Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

July 20, 2014

Remembering the Eagle

Filed under: Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:12 am

“Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind.” – Plaque on the Apollo 11 landing module left on the moon.

On this day in 1969, the late Neil Armstrong made history by taking “one small step” onto the surface of the moon.

The first words Armstrong spoke upon landing were actually the terse, “Tranquility Base here. the Eagle has landed.”

When the time came to utter the words Armstrong knew would resonate through history forever, he muffed his line, leaving out one crucial word.

“It’s one small step for Man, a giant leap for mankind,” should have been, “one small step for a man.”

Or perhaps the line was garbled in the spotty transmission. Armstrong himself said cryptically, “We’ll never know.”

And though it is claimed Armstrong decided on his line in the six-and-a-half hours between touchdown and exiting the craft, the suspicion naturally arose that the line was scripted when an Air Force choir came up with a hymn using the line with suspicious rapidity.

Point being, very seldom do men know with absolute certainty they are making history at any given moment. Often the history-maker’s famous lines are scripted for them after the fact by helpful biographers with the advantage of hindsight.

Armstrong knew the step he took represented the first step in an endless journey the human race was only beginning. He knew he carried the hopes and fears of an army of scientists, technicians, and engineers who built the craft they would never embark on.

And the hopes and dreams of a nation as well.

I watched the moon landing with two of my closest friends. We had just graduated from high school and were about to go our separate ways. I think our conversation was puerile and more than a little stupid. Because we were touched by awe, and like adolescent boys covered it up with idiot bravado.

But we knew what Armstrong was doing, because we were like him in one crucial way. We three boys with no accomplishments yet to our name, and the former Navy pilot, Korean War veteran, engineer, and astronaut who had already made less dramatic history by performing the first spacecraft docking maneuver, were alike in one way. We read science fiction. We knew what Armstrong was doing changed the history of the human race forever. We knew what he was doing might ensure there would be a human race into the far future, perhaps forever.

Robert A. Heinlein science fiction author and guest commentator for Walter Cronkite during the Apollo 11 landing, once said, “Earth is too fragile a basket for the human race to hold all its eggs in.”

His colleague and friend Sir Arthur C. Clarke observed, “If man survives for as long as the least successful of the dinosaurs—those creatures whom we often deride as nature’s failures—then we may be certain of this: for all but a vanishingly brief instant near the dawn of history, the word ‘ship’ will mean— ‘spaceship.’”

Armstrong took that first step for mankind, and generations yet unborn will follow him, and remember.

On the Border

Filed under: Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:15 am

We appear to have a problem on our southern border.

Huge numbers of children are showing up unescorted, and rather than seeking to evade Las Migras (Border Patrol) they are seeking them out and surrendering. They are then taken to holding facilities where though crowded, they’re at least getting three hots and a cot.

Among those “children” are an unknown though certainly significant number of teens who appear to have gang tattoos.

It’s hard to tell how many because the press has been denied access to the detention centers. This is the kind of thing the press likes to rise up in righteous wrath against but so far the silence has been deafening.

In a town called Murrietta, California, attempts to relocate some of these detainees in Border Patrol facilities were met by demonstrators who have forced buses to turn back. For now.

The actions of the citizens of Murrietta have been decried by all generous and right–thinking people who live near the border.

The Canadian border that is.

What seems to have happened is that word has reached the southern parts of our hemisphere that the U.S. is no longer enforcing border controls.

Furthermore the hordes of hopefuls seem to have gotten the impression from somewhere that the U.S. has a very generous social welfare system they are perfectly welcome to partake of.

I wonder where they got that idea?

The results are about what you’d expect when your rich uncle invites all his poor relatives to move in, stay as long as they like and help themselves to whatever is in the fridge.

It’s not like they’re entirely unwanted. Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi thinks they’re so adorable she wants to take them all home. Where they can work in her Napa Valley vineyard and look forward to becoming citizens and registered Democrats.

But there are plenty of Republicans ready with offers of low-wage labor and a piece of the American dream.

What to do? What to do?

I have a question. I have lost count of how many times I have asked this question.

Does anybody else see how seriously weird it is we’re even having this debate?

Every country in the world, with us as the only exception, regards their right to control their border as a given. Not even up for discussion!

It’s pretty much what defines a country. A line, your laws on your side, our laws on our side.

And yet there is serious opposition to the idea that we have a right to control our territory, to admit or exclude who we chose.

In the past the criteria we declared and enforced were often mean-spirited and racist. But the general idea was, were you willing to become an American, to assimilate, learn the national language, the history, the laws?

I have friends from Europe and Asia who are of the first American-born generation of their families, who quite unself-consciously speak of “our Revolution” and “our Civil War.”

And of course they are quite right. Being American, almost unique among the nations of the world, is not a matter of birth but a relationship with a philosophy of liberty and self-government.

I have helped defecting Chinese find their way to a new life in America. I’ve helped Iranian refugees get legalized. I worked with Mexican kids who came out of the shadows during the Reagan amnesty.

I’ve also lived in a country, former Yugoslavia, which tore itself apart over ethnic and linguistic divisions I couldn’t even see. I lived in the Baltic States where the citizens were terrified by the presence of large Russian minorities settled there when they were under the Soviet occupation.

My children’s mother is an immigrant.

So you could say I’ve seen the best and the worst of immigration. Will you then take my word that everything I’ve seen of this crisis looks bad, and in the long run possibly fatal for our country and all we’ve achieved?

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