A Man on the Moon

Remember when they used to say, if they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they….”? Most of us baby boomers were either in our teens or early twenties when we finally heard those immortal words spoken by astronaut Neil Armstrong, “one small step for man…”. Supposedly we experienced the ultimate, unless you believed it was faked in some New Mexico studio.

But that was so many years ago. It seems as if we haven’t had a good example of prowess and progress to attach to since then. At least our generation could shout to anyone, “damn it! If we can put a man on the moon, then you can build a car that gives 100 miles to the gallon and make it cheap enough for anyone to own.” Or, “you can build your factory in America and figure out a way to compete economically with the garbage they make in China.”

Our parent’s generation used to tell us at meal time, “eat it all up- there are kids starving in Europe.” How was my eating something I didn’t like help some kid in Yugoslavia feel like he went to bed with a full stomach? After a while, with the threat of the cold war, we figured that half of Europe was full of Commies so who cared if they went to bed hungry?

Our parents also told us about not having a dime during the Depression but they all seemed to come out of it unscathed. We weren’t buying it. We wanted a hula hoop or a gun and holster set with plastic bullets that shot. Our parents’ bragging rights were that they finally had a real refrigerator and not an ice box. Or a washing machine and dryer in the basement instead of going to a laundromat and popping coins into a slot to get the clothes cleaned.

Our grandparent’s could maybe shout, “if they can put sound to movies, why can’t they….?” But somehow that didn’t resonate when they were frustrated with seeing progress in more important areas of life. Besides, I don’t think my grandparents went to a movie theater for years until they were older and my parents took them along.

I remember the moon landing day all too well- July 20, 1969 when the historic event took place. I was watching the Cubs that Sunday on television playing a double header against the Philadelphia Phillies, beating them twice. The broadcast was interrupted by a news bulletin to show the moon landing as it happened. Naturally, I had mixed emotions because I would rather be watching the Cubs and figured that space exploration was something that was gonna happen on a regular basis anyway.

The fact is that there were only a handful more subsequent touchdowns of human feet on the moon’s crust surface. But it signified a solid example of American bragging rights, of our desire and willingness to conquer new heights. No challenge would go unturned. It was progress at its best.

So, what do the kids of today hang their hat on? I-pods? I-pads? The Internet? “If I can chat with someone in Kabul, why can’t they…” Or, maybe kids don’t get frustrated. They are so spoiled and coddled. They don’t have to memorize multiplication tables- they use calculators in the classroom. They get all that they want. They don’t get challenged to thinking to demand more fuel-efficient cars or food that doesn’t make you fat but satisfies your taste buds.

I guess I’m beginning to sound like the man on the moon.

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