Let’s go back to 1969 when everyone joined hands and danced by the light of the just-landed-on moon. On the other hand, let’s not.
As bad and divided as our politics are today, the thought of returning to a time when the nation found unity in the moon landing celebration has a tremendous amount of appeal. Except that 1969 was no better than it is now and, in some respects, was far worse.
Already growing opposition to the Vietnam War exploded late in the year when the public finally learned of the 1968 My Lai Massacre, when U.S. soldiers killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly. Days later, somewhere between 250,000-500,000 people marched on Washington, D.C. to protest the war.
The news media also was all over Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy that year, after he drove off the Chappaquiddick Bridge near Martha’s Vineyard, resulting in the death of his passenger, young Mary Jo Kopechne.
Newly inaugurated President Richard Nixon introduced the country to “The Silent Majority” in 1969 to show that his administration had the full support of people who, apparently, didn’t express their support.
Meanwhile, the left-wing terrorist group, the Weathermen, began their campaign of bombings, shootings and sabotage, and California National Guard helicopters were called in to spray hundreds of protesters in Berkeley with a skin irritant.
Two things that year united the public briefly: the reaction to the devastation visited on the Gulf Coast in August by Hurricane Camille, a category five monster that still ranks as one of the worst of all time, and the lunar landing.
We could use a bright spot like the moon landing this year, it would seem, but our cynical side tends to believe that now, as it was then, we would be back to bad business as usual once the euphoria subsided.
It’s been 50 years this Saturday since that monumental day, and aside from all our technological advancements since then, we don’t seem to have learned much at all.