Seeing that I’m both an engineer and a science fiction writer of a certain age, you can probably guess I’m pretty geeked out that today is the 49th anniversary our Apollo program’s moonshot. So, yeah, I’m remembering the astronauts, engineers, and calculators who worked so hard to make that happen. The space program achieved so much. It enriched my life beyond measure, and, as a skiffy writer of a certain age, I’m loving the act of thinking about it.
But while I’m in this nostalgic moment, I’m also thinking about Apollo’s historical siblings.
Things like: on this day in 1973, the existence of the Watergate tapes was made public. And: on this day in 1945, the US detonated the Trinity atomic bomb. I’ll add in that in 1894, a mix of labor unrest and racism ignited a confrontation that resulted in the murder of several black mine workers.
When I first started thinking about this, I felt an urge to rank them—you know, determine which is more important? Rational people can argue for all of them, though the mining massacre was really more of a “business as usual” thing than a watershed event. But then I realized I’d rather propose a different take. Rather than rank these events in our history, let’s put them together. Yes, I thought, combine them—melt them together into one big soup kettle of American history.
Doing this creates a uniquely American concoction—a soup built on a base stock of technological advancement and political deceit, flavored by war mongering and the games that capital plays to leverage their power and use our fear of the other for their own good.
How I choose to see this soup—including if I choose to see it—probably says something about me. How my taste buds react is probably likewise revealing.
It was at this point that I realized I had to add another ingredient: I had to stir in the fact that this is also now the day that, pretty much as I type, our Republican-backed president is meeting with the Russian president.
The harsh taint of irony this ingredient adds to the mix is, admittedly, souring to an already dicey soup—I mean, back when the Russians attacked us by launching their Sputnik spy satellite, our leadership responded by creating the space program. Today, when the Russians attack us by launching cyber attacks to spy on us and to actually rig tour election, our Republican leadership responds by giving their support to the president these Russians pushed to elect.
That’s a thing with historical soup, though. You have to add in all the ingredients.
While I prefer to focus only on this big, beautiful rocket that rose so majestically above the sphere of human existence. I want to focus on only the fact that we, as a nation, made it to the moon. Those are all the pleasant flavors in the soup, after all. I like those things a lot. It’s also easy for me to ignore the bad bits is easy for me. They don’t affect me too much, after all. And the fact is that the scientific laws of thermodynamics and the pragmatic advice of moms across the world agree that you can’t fix a soup that’s already been made.
Still, I have to add that last ingredient or I’m just fooling myself.
When I first thought of these two things today—Apollo 11 and Trump’s betrayal—I wondered if the whole of the American people have time to fix this, or, more importantly, whether we have the courage to do it. Will the purported blue wave raise up to stop the destruction of families that don’t come from the “Right” place or conform to one party’s frame of reference? Will November see the country make a statement at the polls that backs up the statements being made by millions in the streets (in both the US and around the world)? Will the people of this country use their vote to stop the party that is unwilling to purge itself of actual, self-proclaimed Nazis and White Supremacists? That has managed to accomplish another huge transfer of wealth to the wealthy? Will the adults in the room stand up and tell the world that, yes, America is a global force for good, that the world can rely on us?
That’s the question, you see? It’s the only question that matters. Will the numbers show up? Will the people of the nation decide to wield the truest power they have?
If you’re like me, when you look at the images of that rocket blasting into space, when you think of the millions of people making their voices known, you can’t help but be at least a little optimistic. When I think of men on the moon, I find it hard to think that humans can’t rise up and do great things.
Because, yes, there’s time. The longer the wait, the harsher the healing. But there’s always time.
That’s another thing about historical soup.
It’s never finished.