Playing Defense

Please note: The travel described here occurred in the past. Today, I do not recommend that anyone who is, or may possibly be, pregnant travel to this state. A miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy cannot be safely treated under this state’s current laws. Please care for yourself and travel to places where your life and health are valued.

Two Kinds of Defense

Anyone familiar with basketball knows there are two kinds of defense: one-on-one and zone.  The former occurs exactly as described, with each player being covered individually.  The latter casts a net designed to be impenetrable.  I find similarities between civil defense and national defense; one covers town by town and the other protects the whole country.  Whether applying to sports or security, all of the players practice and drill and know their position.

Not being a basketball aficionado, I’ll admit that my awareness of the one-on-one coverage in a particular small town needed additional practice metaphorically.  While visiting a small Illinois town, I joined others in our rental car, secured our lap belts, started the engine, and then stopped when a shrill moan began to stir and gain in volume.  My first instinct to check the car proved unnecessary.  The seasoned veterans of Midwest civil defense recognized the whining alarm as the monthly test of the civil defense sirens on the first Tuesday of the month.  We don’t really have those kinds of drills where my team plays.

Knowing All The Parts

On my recent expedition across South Dakota, I stumbled upon the tiniest of historic sites with one of the longest of names: The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  Housed in a single-wide mobile home, the visitor center informs the casual spectator on the history of the massive rockets (all to the soundtrack from Last of the Mohicans) and then sends visitors to one of two sites: an underground command center or a former missile silo.  As a child of the Cold War and the arms race, I recall the threatening realities when Matthew Broderick’s computer asked him if he wanted to play a game.  But this former missile site, now featuring a glass dome, allows visitors the chance to peer inside the underground über-reinforced tube.  I learned about each element at the rocket site, from the antenna tower, to the blast door, to the self-contained generator, all within the sightline of the Interstate 90.  If you didn’t know the various parts and pieces, you would never identify this innocuous station and realize the firepower just beneath the surface.

Several days later, while skirting along a two-lane road in Montana, as I am blown harshly by the autumn wind, I come upon what appears to be a pumping station or well in the middle of the ranchland.  As I drive closer, I notice the fenced area contains every identical part from the Minuteman missile site.  But this collection serves not as a historic marker; this location serves as an active point guard in the zone defense casting an impenetrable deterrent across a national court.  This time, I elect not to wait for a siren to serve as a drill, nor do I tour around the site educating myself.  Instead, I keep driving and don’t even slow down.  Even with my limited basketball skills, I know the best offense is a good defense.

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