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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong: A hero not fallen, but risen

As I sit here, this morning, sipping my coffee and listening to 'CBS Sunday Morning', I have to keep picking up a tissue and blowing my nose and wiping my eyes. 

I'm a child of the 1960s, going to school not even an hour away from the Cape. When any mission launched, we stood in our front yard - as our neighbors stood in theirs - eyes cast to the east, awaiting the bright flame that men rode to take them to space. I remember every Mercury, Gemini and Apollo mission that launched in my cognizant-childhood because we followed them at home, and we followed them at school. We grew up in an era fed by the intellectual curiosity of a race - the human race - that wouldn't be chained to only one planet, but a race that yearned to journey among all the planets, among the stars. 

I remember the day that Neil Armstrong stepped forth on the Moon, and I remember that it was also the day that my parents announced to me that they were divorcing. 

The latter passed, but my curiosity never waned for the former.

Yesterday, a hero not just of one country but of all countries, not just of one celestial body but of two, passed away. With him went a part of our genetic makeup, that part that serves to drive our race forward. 

I sit here, this morning, in a stunned daze and I wonder if that moment of heroic achievement wasn't our finest. Have we fallen so far and devolved into the bitter rancor that has become the norm for how we get along with each other? Will we ever have the will to step forth again even on the same body that Neil Armstrong stood on over 3 decades ago? Will we have the willpower, the desire to show our technological prowess again, to boldly go to yet other planets?

From the viewpoint of politics, it seems not. We've given over the reins of the nation to cowardly know-nothings who would rather see the nation fail than the man who leads it succeed. 

From the viewpoint of technology, we seem to want to hand over the role of leader to any other country with the common sense to educate its children in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. 

And from the viewpoint of leadership, we've abdicated that role completely, not even bothering to find a replacement.

Neil Armstrong was a hero of international - nay, interplanetary - dimensions. Who now will be our hero?