriotism of America and our fighting men. Same thing during Korea, although by then the news reels were shown on televisions as TV’s were becoming more common in private homes.

It was during the Vietnam War that Americans saw, many for the first time in their lives, the horrible cost of war. As technology advanced and more secrets were leaked, we also learned more about the business of spying and the technology our government and governments around the globe used to conduct their clandestine operations. It was a world of intrigue and drama that most of us couldn’t comprehend. From listening devices to jamming tools, James Bond’s arsenal of technology was impressive and beyond our understanding.

It wasn’t until the internet and personal computers that we as individuals also learned of how technology is used to hack into and steal a part of our daily lives.  Click on the wrong link or like the wrong post and suddenly someone half-way around the world has control of the computer on your desk.  The world of spying is like that, but on a massively large, and globally threatening scale.

I’m aware of all that, yet when news broke of the Chinese balloon floating calmly in the skies above the northern part of the United States, I was shocked; not by the fact that they were brazen enough to do it, but by the massive amount of data our government said they may be gathering.  Not only did they fly across sensitive nuclear weapons areas, but apparently it was suspected they were also gathering communications from our government and maybe even our businesses and industry. 

Putting aside my belief that there is no reason for the Chinese to gather intel on the USA, my rather simple brain struggles to comprehend how someone could learn to do that.  Who is smart enough, and evil enough, to come up with designs for such technology?  Everyone who sees the USA as a threat of course.

In hindsight, that the Chinese were spying on us and countries to our south should never have been a surprise, but it is a lesson that people – both foreign and domestic – plot against the United States and threaten our peace and security. We need the best and brightest minds to keep us safe and we need the support of our government through the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to let the people who are experts in their field do their jobs. We need our government officials to stop their infighting and concentrate on fighting threats from both foreign and domestic – the very oath they take.

Few of us grew up in the time when nuclear bomb drills were part of the school day. Fewer still grew up when the draft was mandatory and preparing to go to war, or worse yet, living during a war, was part of everyday life. We live in an imagined bubble of safety; untouchable by foreign threats until, like Pearl Harbor and 9-11, we are. We count on our government to protect us behind the scenes and let us live our lives unaware and untouched by the danger or cost of doing so.

The world is a dangerous place and yet something as seemingly innocent as a large balloon, shows we can never let our guard down. The balloon has been shot down, finally, and now we work to figure out what the Chinese were after while the charade that is the game of diplomacy carries on.

Will you sleep better after this week or will this just be a passing blip on your radar? Or will the balloon, like it is for me, be a reminder that the world is a dangerous place?

Be well my friends as we pray for peace.


Published by walkbal1372

Barbara A. Luker is the author of "Remembering You" (publication 2020) - a story of love, loss and finding the way back. She is a life-long resident of Saint Peter, Minnesota where she hones her writing craft working for the City of Saint Peter. Luker is a Certified Municipal Clerk, a devoted fan of the Minnesota Wild, and a supporter of numerous animal rescue organizations.

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