Fifty years ago, just before he became the first man to plant his feet on an astral plane, Neil Armstrong wrote that from space, one perceives “a much bigger universe than we can normally see from the front porch.”
“Perhaps going to the moon and back isn’t that important,” he wrote. “But it is a big enough step to give people a new dimension in their thinking – a sort of enlightenment.”
From space, all that is petty and provincial becomes microscopic. Southern California and South Carolina are of the same kernel. A big, beautiful border wall wouldn’t rival a cat’s whisker.
As we enter a new year, more Americans understand that to yield to the petty is not what we as a nation are about. Not that the national mood is reflected in a cloistered chief executive holding the government as his very own hostage.
Make America great again? What Donald Trump makes America out to be isn’t that. Rather than the brawny hero of the downtrodden, his America is cramped, crouched and crochety.
Forget Liberty’s lamp. What Trump and his supporters envision is dimly lit: bars over opaque windows, narrow rows of limited goods inside, a faded ’60s-vintage sign above the cash register pronouncing, “We reserve the right to refuse service.”
The America of Ellis Island embraced opportunity and diversity. The driving impetus of Trump’s America is to plant a boot on an immigrant’s hind side.
Trump believes he speaks for America on these matters. Not even close. A solid majority of Americans – 58 percent according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll — opposes his shutting down government to get funds for his border wall.
It’s curious to ponder those who think the wall is worth national paralysis. Who are they? Most are detached from a world of difference, living in rural areas and least likely to encounter “illegals.”
Look at the reds and blues of the presidential map and see that the most Trump supporters are where the least people are. Hmmm.
They may be remote-minded, but they can still get Fox News on their satellite dishes and Rush Limbaugh on their A.M. dials. They live the very same drum-drum fear-beat that caused Trump to backtrack on a unanimous Senate resolution to fund government before the end of the year.
The other day Trump and the Fox News fear merchants found something to justify their pitch: the tragic slaying of a California police officer, the suspect having fled Mexico.
Imagine how much safer we might be if Republicans showed as much concern about the legally armed monsters who have cut down so many in schools, churches, synagogues, concert venues and more. But in the narrow rows of the cloistered shop that is Trump’s America, the sale of firearms is always robust.
The Limbaughs, the Laura Ingrahams, the Tucker Carlsons of the broadcast world want you to fear immigrants. Sorry, but all I can think of is the Spanish-chattering fellows hired by the roofing company to spend sweltering hours on my Texas roof one storm season as they worked to keep the next rain off my brow.
Fifty years ago, with the space program, Americans had the opportunity to think bigger than this. Neil Armstrong hoped for a future of loftier intentions.
“Hopefully, by getting a little farther away, both in the real sense and the figurative sense, we’ll be able to make people step back and consider their mission in the universe.”
His musings had the ring of songwriter Julie Gold’s “From a Distance”:
“From a distance there is harmony and it echoes through the land. And it’s the hope of hopes; it’s the love of loves; it’s the heart of every man.”
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.