abandoned dreams

Neil Armstrong passed away on Saturday. Despite that the major American television networks continued with their scheduled programming uninterrupted, which I found simply astounding.

For anyone who has been living under a rock the last 43 years, or (like most television producers) has the memory of a 9 year-old, Armstrong was the first human to walk on another planet: our moon.

Although at the time I recall reports that loyal soap opera fans complained when their favorite “stories” were preempted by live coverage of lunar missions, it really seems inconceivable that even the most rabid Saturday sports fans would have objected to the interruption of their regularly scheduled programming for some kind of retrospective on Armstrong and one of the most important events in human history.

And yet, this Saturday the only thing I could find was golf, tennis, old movies and “paid advertising”.

Why?

It could be that today’s television producers are so historically, culturally and technologically ignorant that they didn’t know who Armstrong was and what he meant to a generation (or two) of still living Americans.

Or it might be that they were unprepared, that no one at the networks had thought about such things for such a long time that they had nothing ready to go.

But being unprepared never stopped them before, if they perceived the moment was newsworthy enough: like when Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital or Mel Gibson arrested for spousal abuse, again.

My own theory, of course, borders on the pathological.

It goes something like this:

Having successfully converted Americans from a people with a sense of destiny and (often reckless and destructive) determination into the debt-ridden, consumption addicted couch potatoes they are today, America’s media conglomerates were not about to air anything that might remind us all of the kind of country we once were.

Those early years of the space program were our finest hour. That first moon landing represented us at our best, in the midst of a decade that much of the time saw us at our worst.

If those of us who were alive at the time were to be reminded of that and, most importantly, were to pass that memory on to those who were not, the consequences might be devastating for our narcissistic, consumerist, militarized society. People might put down their smart phones and begin reading books again; set aside their iPads and go out at night to gaze at the stars; they could even begin to step off the endless treadmill of the dog-eat-dog, cubicle existence they’ve been trapped in since voodoo was legitimized and the world became flat again after over 500 years as a sphere.

So Armstrong’s passing was ignored, and the hundreds of thousands in propaganda advertisers had invested in the usual Saturday fare was preserved — and America went gently into that good dark night.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night