Ladies and gentleman, I humbly submit to you that the terrorists have won. We need to just go ahead and hand our country over to Osama bin Laden, because we’ve already given up and given the terrorists exactly what they want. And if you don’t know, I’ll spell it out for you:
You can see it in how we talk and in how we act. Nascar dads and soccer moms all over the country get their knickers in a twist every time the terror alert level goes from chartreuse to polka dot because WE’RE AFRAID the terrorists might attack suburbia. People buying plastic bags and packing survival kits like we’re at the height of the Cold War again. For God’s sake, people!
I don’t think I realized how bad it had gotten until this week. See, when I was a kid and I first came to Huntsville and visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, there was a lot more to it than there is now. In addition to the museum (which is still hella cool) and all the rockets outside, they used to have a tour of the Marshall Spaceflight Center. They put you on a bus and drove you around to see the nuts and bolts of how the real NASA functions. You got to see the old rocket test stands where Saturn V engines were tested. You got to see the “world’s flattest floor” in a clean room which they used to train astronauts on maneuvering objects in space and on the lunar surface. You got to see real astronauts training in the real neutral buoyancy simulator (the big pool) learning how to work in space. You got to see pieces of the International Space Station being assembled.
I remember all this because it made a HUGE impression on me as a kid. Seeing all the grand history of NASA and the bold, forward looking vision of all these geeky engineers convinced me that it was okay to accept my geekiness and be a nerd. After all, these people put a man on the moon. What had jocks and cool people accomplished that could come even close to that? For all their nerdiness, surrounded by the best technology America could come up with and given a near impossible mission and an unforgiving timetable, these people accomplished the single greatest feat in human history. Even today they were working in the background on amazing things, and I was seeing it all happen right before my eyes!
I weep now. I truly do. I weep for the nerdy kid whose parents bring him to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center today. Why? Because when Sarah and I went up there on Tuesday, we discovered the awful truth: they no longer conduct tours of the Marshall Spaceflight Center! Hanging on the front of each computer monitor at the admission area were the little white surrender flags that you see seemingly everywhere now: “Due to the events of September 11, 2001, tours of the Marshall Spaceflight Center are no longer conducted.”
It just saddens me so that this country is so utterly terrified of terrorists that we have to protect the world’s flattest floor and some old rocket test stands from that evil terrorist little Johnny the geek.