America Needs a Better Common Enemy

“From the day we were born, we were all meant for this moment. Today, we will put an American on the moon” – Gene Kranz speaking of July 20, 1969, as seen on Moon Landing: The Day We Put a Man on the Moon, Discovery Channel – March 1, 2010 @ 9pm.

A guy I have come to admire is Gene Kranz, who was the NASA flight director on several Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 (moon landing) and Apollo 13. I’ve been watching him on the History and Discovery Channels giving his accounts of the historic events he had a part in at NASA. Kranz is the epitome of the can-do attitude that allowed the United States to reach the moon first. (I’m not going to argue with anybody about whether or not we actually made it to the moon. I think we did. If you believe otherwise, complain somewhere else.)

Kranz was a fighter pilot during the Korean War prior to joining NASA as Flight Director.  As such, he understood risks. He knew that every mission, even down to the training exercises, could result in the flight crew dying. Kranz wasn’t alone in this knowledge: All the astronauts and everyone at Mission Control knew they had a sizable chance of not making it home…

In spite of this, 400,00 people (the estimated number of people involved in the Apollo missions) pushed forward day-in and day-out to make sure an American set foot on the moon first. It was a matter of pride. The United States, in all its turmoil of the 1960s, came together to rejoice as Neil Armstrong delivered his famous line, “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

In addition to thanking the brave souls that braved the dangers and made it happen, I would like to thank the USSR for being the beautiful communist bastards that they were. They were truly an excellent common enemy. The USSR was cunning, had some of the smartest scientists in the world, and wanted to get to the moon as bad as we did. A scientific and engineering exercise was elevated to a contest of philosophies: capitalism vs. communism. Sure some people died, but the overall goal was to prove superiority. (No. I’m not saying the USSR was a good thing. But if you want to have a common enemy, here’s the one you would want.)

Today, America has one of the stupidest common enemies you could ask for: fundamentalist terrorists. It’s impossible for me to describe how much I despise these people without getting too profane, so allow me to articulate my disgust as tactfully as I can. These ignorant knuckle draggers blow stuff up, trying to kill as many people as possible in the process. This is so unimpressive. Humans have been killing one another for as long as there have been humans. You can literally beat somebody to death with a rock. So, these terrorists utilize modern weapons they aren’t even smart enough to invent to reek havoc. (I’m not going to debate that creating weapons is good or bad for anybody to do. Again, take it somewhere else.) Let me be very, very clear: I HATE fundamentalist terrorists SO MUCH!

With a common enemy like that, it’s no wonder this country can’t (or doesn’t want to) do something awesome. I think there are plenty of brilliant young engineers in this country, but what’s missing is the masses cheering them on from behind. How much pride can we get from killing more terrorists. Creating a weapon that kills more terrorists is so uninspiring. The terrorists don’t even care if they die as long as they can take out a bunch of us. The sense of competition is missing. Whether or not we like to admit it, humans crank out better stuff when there’s a competitive edge to whatever we are tying to do.

This is very much a rant against uninspired terrorism, but my point is that we do need an imaginative enemy to defeat. Either that, or a frontal lobotomy. I can’t decide which.

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