Do We Really Care?

In September of 2001 the band P.O.D. released their song "Youth of the Nation" which begins with the lyrics:

Last day of the rest of my life
I wish I would've known
'Cause I would've kissed my mama goodbye

I didn't tell her that I loved her and how much I care
Or thank my pops for all the talks
And all the wisdom he shared

Unaware, I just did what I always do
Everyday, the same routine
Before I skate off to school

But who knew that this day wasn't like the rest
Instead of taking a test
I took two to the chest

Call me blind, but I didn't see it coming
Everybody was running
But I couldn't hear nothing

Except gun blasts, it happened so fast
I didn't really know this kid
He wasn't part of the class

Maybe this kid was reaching out for love
Or maybe for a moment
He forgot who he was
Or maybe this kid just wanted to be hugged

Towards the end of the song is this stanza

Who's to blame for the lives that tragedies claim
No matter what you say
It don't take away the pain

When this song came out I was in high school.  I could still remember the reaction to Columbine which occurred when I was in middle school.  How could I have envisioned then that 16 years later we, as a nation, would have paid lip service over hundreds of bodies of adults and children about "never again" and then done precisely nothing to actually change the course of our society?

Honestly, I'm getting tired of trying to be nuanced about which gun owners are responsible and which aren't, it's about people not guns, it's a mental-health issue, did the Founding Fathers intend for an armed population as a hedge against tyranny, blah, blah, blah, blah.  The endless blathering only seems to amount to yet another dead child, yet another dead mother, yet another dead father.

What we're doing now, which is nothing, is not making the situation any better.

People who want to have continued access to firearms as part of their lifestyle need to stop hiding behind rhetoric and start proposing and implementing solutions.  I'm getting tired of holding a nuanced view on the matter while more people senselessly die.  I imagine there are more like me who, as time goes on, think that a "repeal and replace" of the 2nd Amendment might be the only way anything actually changes.

Research available options, pick a potential solution, plan and fund an implementation, study the outcome.  It really isn't that hard.

Do we really care?

The answer seems to be, "No."


Heather was acting rather unsettled at bedtime this evening.  We had finished story time and Jess and Corinne had left the room while I stayed with Heather for a few minutes while she got comfortable.

After only being in bed about a minute she got up and climbed down in to my lap and curled up against me (she basically never does this).  She told me she was tired but didn't want to go to sleep; she wanted to stay with me.  So I held her and snuggled her for about 10 minutes and then convinced her to try climbing in to bed again.

Instead of lying down and getting ready to fall asleep she started saying that she was hungry--really hungry.  I was skeptical as she had eaten quite a large dinner less than an hour earlier so I convinced her to try to fall asleep and I'd check on her in a few minutes.  When I tried to leave she pleaded with me to stay a few more minutes, so I did.  After a minute or two she fell asleep so I got up and went out to the family room.

After 15 minutes or so I can hear her in her room sobbing.  So I make my way to her room just as she's getting out of bed and I scoop her up and ask her what's wrong.  She tells me that she's, "Super hungry, really really really hungry."  So I agree to find her something to eat.  She agrees to eat some graham crackers and then says she's really cold.  So I bundle her up in a blanket on the couch with her graham crackers and sit with her while she barely nibbles on them.

I ask her if she's feeling alright and she says something like, "I feel sad."  And then she asks where Jess is.  I told her Jess was trying to get Corinne to sleep.  Then she broke my heart: "Why does Corinne get all the attention?  I know it's hard work getting Corinne to sleep, but I want to see Momma too."  Or something pretty close to that.

I told her we could wait until Jess came back out and have Jess take her back to bed when she was ready.  So we sat on the couch wrapped up in a blanket while she nibbled on graham crackers waiting to get some attention from Momma.  It was so sad.  Poor girl.

Nostalgia for the Future

This morning the Endeavour orbiter launched from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center carrying people and equipment into space. Only four more shuttle launches will occur and the fleet of orbiters will be retired in mid-September. When that happens, America will lose the ability to put a man in space.

Many will argue that putting people in space or on the moon is/was pointless and a waste of money. Those with this attitude will kindly turn their attention to the list of NASA spin-off technologies. This list includes (among many others) LEDs, in-ear thermometers, and improved water purification systems. There are also countless other improvements in technologies driven by NASA's need for more efficient and more reliable equipment.

President Obama's budget plan for 2011 removes all funding for the Constellation Program, which would have led to the development of a new vehicle for transporting humans in to space. If the cancellation of funds occurs (which is pretty close to a sure thing) then the United States will not be able to put people in space for the foreseeable future. This saddens me. We've given up on exploring space in any serious manner. We haven't been to the moon since 1972. All the astronauts still living that walked on the moon are in their 70s. Another ~20 years and there will be no person alive who walked on the moon. Isn't that kind of sad?

I wasn't alive when any of the astronauts walked on the moon; but I am still filled with wonder at the idea of stepping foot on a different celestial body. While Star Trek is fiction, I think its tag-line embodies the sense of awe several generations have held about being able to put people into space: " explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before". It expresses the desire to seek out knowledge for the sake of learning.

The mission wasn't "to find and commercialize new civilizations and technologies, to open new markets for our products, to boldy make a buck where no man has made a buck before." Unfortunately, that seems to be mantra of our society. NASA operates on a shoestring budget, the National Labs have (essentially) been privatized to focus on making money (goodbye long-term original research projects to discover more about the universe), public education is about rubber stamping every kid's high-school diploma, and being educated is nerdy and undesirable.

I miss the future we were promised as kids. A world where space exploration was common. A world where man's search for knowledge and understanding overcame petty differences of culture and societal status.


I've always wanted to watch a shuttle launch and time is running out. Jess and I are hoping to take a trip to see the final flight of the Atlantis orbiter in May.

On September 24, 2010, when the Discovery lands, marking the end of U.S. manned spaceflight, I hope everyone can pause for a moment to reflect on what we've lost.