Monday, May 13, 2013

Word Picture - Detente

I mentioned in the previous post that I liked word pictures - where you define a word, by building a picture or telling a story. Today's word picture is "detente" - a word picture that has stayed with me for around 30 years.

Thirty years ago, our nation was at war. It was the cold war, a war with the USSR (which doesn't exist anymore). The newly elected president, Ronald Reagan, was determined to win that war. That meant tough talk about the enemy, the bear in the woods. It meant building more and stronger nuclear weapons and implying (or saying it outright) that you weren't afraid to use them. It meant coming up with a nuclear defense shield or at least convincing the enemy that you could.

With all the talk about war, newspapers showed maps of strike zones, US cities that would be wiped out in the first wave of Soviet missiles, and in the second wave. I lived in Columbia, SC, a target in the second wave. Some may think I'm paranoid, but (as I admitted in my blog back in 2008) I even mapped out a strategy to escape, hoping I'd have time between the first and second wave. Just remember, even if you are paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

About that time, the term detente came into use. The picture that goes with it is this: imagine a Russian hunter, who has been trekking through the Siberian snow in hunt of food. Then he sees his prey. Slowly, quietly, he pulls an arrow out of his quiver and loads the bow. Just as slowly, he draws his bow, takes aim and is ready to let the arrow fly.

Then, he changes his mind. Slowly and deliberately, he releases the tension on the bow. That is detente. A deliberate reduction in the tension.

There are many situations that call for detente. Politics needs detente all the time. Friends need to practice detente. And families also (well, not in my house).

The next time you're in a discussion that you can't win, but don't want to lose, think of the Russian hunter and practice some detente.

What do you think? Good word picture? Will it stick with you?

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