Things just ain’t the same for gangstas, even less for regular Joes that grew up in the 80’s. Macho Man, gone, Jordan owns the worst team in the league. Griselda Blanco bit the dust this week. Even Roy Jones was forced to lean back. Everything we grew up on is gone. America is going through the same thing, as former allies turn to throw dirt and the results of decades of imperialist meddling are coming back on us. This week, we buried one of the last vestiges of untainted American idealism as Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk the moon, was put to rest.
That was far before my era but it speaks to many things that we have lived through. As time passes and the old gives way to the new, we mark our time with events and the moon landing was the icing on the cake when it comes to bestowing the 20th century as the American Century. Decades later, people question whether people actually walked the moon, with their theories of staged shows and flags floating in a windless environment. Real or fake, that moment made the world believe that America was capable of ANYTHING. It gave us a certain amount of clout that even the atom bomb couldn’t deliver and put competing ideologies on their heels. Look what capitalism could do!
Years have gone by and there are space stations and whole countries and economies and ways of life have since come and gone, but the moon landing has stood as an indelible image, so much that MTV named their award the moon man and it became the symbol of their decades long near hegemony over the expansive field of pop culture.
Armstrong, for his part in this was an test pilot, an aerospace engineer, an astronaut and all-around pioneer. There are pilots who scoff at a few of his credentials because he was more of an engineering pilot than a natural, the way any professional that views their science as an art view people who succeed without that guttural connection to it, but Armstrong paid his dues and accomplished much. After the moon landing and one additional space flight, Armstrong retired as an astronaut. Eventually he retired from NASA altogether and became an aeronautics professor. He shunned the attention he could have gotten, he refused to allow his autographs to be commoditized. Unlike fellow astronaut, John Glenn, he never chose to take sides in the political arena although he made it clear that he preferred as little government intervention as possible.
One small step for[a] man…one giant leap for mankind. With Armstrong’s death, it’s even more evident that the American psyche took an even greater leap. As we stand near perhaps the precipice of America’s return to Earth, it’s ironic that we lay to rest the man that put us into orbit. May he rest in peace.
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