An emotional appeal of how the proportion of furloughed workers at NASA shows us where our priorities lie.
By: Omid Amirtabar
The consensus is undeniable: America’s October 2013 government shutdown was a blundering disaster both at home and around the world. Domestically, it reflected on the dysfunctional nature of the federal government and its apparent inability to accomplish anything. Globally, it is an axiomatic representation of America’s realistic decline around the world (another topic for another article, see also America’s Manifest Destiny in the 21st Century).
When the shutdown is examined carefully, some services were kept running while others simply packed up and went home until October 17. Services that remained open are considered “essential”, which in layman’s terms means is required for the United States of America to function. Some of those choices on who is essential is logical. Troops in the field cannot simply board a C-17 and go home because a bunch of idiots in Washington on the verge of senility cannot agree on anything. Still, other services being shutdown do not make sense.
What I am trying to say is that by shutting down the government, America is sending a message to everyone about where its national priorities are. It sends this message by being forced to decide what is important enough to keep running and what is not. Some service cutbacks in Health and Human Services prove that the population’s health and safety is not top priority. Other cutbacks in the EPA show that the environment is not a priority. But there was one shutdown in particular that hit home, one that should be at the core of the American dream and spirit.
When I read an article in The Economist a few weeks ago, I learned that 98% of NASA had been sent home during the shutdown. Astronauts on the International Space Station were to keep working, but that was pretty much it. NASA is at the forefront of the American story. To understand its significance, an understanding of America’s founding is required.
America is not just a country forged by fire. More importantly it is a country forged by exploration and pushing frontiers. America is the New World. America is the story of Columbus’ expedition in 1492. America is the story of rangers and frontiersmen. America is the story of Lewis and Clark. America is the story of pioneers and the move west. America is the story of the Wild West and the Alamo. America is the story of the Manhattan Project and Apollo 11.
America is the story of exploration and discovering new frontiers. America is not just an experiment in democracy, it is an idea that builds off of humanity’s natural need and desire to explore and discover. America’s problem in a nutshell is that without any legitimate competition to its hegemony, it has gotten comfortable at the top and has decided to quit while ahead (another article for another day). And until it recognizes that it needs to set new frontiers and reach them, politicians will continue to sit on their gluttonous high horses in Washington and bicker aimlessly over the same rotating issues (healthcare reform, immigration reform, etc…). Americans don’t need policy goals, they need a national vision they can focus their undivided efforts on to achieve and reinforce greatness (see JFK’s speech about putting a man on the moon). NASA and their vision of space as the final great frontier is what can finally unite the country again, what can make America great again.
I completely understand this article’s appeal to emotion rather than its basis in logic, but knowing both American history and human nature, it makes sense. That’s what frustrated me about the government shutting down 98% of NASA, when it in fact should be considered the most essential of America’s services. America’s hegemony depends on it.