One giant leap for mankind, two steps back
By Ian Cobb
One of my earliest memories in life is Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon; “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
I was six-years-old and watching a black and white television set in my parent’s living room. Even at that young age I knew that the excitement being shown by my Second World War scarred parents was something big – something monumental.
Over the next three years, the Apollo Program would captivate and enthral all humankind, Armstrong’s words … “one giant leap for mankind” echoing with each successive Moon landing. The world huddled together in worry for the crew of Apollo 13 – friend and foe alike imagining the terror of possibly being stuck rolling to one’s slow death in the frozen darkness of space.
The 1969-1972 years of Apollo felt as though our world was emerging from centuries of terrible conflicts to a new era of enlightenment and greater understanding, all made rosier by the prospects of the greatest of adventures awaiting all humans – the exploration of space. That perception likely fuelled by the fact I was more aware of space because of Captain Kirk’s and Spock’s Star Trek missions than NASA on July 21, 1969.
That feeling prevailed despite being an expert at surviving nuclear attack by curling into a fetal ball under my school desk.
A few short weeks after humankind’s (and yes, America’s) first moon walk, more than 400,000 music lovers and hippies converged on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm near Bethel, NY for three days of peace, love and understanding.
Woodstock music festival remains the crowning glory of massive entertainment gatherings – a now hallowed event revered more for what it wasn’t than was. The event, despite a myriad of logistical staging problems and uncomfortable conditions, showed that the crazy kids of the time could have a party and not start the Third World War, as the narrow-minded establishment feared.
The enlightenment instilled in humankind in 1969 – from the grandiosity of Apollo 11 to the symbolic reassurance that things weren’t tipping into the abyss from Woodstock’s influential successes – served to help shape my young brain. The follow through over the next few years set the template for we children of the sixties as greater steps were taken toward racial and sexual equality.
Despite daily worries of nuclear annihilation, it still felt like we were heading in the right direction.
Sadly, as is the case in every single person’s case, life happens and shit happens and humankind’s departure toward a more noble and enlightened path became a million greed manipulated mazes that all led to this point in time – 50 years hence Apollo 11 and Woodstock.
Fifty years after the high-water mark in 1969, there is an obscene, cartoonish US President who embodies all that Americans in 1969 hated. Conservatives in ’69 would have carried Donald (Jessica) Trump out of Washington D.C. on a rail and left him trashed in a Virginia ditch. Liberals in ’69 would have viewed Trump as a fascist pig, so that hasn’t changed.
Apparently, folks saw things more clearly 50 years ago than they do today.
I know that the wide-eyed optimism I held as a young child, believing the future was going to be Star Trekian, where people of all kinds worked together for the common good, but not in a greasy hippy fashion or a dirty commie way, either, has been lost to the tireless ravages of insane profiteering and base numbskulls who believe anything as long as it suits their needs.
Fifty years post a giant leap for mankind, despite all our so-called advanced technology, the Moon has again become too distant and expensive. Humankind’s collective drive now navel gazes and posts photos of its wild fusion lunches.
An attempt at a Woodstock 50 died in planning. Woodstock 1969 also almost died in planning; but it happened.
In 1969 people of all stripes were can do sorts. We are now the can’t be bothered sorts. The meh generations – #itstoohardwaah.
In closing, I know this opinion reflects more on America and Americans but it is also indicative of Canada and Canadians. We tend to be pulled in the direction our elephant cousin goes.
Our political and social discourse, as well as trends, are already there. We are also experiencing one step forward, two steps back. Proof: Prime Minister Short Pants’ daddy was busy alienating Western Canadians 50 years ago.
And down in the USA there was a wildly unpopular and polarizing President named Richard Nixon who hated Trudeau and Canada and pathologically abused the truth.
It is hard to say that Neil Armstrong overshot things when he inclusively stated, “a giant leap for mankind” as opposed to what would be said today, “a giant (expletive expletive) leap for America (expletive) yeah! USA! USA! USA! #trending beeeyotches!”
But with all due respect Mr. Armstrong, and with all appreciation for you not being an ugly American tool, your footprints, and those of the 11 other humans who have done so, were more like periods to the story of human progression than the ellipsis they should have been.
That said, this wide-eyed boy still reveres you and your peers as great heroes and pioneers for humankind, just as he still thinks Jimi Hendrix is 384,400 times more interesting, talented and ground-breaking than the been-there-done-that Youtube snorts of today.
– Ian Cobb is owner/editor of e-KNOW