Monday :: May 14, 2007

Bookends of Bombing

by paradox

One of the elements I’ve found so appealing and written about before is the bravery of Howard Dean, a point so eloquently demonstrated by the impeccable Al at Anonymous Liberal. Voters abhor the so pervasively cautious politician, and any candidate who has the bravery to advocate legalizing gay marriage has my vote. Unless Al Gore runs.

Al reminded me of a post at Hullabaloo, long ago with topic forgotten, where the story of Apollo space welders showed what real political inspiration can accomplish along with some bravery. Those welders knew their beads were for the first men on the moon and they applied arc and filler to their work as if their children’s lives depended on it. Their tiny yet tangible contributions to Apollo were some of their finest days in their professional lives.

Politicians know noble collective inspiration can rewrite history and create great accomplishments, so almost all Presidents grasp for it, with only a few to really attain it (mars, bitches!). But Apollo is always there to at least show us Americans can be collectively positive for the plain good of the country, nothing else. I very much hope our current candidates come up with something collectively positive for the country to build in 2009, ‘cause over the arc of my lifetime the history of collective inspirational accomplishment has been damn poor.

My first technical societal memory is held by Charles Kuralt, in fact. I was too young for Apollo, but not too young for the grand encore of the 1972 Christmas Vietnam bombing over Vietnam. Many of the fleet of bombers had been shot down, and I remember Charles on television, framed on sunny grass with a mike in his hand, a huge B-52 crashed behind him, the nose brokenly tilted forward from the smashup.

32 years later I took off 90 minutes from work to sit in the coffee area and watch shock and awe, every once in a while someone joining me for twenty minutes or so. I remember the mute silence, the way people just took in the clapping towering explosions in the urban dark, more fires burning every minute, no one saying a word. After 90 minutes I finally went back to work myself, there didn’t seem to be anything else to do.

In all those decades we could have become a wondrous technological society (for starters) of high speed trains, public broadband, compete independence from foreign oil and gas, and vast improvements in how we safely interact with all our stuff (again, for starters) but instead we became the greatest technical military power the world has ever seen or will ever see, no country will be this insane again.

Hyperbole? Not. Seen the new class of aircraft carrier the Navy is building? Nimitz hull, island moved, new reactor, and incredibly expensive electromagnetic launchers. At least 12 billion each, easily, the Gerald Ford class will probably triple the cost of a new carrier.

I have a question for our Navy guys: right now we’re building the great shared-service fighter-bomber, the F-35 or whatever the hell it currently is, along with the $90 million F-22, even though no country in the world can presently come remotely close to the F-15, the F-18, the F-16.

The F-35 has a vertical takeoff variant. If the United States is spending hundreds of billions for a new plane that takes off vertically, why is the Navy spending tens of billions more on electromagnetic catapults for horizontal takeoff planes?

Always unspoken, always to be accepted as if its some physical law of the universe, rampant atrociously expensive militarism America marches on, robbing us of any chance to be truly inspirational in our reach for something collectively great. 1972 Christmas along with shock & awe are bookends of bombing in my life, and I hope one of our Democratic candidates has the bravery to inspire Americans beyond blowing things up so well.

paradox :: 5:40 PM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!