It’s the ’60s again – SpaceX, civil rights, but COVID-19 is bigger than Vietnam

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During a week of exhaustive coverage for nationwide protesting over the killing of George Floyd – a black man whose life was ended by a Minneapolis cop who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes – many people were still excited about Americans taking off from historic pad 39-A at Cape Canaveral Saturday.

NASA was involved, but the SpaceX launch, with visions of “Mars and beyond,” was Musk’s baby. So what if he got a $700M bonus for success.

It didn’t take over the news, but after a non-launch Wednesday, Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket, a slim, 24-story tall projectile compared to the thundering Saturn 5s of yore, it wasn’t another COVID-19 related story either. When Doug Hurley and Rob Behnken successfully docked with the International Space Station 19 hours later, science nerds weren’t the only ones loving it.

That said, for over fifty years Vietnam has been the standard for a situation that divided our country, but in less than 100 days, the lies and mismanagement by an administration that perpetuated a meat-grinder of young lives and treasure lost for nearly a decade, is now relegated to second place.

With a pandemic that has cost more American lives – over 106,000 as of yesterday – than any 20th century war except the Big One, WWII, and 40 million unemployed that trumps the Depression our parents and grandparents told us was the worst of times, reliving the tumultous Sixties proves there can be a new bottom.

But America DID put people on the moon, and now we’re trying to match that shining pinnacle, even as we struggle with civil rights brutality and personal malfeasance at the highest levels by an administration that seems to thrive on sucker-punching its citizens.

The Real Sixties

The Cuban Missile Crisis, hippies, the Beatles and English Invasion, Hendrix, Baby Boomers, the protest marching and sit-ins, the Black Panthers, Muhammed Ali, the Black Power salute of John Smith and Juan Carlos in Mexico City that shoved athletes 100% into political mainstream awareness. The 1969 Amazin’ Mets, Jets, Knicks, Woodstock! Timothy Leary and LSD, Rachel Carson and the beginning of environmental awareness, American astronauts walking on that orb in the sky “before the end of this decade,” winning the Space Race against the USSR. Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America; (original) Star Trek!¬† LOTS of hair; the oral polio vaccine (Sabin, 1963); Ford’s Mustang; Smiley face; Mr. Ed and The Wild, Wild West.

A legendary one liner is “If you remember the Sixties, you really weren’t there.” I was a well-sheltered Boomer (1957), getting A’s in Catholic grade school who saw life on TV more than I participated. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get killed live, police *whaling* on protesters at the ’68 Democratic Convention, couldn’t have missed the moon landing, and Jim West was THE coolest imaginable dude. We prayed for Apollo 13 (which was actually 1970).

I’ll qualify that “more than I participated,” because our family of four boys traveled plenty of places with our pop-up camper, that we routinely got set up in fifteen minutes and could go exploring or swimming, always a prime consideration on a 3-day drive. Dad helped Mom make dinner.

Our classic was 5,353 miles over 13 days. Yes, I’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial, climbed into the crown of the Statue of Liberty, watched a game in the Astrodome, ate bignets in the French Quarter, two blocks from a *very* high Mississippi River. Walked on the turf at Dallas Stadium and Michigan, rode the Arch in St. Louis. Gettysburg.

Being shotgun meant something when you were on-off the interstate every 40 miles for three days going to Florida. We read the maps, knew what south and west were from anyplace on the map, how good the road would be. We counted all the military vehicles in convoys, mostly kept track of totals.

I hit the floor *fast* when an arch-typical red-faced with hat, BIG ol’ gun and gut cop, somewhere in the Deep South going to Tampa, snapped a look at the station wagon where someone had decided to give a double snort of piggy sound.

My baby brother, David, was born in 1960. We lived in West Palm Beach when the Everglades and airboats (and snakes!) were across the dirt road and adults were nervous about Cuba; Dad’s 7-Up floats were a big treat, and a $1M house, pssshhh, build it where?

There was also unending violence.  Church bombings, lynchings and vicious German shepherds, the assassinations of now iconic figures РJFK and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. But as a fact of life and death, VIETNAM, especially nightly body counts on the 6:00 news, over-shadowed this country like nothing since the American Civil War a century earlier.

History repeats itself because…

Lincoln said “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and after 3 1/2 years of Trump’s us/them-red/blue division, there’s nothing to indicate he was wrong. After 243 years of democratic rule of law, it looks like even agreeing that covering our faces to protect ourselves from each other during a pandemic is impossible to accomplish.

Prayer, even saying the Pledge of Allegiance, has been essentially stricken from our schools as a daily factor, replaced by on-going, onerous, and instant profusion of “tweets” that are taken as “Word from on high” by some.

COVID-19 may not have been caused by Trump’s administration, but his willingness to take the low road, and kill by 1,000 cuts, the rule of law in this country that we’ve held up to the rest of the world as something to be desired is the side that’s crumbled. That return to the Sixties was epitomized on Monday by a black man who died with a cop’s knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Even Brian Williams suggestion that parents get the Spot the ISS app, while not new but still definitely cool, cannot overcome how dramatically wrong what happened in Minneapolis, MN was, or that this country, actually the WORLD, knew it.

We can take this SpaceX mission as a slice of Goodness, and for police who took the extra step of interfacing with instead of tear gassing protestors in LA or a city near any of us, who physically KNELT in acknowledgement of that wrongness and silently asked for forgiveness, that wasn’t a lesson from the Sixties.

More like Colin Kapernick, 2016. Think about it.

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