Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

Neil Armstrong died today, and I thought this video clip of the first Moon landing would be appropriate.

Back then, we were still willing to do something, even if it took tax money. Back then, we still believed in America - in our institutions, in our government, and in our people. Back then, we weren't convinced we were in decline.

We had plenty of faults back then, but we hadn't lost America's traditional "can do" attitude. Both political parties still 'believed' in science, and both parties were willing to put America ahead of their partisan political ambition.

In many ways, we've progressed since then. Let's never doubt that. But we've also lost something. Thirty years of 'trickle-down' economics has destroyed our economy, as well as our confidence. We're less inclined to invest in America. We're far less inclined to take bold steps. We've lost our courage.

Or maybe we've just misplaced it. We've still got our heroes. We just don't back them anymore. Firemen are considered to be just greedy public employees, sucking on the government teat, no matter how many children they rescue from burning buildings.

And astronauts? What astronauts? America has to buy a ticket from other countries just to get into space! Forget about the Moon or Mars. We'd rather give tax cuts to people who already have everything.

It's sad that Neil Armstrong lived to see that. But it's sadder that he didn't live long enough to see us regain our senses and reclaim our ambition.

Thanks to Jeff for the link!


Jeff said...

Perhaps our decline can be summed up in an old George Carlin joke:

"A man attempting to circle the Earth in a hot-air balloon died today when he stepped out of the balloon to admire it from a distance."

Maybe that's part of our problem; have we become a victim of our own success?

As kooky as Ross Perot was, he did get one thing right: "Success breeds arrogance and complacency."

Speaking of the "can-do" attitude and the space program, I'm reminded of the Apollo 13 accident. I've seen a few documentaries about it and I thought the Tom Hanks movie was brilliant. What impressed me was the attitude of everyone involved; "something's broken, let's fix it," was the order of the day.

Nowadays, it's all about assigning blame. If the Apollo 13 accident were to happen today, I think there would be a high probability you would see this on Faux "News:" "Apollo 13 crisis: Are Democrats to blame?"

Neil Armstrong led by example. He didn't stand there and admire his handiwork. He shunned fame and fortune and kept his head down. He checked his ego at the door.

We should heed the words of his family in their press release:

"While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

"For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

WCG said...

Nice, Jeff!

Note that I'm a big science fiction fan, and one thing I loved about classic science fiction was the... engineering mindset so much of it had. The attitude was just as you said, "something's broken, let's fix it."

The idea was that problems had solutions, and all we needed was to be smart enough to find them. Of course, the assumption was also that we'd be determined enough to keep looking and courageous enough to do whatever it took.

But now,... I don't know. We've lost that, somehow. But we did this to ourselves. Our problems are man-made, so we can certainly apply human ingenuity to fix them. But we've lost our ambition. We've lost our confidence. We've lost our courage.

We used to invest in America. At the very least, we used to invest in America's children. Tomorrow was going to be better than today. And thanks to that investment, it was.

But now, we want to hoard our money. We want to huddle in the dark, afraid of what the light might show us. And we're willing to accept a slow decline, as long as we don't have to work at it.

Well, people turn conservative when times are bad. So conservatives make sure that they stay bad - indeed, that they get worse and worse all the time. It's become a vicious circle. And as we we try to break out of it, they drag their feet.