The Turn of the Key

The missile launch officers failed to grasp
the ratio of death and destruction to the simple act
of following orders and turning a key.

And they were caught cheating.
All they were after was a good grade, to help
them climb the slippery walls of promotion,
so that one day they could be the ones to give the orders.

It isn’t as if they were the only ones who ever cheated.
It was something of a tradition among the launch officers,
something akin to “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” or turn the other way.

Cheating may have been wrong, but it wasn’t a moral outrage.
While suspended for cheating, they would not be able to launch
their nuclear-armed missiles, capable of ending civilization,
as they were ready to do any moment, day or night,
when they were on duty and received an order to launch.

What is a moral outrage is that we train and expect these young officers
to send their nuclear-armed missiles flying when commanded to do so,
to initiate oblivion with the turn of a key.

David Krieger
March 2014