Opinion | Morgan Liddick: To the moon, Rashida
On Your Right
Fifty years ago tomorrow, the command module of the Apollo 11 moonship streaked across the sky to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. When the crew was winched to safety aboard the USS Hornet, it marked the completion of the mission President John F. Kennedy set for the country May 25, 1961, of “… landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” It was a technological triumph for the United States, which in the early years of the 1960s lagged its competitor, the Soviet Union, in every major element of the space race.
Despite those disadvantages, to this day the only human footsteps on another world are American. We alone among humankind have surmounted the challenges of leaving the Earth, journeying to another body in the solar system, stepping foot on it and returning to the home world safe and sound.
How did we do it? By rising to the challenge, working together and never, ever doubting we could. Again, Kennedy got it right. At Rice University in September 1961, he set forth the rationale for thinking big. He said we would go to the moon, and we would master space and accomplish other feats “… not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills …” In other words, because we need meaningful challenges to bring out the best in ourselves.
We don’t really hear that sort of talk today. We don’t partake of the belief that we ought to challenge ourselves. Perhaps we have been told too many times that we deserve our heart’s desire simply because we want it and because we showed up, no hard work or nasty diligence necessary. And after decades of being told that the United States is the source of all evil in the world, perhaps we no longer think we should spread ourselves anywhere — not on Earth, nor in the heavens.
A few decades ago, there was a general agreement about what this country was and where it was going. Nowadays, not so much. These days, it’s about as likely that a congressperson will accuse the president of murdering people by withholding government-supplied health care or endangering “millions of people” with his words as to applaud his vision and challenges to be better than we are.
In point of fact, there are now millions of people, including some in positions of power, who have nothing but disdain for the country that has given them opportunities, protections and freedom unlike that they would know almost anywhere else. They respond by calling those whose only effort is to ensure the nation’s integrity and security “fascists” and “concentration camp guards,”and their shrill rhetoric encourages others to seek the limelight by aping them. What they are working toward is not a better world. They are instead eroding the foundations of the nation most interested in enlarging the domain of human liberty in the world today.
Because they care not a wit for liberty. Nor do they care for the vision of Kennedy, for those difficult goals that call us to strive, that we may excel in the name of all humanity. No. They care only for power, for the gratification of ego and the wild, delicious freedom of being able to tell everyone else how they should act and even think. They call themselves “progressives,” but inside each of them is a secret tyrant waiting to wrap its hands around America’s throat.
We cannot continue in this manner, befuddled by simplistic falsehoods about the nature of our country and unsure about the inherently positive nature of our society. If we do, we are doomed, and those assiduously working to nurture the rot they think will see America’s displacement by a secular paradise on Earth will instead be horrified by what they have wrought, in the brief and terrible lives remaining to them after the collapse. They should consult Robespierre about that, provided they’ve the wit to do so.
No. As with our somewhat-less divided society in the 1960s, we need a goal to unify us — something outside ourselves, something which benefits no single group or political class to the detriment of others. We need something no one has ever done before. Mars beckons and beyond, the rest of the solar system. America should commit itself to the centurieslong process of colonization, in the name of humanity and to renew ourselves.
By doing what is hard. Again.
Morgan Liddick’s column “On Your Right” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Liddick spent 27 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily living abroad. He also spent 12 years teaching U.S. history and Western civilization at community colleges in Colorado and Texas. He lived in Summit County as recently as 2015. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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