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The U.S. Space Program, Hope, and Idealism

This story from CNN, covering Bush's intent to encourage staffed missions to the moon, is the first thing I've agreed with the president on in quite some time. My good friend, Terrance, decries it as a feel-good tactic designed to distract, and it may well be, but I do not think that necessarily means that it should not be done. One does not have to credit Bush with honorable or benevolent motivation on this to support it. Thinking as a consequentialist, I consider the potential results to be worthwhile. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Many say that our problems here on Earth must take precedence. I believe we must look at the big picture, and deal with issues concurrently: we cannot always face inward to the troubles that plague us on the ground, for they will always exist. There will always be some hindrance, some obstacle, some reason to defer, so if we always put it off until tomorrow, tomorrow will never come. We must raise our heads above the chaos and turmoil on the surface, and look not just to where we are, but to where we may go.

We must get off the planet. We must go to the stars. We are faced with overpopulation in certain areas in the shorter term, and, in the long term, our sun will eventually destroy this world. We have to walk before we can run, and we must explore and learn about our universe now, that we may provide future generations with a solid foundation of research and knowledge for the eventual preservation and continuance of the human race.

I confess bias here, and utter idealism: I have always considered the quest for space to be inspiring. It's something I care about. Maybe I just watched The Right Stuff too many times, but on a large scale, more than any government, more than any political agenda, more than any war, it is the human spirit, the triumph of the individual, that ennobles us and drives us forward. It is our audacity and courage, our pioneer determination, that kick-starts our progress and takes us to the next step. Disasters like Columbia and Challenger only serve as reminders of how far we have to go before we can engage in reliable, consistent space travel, so we'd better get started.

I'm deliberately permitting myself a lot of "hot" adjectives in my rhetoric, and, delivered with the appropriate amount of impassioned emotion, it would probably play reasonably well at my old college debate society. However, my justification for a touch of hyperbole is that I truly believe in this. For some folks, seeking the cosmos is almost a religion. I wouldn't say that I go that far, but I am one of those who finds a lot of comfort in its shiny promise. Yes, people need food and healthcare, but they also need hope. They also need to have a tomorrow that looks better than today, to help carry them forward. For many of us, the space program is a big part of providing that tomorrow.


Jan. 9th, 2004 10:44 am (UTC)
Your argument for supporting this move is fair enough. But had you not had the same passion for space exploration, would you have been as tolerant of this PR gambit?

I'm still a newbie to understanding politics, especially partisan politics, coming from a country that is primarily an oligarchy. Hope you don't mind me asking your opinion on some of these issues...

When the politicians in power act in a beneficial manner on issues that one cares about, that's all well and good. But when they act against one's issues, it seems the default reaction is to blame the party. Is this fair or just completely irrational?

Is the handling on issues determined by the individual or by party policies? Would things be different were the president democratic or republican? Does it even matter? Each party certainly seems to enjoy blaming the other for anything that goes wrong.

I ask, though I have no voting power, because it seems as though it should matter, but it seems more harmful than helpful to play partisan politics. The quick fix to everything becomes to change the party in power. One loses sight of the individual issues at hand. What do you think?
Jan. 9th, 2004 10:59 am (UTC)
Actually, I think your post presents some excellent questions, and thank you very much for it.

Your point about one person's trash being another person's treasure in terms of whose back is getting scratched on a given issue is a good one. (*grins* I could probably work in another cliche there, if I tried.) It seems that human psychology seems to have a tendency to want to find a scapegoat when things aren't going one's way, and yes, you're right, the party or representative of the party is generally the first target. And we Americans tend to like to grumble about politics regardless of which party is in power, so someone's almost always dishing out blame. There are folks out there who make entire careers out of that.

As far as handling on issues goes, and whether it occurs by party or individual, it actually depends. There are certain executive powers granted to the presidency, certain powers granted to the legislature, and certain powers granted to the judicial branch. The theory in the creation of this was that they would provide a system of checks and balances for one another, so that no one entity would have too much power.

Speaking for myself, on the space race, I can say it would not matter, because really, my problem is that I do focus on the issues, rather than the party. It makes me a freak, in a way. I will explain.

I have never voted Democrat or Republican, because of the issues. Each side has stances that I favor, and each has stances that I reject. My views do not fit well in the two-party system, and I am not much of a fan of the pendulum theory of two-party politics, because I have seen the reality, and rather than the two meeting in the middle to compromise, we instead often just see wild swings to extremes that can sit for decades on one end of the spectrum without change, because once laws are passed, it's often rather hard to get them off the books.

I agree with you that partisan politics are not helpful. I would rather see us start in the moderate middle, acknowledging that each side has valid points here and there, and trying to produce results that will be best for all citizens as a whole, rather than trying to get a win for the party's platform.

I hope I at least kind of sort of answered your question?
Apr. 8th, 2004 04:20 pm (UTC)
(Whee, how's this for an old comment)

Reading over this again, your support for starting in the moderate middle makes the most sense, but I don't see how, in the current system of american politics, something like that can be implemented.

Furthemore, when you say you don't vote for the parties, do you mean that you don't vote exclusively for either party, or you exclusively refuse to vote for both parties? Especially in this year's election, at which point do you vote for someone who would not be your first choice, because your vote could be at least be used to elect your second choice over your third choice?


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