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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, July 20, 2009

That's one small step...

Where were you when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon? (Presuming you were anything more than a glimmer in a parental eye or not a member of the "it's a hoax" crowd).

I was with a group of co-workers in what might politely be called a break area in an un-air conditioned store in Cleveland. We packed around a small black and white television as the grainy images appeared. Forty years of advances in television technology can make you question the reality of those images, but we sure thought it was real.

The moon walk (not that one) may have been one of the last times Americans were so united with a common purpose. A lot has happened since then, most of it bad. Three wars. Republican presidents named Nixon and Bush who treated the Constitution like Charmin. The rise of the Theocons who brought us culture wars and the attempt to impose their values on the rest of us (while not following their own path). Fill in your own blank.

But in those heady days, it seemed there wasn't anything Americans couldn't do if they put their minds to it.

So what happened?

Some might say it was the NASA's failure to find a philosopher. Others (myself included) would look at the cost and suggest it would have been better spent elsewhere -- if only it had not been on wars and to line the coffers of companies as it was during the long reign of GOP presidents.

Whatever the reason (again, fill in your own blank) we messed up and hit a bad patch. The culture warriors like to blame the '60s for the breakdown on our national character and it was indeed a tumultuous time (just watch the CBS tribute to Walter Cronkite.) I think it was a time when we stood up for the ideals in the document later besmirched by Nixon and Bush.

But it's hard to deny that the "space race" united hippie and laborer, liberal and conservative, even for a brief moment, in ways that are unthinkable today.

It was a small step for man (and woman). Too bad we've fumbled the giant leap for mankind. Hey. there's always tomorrow.

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Blogger dan bosley said...

OL, I hope there's tomorrow. I am fearful somedays.

I was 15 that summer and was glued to the TV set. This was quite and event and for me and a lot of my friends, we still look up in the sky and are fascinated. I took my daughter outside last week to see the space shuttle pass by. You can see it if you know where to look.

I think the problem with NASA was that they lost focus after the moon. They had no next step or grand vision until the Mars probes, but that is not the same as a manned mission. Now we fight over the cost of the space station, or whether to fix the Hubble. And it is tough to dream of going to the moon when people don't have the money to go to the movies. Whether it was Woodstock or the Apollo mission, we don't have that optimistic view we had in '69. (Watergate? Kent State in '70? Something destroyed that) Whatever, we certainly don't have a national will today to accomplish something like this. First we need to start thinking as a nation again and regain some vision of where we can go.

July 20, 2009 5:56 AM  
Blogger Readwriteblue said...

It is truly said to read your post on the anniversary of the moon landing.

You write vitriol against boogieman republicans and then plaintively ask why America no longer has a sense of national purpose. Since the Second World War there have been two competing views of America and they have waged war for the soul of our nation. Both have been careless with our Nation causing injury to our values and traditions. Both blindly follow their leadership like lemmings off cliffs. Now cynicism is the common view when in decades past it was optimism. Less people vote because of this fewer people are part of civic groups. Many people are willing to believe the most ridicules stories because it can’t be any stranger than the truth.

That you choose to be a partisan in this war means that you believe that your side must defeat the other. If you are sure of who you are and who you are fighting then the axiom says that you will win. It does not say that you will be happy with what you have wrought.

July 20, 2009 10:39 AM  

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