It was with considerable sadness that I read of the the death of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on extraterrestrial soil (sorry, Cyrano). The Apollo Program is perhaps the pinnacle of human achievement- a voyage to a heavenly body with the safe return of the travelers. Neil was the first- the combination of brilliance and bravery that led him to volunteer for this mission is positively mind-boggling. The trust that he placed in the physicists and engineers that made the program possible is a testament to his character. Just watching the film, and hearing Neil Armstrong's famous prounouncement, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" gives me goosebumps:
Fittingly, I took a good, long look at a beautiful waxing moon tonight (since much of my work schedule is nocturnal, I devote a lot of my blog to the "altar of the lupine lords") and thought, "There are human footprints up there, what a marvel!" The fact that humans were able to accomplish such a feat fills me with pride, even though the society that put the Apollo 11 "Eagle" Lunar Lander on the moon was far from perfect, as Gil Scott Heron acidly observed in one of his best pieces:
Of course, Neil Armstrong had nothing to do with the societal pathologies of the day. It's hard to wrap one's head around this in this cynical age, but Neil was an unalloyed hero- a self-effacing individual who had accomplished an unprecedented feat, a mere human who had strode like a titan across the face of the moon.
Then I came back down to earth... forty-three years after the Apollo 11 landing, our society has become debased. Theocratic thugs are trying to impose their Bronze Age superstition on the nation that was capable of the Apollo Project and Rapture Ready rubes are so fearful of the real universe that they hope and pray for its destruction (with the accompanying sideshow of folks like you and me being subject to eternal torment). An entire political party platform is based on the premise that government, the very government that successfully put Neil Armstrong on the moon, should be shrunk to a size where it could be drowned in a bathtub or inserted into a vagina. Neil, we've failed you. We've failed to follow in your footsteps, both mundane and lunar. We've failed ourselves, and, so far, our progeny. Neil, you will be missed, at a time when we need your example of fearlessness and brilliance more than ever.
Wow, that sure took a depressing turn... time for a little soothing balm. I believe that zrm would concur with me that some Mekons are in order:
Goodnight, Neil, sorry we're not following in your footsteps.