Moon landing unity is needed today

While the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by Apollo 11 occurred a few weeks ago, I didn’t want that momentous time to pass without comment.

Around 8:00 p.m. on a Sunday night, July 20, 1969, my family watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, all five of us huddled around our 19” Emerson black and white TV set.  I vividly remember running outside, looking up at the moon, and feeling amazed that men were on that orb.

It remains the most significant historical event I have ever witnessed in my life.

Which is why the main TV networks—ABC, CBS, NBC—missed a golden opportunity to jointly re-air the video feed from the moon at the exact same time when it originally happened.

Only the NASA channel did so.

Imagine how special of an event that could have been, providing a glimpse of what it must have been like to have seen it live in 1969. at a time when Americans no longer watch TV shows at the same time.  Only sporting events and breaking news stories provide that bond today.

Nowadays we are sharing fewer and fewer common experiences that connect us.  Too many of us float away on our own individual islands where our cell phones provide whatever entertainment we want whenever we want.

A remarkable thing about the whole space program is how it galvanized the nation.  Oh sure, life in the late 1960’s was not ideal.   There was the generation gap, protests against the Vietnam War, fears that the USSR would start a nuclear conflict, political assassinations.

And yet, when Armstrong descended down the steps from the lunar module to place man’s first footprints on the moon, all troubles paused.

In his telephone call to the astronauts, President Nixon earnestly stated that “for one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one.”

The recent theatrical documentary “Apollo 11” using only archival footage offers viewers a chance to relive a period of time when people were proud to be Americans.

Of course, you would have to be 55 years old or older to have witnessed this history first-hand and have that primal exuberance reawakened with the anniversary remembrances.

It is hard to believe a half of century has passed since that time.  If would be like commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War I in 1968.

The sad truth about the human condition is that we are all trapped in the era in which we are born:  life on earth begins the day of our birth.  Unless you actually lived through historical milestones, the best you can do to get a feel of what the experience was like is to watch documentaries and read biographies.

Astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon on Dec. 14, 1972, eloquently summarized the poetry of what he experienced.

“When you look at this Earth and all its beauty, and all its logic, and all its purpose . . . there’s too much purpose to have happened by accident. . . .

It doesn’t make any difference what your God is… somebody up there who put together the most beautiful spectacle a human being can ever conceive, much less have the opportunity to see in real life… that’s our home, that’s our Earth.”

At a time when it seems there are more differences than similarities, when we appear more like strangers than neighbors, let us hope we will soon find common ground in the pursuit of a noble goal that unites our collective identity, healing the ruptures in our culture’s DNA.  If it was done before, it can be done again.

 

Boy, do we need Father’s Day now

Sunday will mark my 17th Father’s Day, a special accomplishment for me considering that I have been a dad longer than my father was for me.

Even though my dad died when I was 14 years old, I often wonder what he would think about everything that has happened since 1973.

Warehouse-size retail stores and gridlock traffic in the Glendale-Burbank area.

The extinction of LPs and record stores and the birth of cell phones and personal computers.

Explicit lyrics in songs and violent scenes in movies.

Tattoos on people who didn’t serve time in the Navy or in prison.

The astronomical cost of living compared to 1973 when a gallon of gasoline was 38 cents, not enough for a candy bar today, and a home sold for $30,000, currently the cost of an average automobile.

The end of the Vietnam War to the beginning of terrorist attacks.

The resignation of President Nixon and the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Firsts for women including astronaut Sally Ride and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The legalization of gay marriage and the proliferation of children born out-of-wedlock.

The escalation of crazed individuals murdering innocent groups of people in schools, churches, and theatres.

Dad never saw the completion or destruction of New York’s Twin Towers.

He also didn’t live long enough to see any of his children marry, their children born, or his wife’s final 30 years.

A man of extremely modest means who rarely owned his own house or a new car ended up with three children each of whom have enjoyed a standard of living that would make him burst at the seams with pride.

I’d be curious to find out how my father would react to the relaxed mores in today’s society.

The blurring of what defines a person’s sexual preference, gender and ethnicity with

David Furnish, Elton John’s husband, identifying himself as the “mother” on the birth certificates of their adopted sons and ex-NAACP official Rachel Dolezal born white identifying herself as African American.

What would dad think?

He was of the generation when men were the breadwinners and protectors of the household.

Such father figures were portrayed in movies and television shows as the parent who meted out punishments to the children, but who also offered sage advice, the glue that held the family structure together.

Then the 1960’s happened and it became cool to make fun of establishment figures.

Unable to employ old stereotypes of minorities, dads nicely filled the roles for Hollywood, becoming metaphors for incompetent imbeciles.

The lowering of the prestige of being a father mirrors the decline in two-parent households.

It’s almost as if dad has become irrelevant.

The decline in fathers and their impact on rearing children cannot be overstated in terms of the residual decline in cultural standards.

We should celebrate the contributions of fathers, and encourage their resurgence in the home and in society.   Let’s build them up not break them down. Kids need their daddies.

Of all the lessons fathers pass down to their children, the one about mortality is perhaps both the greatest and saddest. Since men don’t live as long as women, their passing is the first death that hits immediate family members.   Just as there are ways to live one’s life, there are also ways how to survive a death in the family.

Often it takes the loss of a loved one for those left behind to appreciate the life they have ahead of them.

Still, I wish I didn’t have to learn that lesson until I was much, much older.