THE FINAL FRONTIER
HOW AMERICA LOST
Good-Bye To The Land Of Pilgrims And Pioneers, Revolutionaries And Explorers, Innovators and Risk-Takers
To this very day, we like to believe that we are still that extraordinary, that unique nation, built on the raw DNA of misfits and malcontents from all the world over. It's in our movies, our myths, our legends, our hopes, our dreams: That real, unmatchable freedom of limitless possibilities, infinite tomorrows, endless opportunity: A thousand miles of virgin forest: Five hundred miles of rich grasslands: A hundred miles of uninhabited coastline: A field of dreams: Not some circumscribed, circumspect halfhearted pretense of a dry theoretical sort of freedom, trotted out for dull parades and duller speeches.
No; a real, dangerous, delightful liberty, the kind whose consequences are as unforeseeable as slavery in a "Christian" nation, or liberation of slaves in a bloody, fratricidal war. As transcendantally spiritual as human beings surviving even in chains, and as joyously, painfully full of life as enslaved men, women and children set free at last. As unpredictable as women in a brave new world, built with their own small hands, and wrenched from the constraints of the past by their own great minds. As wild and free as the millions of acres of wilderness, teeming with strange and beautiful new plants and animals. As full of life and power as the millions of people already here before us. And as doomed.
Somehow, we have been through all this only to arrive at a complacent dead end. From 1492 right up until the 1970's, we cut new paths and created new worlds, new ways of living. Then, suddenly, we gave up our quest. We were no longer explorers and inventors, rebels and visionaries. We had become reactionaries, conservatives, defenders of the established faith, orthodox in every way. We would now fight not for freedom, but against it. We would counter revolutions, not lead them. We would try to declare an end to history, with ourselves as its' penultimate goal and shining example for all. Entrenched in our squat suburbs, farting along behind our enormous engines, bristling with technology designed not to save the world, but to annihilate whatever we couldn't make a buck off of, we proclaim ourselves the crown of creation.
What the fuck has God wraught, indeed, Watson? Yo, Holmes, fuck if I know.
For me, for many of us, the final turning point came in July of 1969, when we landed on the Moon. The Moon! That soulful sister in the skies, half-real, half-imaginary, a spectre in our dreams, now covered with our footprints! If we could go from muddy Earth, looking up, to silvery Moon, in less than ten years, what could we not do? Like Icarus engineering an impossible dream, we actually built a stairway to heaven in one magical decade, and climbed it to the Moon. Couldn't we visit the Stars? Couldn't we make contact with other, more advanced civilizations? Couldn't we learn from them, and all work together to bring peace and prosperity, health and happiness, freedom and dignity to eveyone?
It was about at that point that reality sheared off from meta-reality. I'm not sure which one we live in now, gentle reader. But when Tricky Dick Nixon, killer of Kennedys, squatted outside the Moon-landing astronauts' decon trailer, flashing his satanic anti-peace-sign, sucking up all the glory meant for mankind, not a man; even as he planned to shut down the further exploration of space, I knew it was over. From then on, it was only in science fiction that good things happened, and only in our imaginations that mankind would advance to take its' place among the stars. In reality, we remained where we had always been, save that one brief lunar moment: Stuck on Earth. The sky above, the mud below.
Can you hear me Major Tom?
That was the end of the Age of Exploration, Innovation, Revolution. That was the end of America, as we knew her. Abandon all hope, ye who enter your mothers maiden name here. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of urine if you want a job, a home, or whatever. Its not much to give, is it? Dignity? Self-respect? Freedom? They're only words, right? What's a concept, compared to a warm bed, three squares, a soft job with good insurance and a laptop?
Can you blame me for killing all those people in McDonalds? Or, well, for wanting to, anyway?
So now its up to the Chinese, who believe in nothing. A corrupt, polluted, senile society without values of any kind. Raw lust for wealth and power, without the glimmer of a gloss of civilization. If anyone reaches the stars, it will be them. If anyone represents us to galactic civilization, it will not be us. Our values, ideas and ideals, hard-won from ancient India, Hammurabi, Moses, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Christ, Seneca, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Rousseau, Locke, Jefferson, Wollstonecraft, Darwin, Marx, Sanger, Freud, Nietzche, Einstein, de Beauvoir, Martin Luther King, to Stonewall, et al, will all be lost. Because we gave up the Quest. We quit seeking. We no longer cared to pioneer.
About that Grail...
It's the Quest itself that purifies us, makes us who we are. Without it, we lack definition. We become mired in the everyday. We lose our connection to the mystical tomorrow, and the legendary past. When we cease to seek our salvation, we cease to have souls. That is the secret of Western Civilization, 101. And without souls, we are, well, Chinese.
Not that the Chinese are mere animated matter, right? Right? Hello? H - E - L - L - O - O - O - O - O ! ! ! ? ? ?
Think we'll ever hear anything like this in Mandarin or Cantonese, from the Moon, or beyond, as a call to a spiritual quest, in the pure spirit of adventure:
"To boldly go where no one has gone before."
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