Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic space flight. Kelly remembers a film that he first saw when he was in elementary school:
A documentary like this would be dismissed today as slavish propaganda, and I suppose, in a way, that it is…but you know what, I just don’t care. Our space program in the 1960s, even though we might wish it was less motivated by a desire to beat the Soviets, was a time of greatness that we achieved because we just plain wanted it. And it saddens me to think that our era of space exploration was so short that a landmark mission, fifty years ago, now seems almost quaint. [Italics in original]
I think it’s sad that we lost interest in space exploration and sad that so many people think patriotism is a bad thing. People have the wrong attitude about these things. In a way I can understand. In the past there was, perhaps, too much, “Good America vs. Bad Other Guys” and “Yay us! We’re better than everyone else,” but that doesn’t mean we should make patriotism a sin. Many people act like patriotism is the same as sports fandom: root for the home team, hate the rival teams. Instead, we should think of America as a family. You love your family, don’t you? You’re happy when your family is successful but that doesn’t mean you hate other families. It’s okay to love your own family and want them to do great things and still like other families and want them to do well also.
Yesterday was also Presidents Day – an excuse for government employees to have a three day weekend. When I was a kid there was no Presidents Day. There was Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday which were myth perpetuating opportunities disguised as educational opportunities. We were taught the story about Washington and the cherry tree and about Lincoln’s childhood growing up in a log cabin but very little about their presidencies. It was a nice break from the routine though. There was usually some kind of art project. I remember one year we cut silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln out of black construction paper and glued them to sheets of white paper. I wonder if kids still do that sort of thing in school.
I think it would be better for the kids, and all of us, if we had John Glenn Day instead of President’s Day and went back to the old-fashioned Washington and Lincoln birthdays.