Wrecking Crew

I’m usually melancholy on the anniversary of the first manned moon landing. It comes from all the squandered potential over these last fifty years. We have gone from the nation that put men on the moon to one that has to hitch ride on Russian rockets. We may have won the space race, but they’re still there and we aren’t.

There have always been nearsighted critics of the US manned space program. That’s a big reason we’re in the situation we’re in today. With that in mind,  I steeled myself for  flurry of criticism that never came. There were, of course, still a few naysayers. Fifty years ago, criticism came from those who thought the money could be better spent on their pet programs. Now it’s supposed “issues of diversity.” So it goes.

I really have to wonder about that. Keep in mind that this is criticism of perhaps the most stunning achievement of American engineering of the 20th Century. To steal a line from Coleridge, “We were the first who ever burst upon that silent sea.” That, I suspect, is the real problem. It neatly refutes the lie that America was never great, and they can’t have that at all.

That, of course, seems terribly petty – unless there is something else at stake. The whole idea of American greatness is based on liberty. That includes a whole lot of things, including limits on government. Any honest reading of our history will reveal flaws and shameful episodes, but the interesting thing is that our founders devised our system of government precisely because they knew people are flawed. That is what has made America great. Concentrating on our flaws at the expense of what we’ve done right is like visiting Buckingham Palace and only noticing the mice. It’s not particularly rational.

Except, of course, to anyone who isn’t keen on the very things that has made America great, and wants to tear them down and replace them with something else.

A slur? Hardly. Any time someone intends to build something new, the old must be removed. That’s hard to do when many think the old is worth saving. Ah, but if you can convince them the old was never worth building in the first place, then they might even volunteer for the wrecking crew. To say that America was never great is to say that liberty and limited government isn’t, either. It’s not surprising that one of those this past week who criticized the program that put man on the moon touted socialism in the same article.

This is hardly new. It really got going a little more than fifty years ago, with a concerted effort to focus on the flaws of noted figures in American history to the near exclusion of the good that they did. It wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t a good bit of foreign agi-prop behind that back then. Painting the picture than a country is no better than its adversaries can be a handy thing if you’re one of those adversaries.

Be that as it may, if you pay attention, those who like to claim America was never great will usually support an alternative to our current way of doing things, be it economic or government or both. What “ism” they happen to support is irrelevant; all, ultimately, want the same thing: to replace what has worked for over two centuries with something else. In many cases, it’s with something that has repeatedly failed.

It’s something easy to see, once you know what to look for. The main thing to remember is that when you see someone intent on tearing something down, the thing to ask is what do they want to build in its place.