Magnificent Desolation

Earthriseby Brad Nelson   7/23/14
What was the defining event in my life? Burning my bra (assuming I had one)? Occupying Wall Street? Community organizing (aka “rabble rousing”)? In truth, there may not have been a defining moment, but Apollo XI came close.

A nice pictorial review on National Review reminded me that July 20 marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the first steps of mankind on another world. Kudos to whoever at National Review put together that nice retrospective.

Given that my birthday (July 24) is the day that they returned to earth (splashing down within 12 miles of the Hornet), that was one of my most memorable birthdays as well. I was eleven years old. I was old enough to know that something extraordinary was occurring and young enough to have my imagination fully fired by it.

No, this did not then spur me on to become a Navy aviator. But many did gain that kind of inspiration. For me, my life went on, fully terrestrial. And with all cautions regarding finding one’s meaning through the government, this was one instance in which only the most cranky libertarian (meaning all of them) could object to this government program.

Still, NASA has never been the same since then as bureaucratic sclerosis dampened what used to be a focused and driving purpose. Now the purpose of NASA, at least according to Obama, is to make Muslims feel like they are not as backward as they are. Good luck with that.

By the way, a good movie to help capture the enthusiasm of that time is The Dish, starring Sam Neill. The review is by yours truly.

When I was growing up, the rocket shots were a common occurrence. Starting with Project Mercury (1959-63), then Project Gemini (1965-1966), and clear through the Apollo program (1961-1972) it seemed as if there was a major rocket shot every three months. For the benefit of modern audiences, that’s the equivalent of a new version of the iPhone being introduced by Apple every week.

The space program was a time before the pussification of American culture, when the idea of being bold, strong, and a world leader was not considered “imperialist.” I look back on that space program as a great age. Many libtards lament “We should have spent all that money on the poor.” But we have spent all that money — and much more — on “the poor” and have nothing to show for it.

It’s funny how actual progress (which the space program unequivocally was) tends not to be the type of thing embraced by “Progressives.” But then, so much of “Progressivism” is actually Ludditism. They’re against most modern technologies (other than iPhones) for one silly and regressive reason or another. This pussy culture believes in wind mills and unicorns rather than technology (such as fracking) that actual works and is of benefit to mankind.

Frankly, we are no longer an America who could produce these great men who risked everything. And more important than just risk — for even fools take great risks — is that they accomplished something. And the goals they set were Apollo11Plaqueimpossible goals by any fair standard. We can’t even build a simple pipeline from Canada — and we already know how to build pipelines. But these guys built stuff that no one knew how to build. They were doing what had never been done, and they pulled it off.

And given the pollution and poison that “Progressivism,” Leftism, Communism, secularism, and socialism have dumped into Western Civilization — where anti-Americanism is now the reigning fashion — it’s worth noting that at the time, Apollo 11 was a world event. And although it was indeed the American flag that was planted on the lunar surface (and rightfully so), a plaque left on the moon attached to the lander read, “Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Imagine the Soviets having the humility to do such a thing. Imagine the me-laced speech our Narcissist-in-Chief would have given if he were president at the time.  Not only were our astronauts (and the program execs) brave, but they had some class as well. Certainly Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins had proven that over the years.

Cynicism and self-doubt are not our birthright. We should remember the great things accomplished before the rot of Leftism crippled our goodness and our resolve. It is not wearing rose-tinted glasses to say that the American space program was a worthy and important effort, especially when contrasted to the equivalent of the moon program today: the attempt to eradicate soda-pop fizz as some supposed dire threat to the planet.

Honor those men and that time. They deserve it. And they gave us many fond memories of an America before the hippies and their ilk destroyed it.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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25 Responses to Magnificent Desolation

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    As it happens, I started at Purdue (Neil Armstrong’s alma mater) just a couple of months later, and naturally there was a great deal of mention of the connection. But I don’t agree that we don’t still have people who could perform such deeds. What we lack is a government that could do this, for various reasons that you summarize pretty well. To get a taste of what still (at least theoretically) could be, you might want to try Back to the Moon by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson (a NASA publicist), with a primary viewpoint character dedicated from childhood to going to the Moon.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I might check out Back to the Moon. By gum if you didn’t mention a book that is actually available in Kindle format. 🙂

      Honest to god, I’m not one of those people who needs to be propelled along from hour to hour by the buzz of feel-good idealism. In fact, much like everything else the Left has touched, idealism has been degraded. Now it simply means getting involved in one narcissistic-driven cause or another whose end purpose is merely personally therapeutic.

      And I even resisted the common notion that the reason people liked Ronald Reagan is because he made them “feel good about themselves.” Do you suppose such a thing was on his mind or paramount on the mind of George Washington? I think this “feel good” stuff is prompted by a ninny generation.

      That said, I don’t think it’s wrong to be patriotic and to “feel good” about one’s country, especially if one’s country is founded on superior and great ideas, as America is. America has always been a sort of “can-do” country (mostly in the private sector, but sometimes in government as with the space program or the Civil War, for that matter).

      But the 60’s generation (and other libtards) have caused us to take a pessimistic outlook at life. We have shrunk back inside ourselves (libertarians have made a fetish of this) and called it “sensitivity.” If there were excesses in Europe’s colonialist age — and clearly there were, along with enormous benefits — there are excesses involved in this isolationistic “shrinking back.”

      We ought to find the right balance. And I think America is about finding that right balance. We are hard-charging, but not ideologically loopy. We are brave and bold, but not cruel and sadistic. We are good (not perfect).

      All of this is embodied in the American space program. It’s not wrong to have a government program. It just depends on what it is for. And obviously there was a vital military purpose as well for the program, for to cede space to the Soviets would have been suicidal.

      I’m not against Utopia, per se. But as Richard Feynman says,

      “The real question of government versus private enterprise is argued on too philosophical and abstract a basis. Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity—and until they do (and find the cure), all ideal plans will fall into quicksand.”

      If men were angels (or at least not the kind of brutal and low-grade person as so many are), we might imagine a future in which America did not go down the road of socialism (wasting trillions on poverty programs that produced nothing but social destruction) and instead had continued — in a focused way — the space program. It’s right to ask, Where would we be now?

      It sounds as if that book that you recommended takes on that subject. And I think we would be in some truly wondrous and uplifting places.

      • Glenn Fairman says:

        Even angels go wrong……

      • Pst4usa says:

        Brad, I would change your comment about Reagan a bit, I would have said people liked him because he made them proud of our country again, and that, just like this article does, is something that is very hard to do for the yutes of this Amerika. Not that Reagan tried to make anyone feel anyway about this nation, he just did because he stood for something, he had conviction and courage, things we do not see in very many of the GOPers these days. I don’t think there has been a democrat that could have claimed any of those traits since Vietnam. Very good post by the way.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Oh, the Henry Jackson wing of the party probably could have done so, but they’re virtually extinct (Jackson himself died over 30 years ago). And no member of that wing has been elected either to be President or VP post-Vietnam.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Thanks, Pat.

          In his time, I think Reagan certainly did make people feel good and he made them proud of their country.

          What I was mainly reacting to, Pat, was the people (the low-information voters, including many conservatives) who know no more of Reagan than that he “made us feel good about ourselves.” These kind of nitwits, if you’ll pardon my French, are not grounded in conservatism (they are but planted in the faction, perhaps by one favorite issue) and are the first to be drawn to mere feel-good “hope and change” candidates.

          Unless we understand Reagan’s highly philosophical and moral content, we then haven’t a clue about Reagan. And many don’t. I mean, just look at what the nitwit Libertarians think they think about Lincoln. We are a nation that must re-familiarize itself with its roots if we are to remain a nation.

          Or as Dennis Prager might say, “Standards instead of feelings.”

          • Pst4usa says:

            No doubt Brad, nitwits come from both parties, it is just harder to take from those that should know better. Maybe an even better quote from Dennis is “Standards in the macro, compassion in the micro.”

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              “Standards in the macro, compassion in the micro.”

              You should expand on that in a blog post or something. Or give me a call, fill me in on the background, and I’ll do it. I know you’re swamped right now.

  2. Glenn Fairman says:

    The defining moment of my life? Henry V at Agincourt…….

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Oh….we’ll need at least an essay on that, Glenn. 😀 I want to hear more…

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Was this like Patton claiming he had been blind King John of Bohemia in a past life. (He cited the king as having developed a precursor of the armored division, which a biographer pointed out is incorrect. On the other hand, Jan Zizka developed the Hussite wagenberg which was a precursor to the armored division, and he eventually went blind, which means he may have been whom Patton really was thinking of.)

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I remember staying up after midnight watching the moon landing from our recliner. It was, literally, a once in a lifetime experience.

    I liked the plaque which was left on the moon and wondered how it would read today.

    “Here humans from the planet earth first landed upon the moon, July 1969, C.E. We came in peace for all humankind.”

    The words humans and humankind are self-explanatory. The same holds true for C.E. But I have changed “set foot” to “landed” as perhaps some of the aliens who read the plaque might not have feet and our p.c. crowd wouldn’t want to offend them.

    • Glenn Fairman says:

      Sir: the terms BCE and CE are an attempt to wash the stain of Christianity from historical memory. However, this merely begs the compelling question of what event served to sever the “historical common era” into two directions. The blushing academic and the self-absorbed anti-theist must then further explain that it was the birth of a child — a singular event that they hold as both arcane and hateful. In discarding B.C. and A.D., one does not so much transmute history with the wave of a secular wand, but close a people’s eyes to the crowning lightning strike orienting the human drama, and attempt to bury links to a civilization under the detris of modernity’s impudence. Such arrogance shall not go unanswered when our metaphysical poverty is one day revealed.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Actually, changing AD (“year of the Lord”) to CE is reasonable in its way, since not everyone accepts that Jesus Christ really was the Lord (especially among the intelligentsia). But BCE is another matter. The purpose there is to accept the division based (roughly) on the birth of Jesus Christ while pretending not to. It definitely reveals not merely a non-Christian view, but anti-Christian prejudice.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      “Here humans from the planet earth first landed upon the moon, July 1969, C.E. We came in peace for all humankind.”

      LOL. No doubt. What a bunch of weenies we’ve become.

      I remember exactly where I was during the Apollo XI landing. I was out with my family vacationing on Hood Canal. And wouldn’t you know it, the only TV we had access to wasn’t bringing in a clear picture. So I didn’t actually see much of the landing — and I’m not sure what pictures were shown. They didn’t have anything but Hasselblads with them, did they? Did they have any TV cameras? So I’m not really sure what I missed.

      But the photos that came later were glorious. One of my prize possessions is a full color promotional book put out by Hasselblad filled with these photos.

      LOL. Yes, I missed that. We shouldn’t be footist.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Did they have any TV cameras?

        Yes they did. The pictures were a bit fuzzy, but the thought that they were transmitting from the moon was really impressive.

        I remember Neil Armstrong’s famous pronouncement, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. The audio was surprisingly good for something coming from the moon.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    I was 12 years old and the family was painting the kitchen and living room. Those fuzzy pictures, perhaps primitive by today’s standards, were spiritually magnificent. Those years seemed to herald the apex of our society–and even then the veneer was beginning to fly off.

    An Old Testament prophet warns us that “Without a vision, a people perish.” The space race provided America with a tangible dream to put our backs to, and there are some who say that the money would have been better spent in service to some incarnation of social justice. But nearly half a century later, when the bane of equality and social justice seems to permeate every pore of our zeitgeist, it seems that we are more spiritually impoverished — pathologically beset with enmities and envies that tear at the internal fabric of America. Perhaps with the emphasis that we have given to self -actualization and the atomistic satiation of desire, we are disappearing as a people.

    The few things that animate the great many of us, particularly the younger crowd, are: fame, ego, pleasure, and fantasy. Healthy societies require a shared degree of “heavy lifting” and restraint, and a conscious belief that the era we inhabit is not the last generation or that our communal seed corn should not be squandered for the realization of our squalid passions — to the detriment of sons and daughters. In truth, when those astronauts pronounced “Magnificent Desolation,” perhaps they were not looking at the sterile surface of our moon, but auguring a prophecy on America’s soul that her best days were behind her.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      An Old Testament prophet warns us that “Without a vision, a people perish.” The space race provided America with a tangible dream to put our backs to, and there are some who say that the money would have been better spent in service to some incarnation of social justice. But nearly half a century later, when the bane of equality and social justice seems to permeate every pore of our zeitgeist, it seems that we are more spiritually impoverished — pathologically beset with enmities and envies that tear at the internal fabric of America.

      Very well said, Glenn. I do think we need a vision and without one we are lost as a people. This is a notion lost on libertarians, for example, who see no reason to organize beyond mere actors in the market.

      I’m going to have to look up that biblical quote now, because this site was (at least unofficially) founded upon the premise that we must have a premise.

      I believe I found it in Proverbs 29:18 (KJV):

      Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

      For anyone who has read Mark Steyn’s “America Alone,” this is self-evidently true, although we might have to amend that quote to “Where there is a wimpy, multiculti identity, the people perish.”

      That is, one must, of course, have some kind of good vision. Or, really, at least a strong vision, for one must hand it to Islam for having a vision (no matter how perverse) of a society and people that works to unite them (when they’re not killing each other, of course). And as Steyn notes, when choosing between the strong and well-defined identity of Islam and a really stupid one (like multiculturalism), Muslims are not going to integrate into society. And that is what we are witnessing even as we speak, especially in Europe.

      If we don’t believe in ourselves, if we don’t have some kind of overall identity or vision, we will be eclipsed by those who do. And this point was rammed home to me (pun intended) by the current book I’m reading about the Athenian navy. The author notes that Athenian democracy (or at least Athenian preeminence) had an exact date, both for its start and its finish. And the starting date was a meeting wherein Themistocles convinced the assembly to use their newly-found wealth of silver to build a fleet of triremes instead of giving every citizen a stipend.

      Imagine how tough of a sell that must have been. Or perhaps the possibility seems remote because we have become such weak and corrupt citizens that given the choice of, say, getting a check for $50.00 or sending a man to the moon, most would do as Steve Miller sang and “take the money and run.”

      But the Athenian assembly voted for Themistocles’ plan. And in that instant, they had adopted a vision for their society. What is our own? Global warming? “Social justice”? Haranguing people to death because they smoke? Promoting sodomy over all else? What?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The few things that animate the great many of us, particularly the younger crowd, are: fame, ego, pleasure, and fantasy. Healthy societies require a shared degree of “heavy lifting” and restraint, and a conscious belief that the era we inhabit is not the last generation or that our communal seed corn should not be squandered for the realization of our squalid passions — to the detriment of sons and daughters.

      One of the other books that I’m reading now declares “frenetic intemperance” to be the bane of our times. The book is Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society–Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go, and it is only $4.95 for the Kindle.

      The gist of the book that I’ve read so far (11%) could be summed up in the quote above. We have developed a temperament that expects no limits to our passions. And (once again taking a shot at libertarians, the Bolsheviks of the Right, as Mr. Kung calls them), for a conservative to suggest there should be makes him either a statist or religious zealot in their eyes. (And we all know what the Left thinks about restraint.)

      The bargain (subconscious or otherwise) that the “Progressive” vision has made with people is that they are free to do any perverse thing they want. And they pay for this by being “environmentally conscious” or imagine themselves near saints because they are for “diversity.” This is a phenomenon that Dennis Prager, in particular, has noted. By being a stated member of the Left you are automatically forgiven your sins. Teddy Kennedy was a good (bad) example of this.

      It’s a cult/religion that has turned the idea of redemption and forgiveness upside down. They are more like the old Catholic misuse of the idea of Indulgences. Be as crummy as you want….you can always buy your way out — back then with money, and today by wearing the right color of ribbon in the victim-of-the-week parade (figuratively and literally).

      We have become a narcissistic culture, as many of Glenn’s articles have pointed out. The idea of self-restraint has gone by the wayside. And to the extent that this “healthy society” (in its Progressive vision) has a shared degree of heavy lifting, all of this lifting is done by someone else. We “gave at the office,” except that the “office” in this case is Big Government. No one actually has to have a personal standard of conduct (at least in regards to prudent restraint). That’s taken care of by somebody else. Government will run things. Just mouth the slogans and vote for your Utopian-of-choice. Your “freedom,” such as it is, will primarily be defined as sexual license, or the ability to be vulgar on command. But all the big stuff will be decided by government which now gives one the greatest hoped-for freedom of all: freedom from responsibility.

      This is exactly why conservatives will leave a gathering place spotless while those on the Left leave it a pigsty. It is because personal responsibility does not exist on the Left. Responsibility has quite literally been “socialized.” It’s not one’s job to pick up litter. Someone else will do it.

      And because the Left does not have good values (and, in fact, their ideas license them to be scumbags), all they can ever do is be on this constant crusade against one small evil or another, such as smoking (as Dennis Prager notes). And all the big evils are ignored or cast instead as “good,” as in the case of Hamas or a dozen other large evils.

      And there is not good or strong vision in any of that.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      An interesting point, that some sort of visionary project is needed to inspire a society. This would just about have to be a government project, and as such a strict libertarian could never support such a notion. Thus, a libertarian society is likely to be a sterile one (or would be if such a thing ever happened).

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    You can’t fight the devil with a corkscrew……….

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Over at National Review Online, Josh Gelenter reminds us that the American space program isn’t exactly dead. In On to Pluto! he reminds us of the recent and ongoing robotic missions, including the current one to Pluto.

    Reduced to a “dwarf planet” by those who can’t leave well enough alone, Pluto will be visited in one year by the NASA spacecraft, New Horizons. And please don’t quibble about whether this is a “spaceship” or “spacecraft” because it is lacking occupants. I’ll always think of these as spacecrafts. The mind of man at least travels with them, and they are tethered to his control centers back on Earth.

    I note that this site’s good friend, Nik, in the comments sections, sees no place for a government program such as NASA. But I think that is again steering a little to close to a libertarian excess. Lest we forget, a nation itself is a great project. We must, of course, choose such projects carefully. But there is nothing intrinsically wrong about a society wishing to pool its resources to take on some great adventure, such as sending robotic spacecraft into space to stretch man’s horizons.

    For a conservative (quite unlike a Progressive), such projects are not the very essence of his existence, giving him meaning where otherwise it would be barren. Such projects are, instead, the spice of life which, by definition, should be used sparingly.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I never got around to reviewing it (the book sort of disappeared on us, as can easily happen around here given that we really don’t have enough space for all our books but continue buying them — including several more last night at Barnes & Noble), but Michael E. Brown’s How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is an entertaining account of his astronomical exploration of the trans-Neptunian region which led to the discovery of several dwarf planets, as well as the controversy over Pluto. In essence, his argument is that if we consider Pluto a planet, then we also have to keep adding the new dwarf planets in that general space, as well as any others (Ceres is also listed as a dwarf planet now). In essence, we can either switch to memorizing 8 planets, or have to keep changing the number of planets to memorize. He prefers the former, which is indeed a reasonable argument. (Of course, like you I grew up with the 9 planet solar system.)

      Incidentally, Gelernter’s point about the center of gravity of Pluto-Charon not being within Pluto (just as the Sun-Jupiter center of gravity isn’t within the Sun) reminds me that I refer to Darwin as the Copernicus of biology because Darwin had a good idea (gradual evolution by natural selection) that wasn’t the full explanation he thought. Similarly, our model comes from Kepler (where the center of the Sun is one focus of each elliptical orbit) rather than Copernicus (where the orbits are all circles with the center of the Sun as their centers).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        his argument is that if we consider Pluto a planet, then we also have to keep adding the new dwarf planets in that general space

        That is, of course, complete and utter nonsense. You just “grandfather in” Pluto as a planet and go from there. No muss. No fuss. I think the sciences are now full of revisionist types who love changing things. They ought to make Postmodernism the tenth planet.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I think this is a good place to mention that the cartoon strip Prickly City (which often has a bent for conservative satire, incidentally — they’ve run a number of strips exposing the reality of Obamacare, Slick Barry, and Slick Hilly), available by way of gocomics.con, has a strip today on the Pluto mission that you would probably enjoy.

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