FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Space Case

Peggy Noonan loves nothing so much as an official tragedy to contextualize , and this weekend’s shuttle disaster — never mind what you may have read at WashingtonPost.com about the shuttle landing safely, those internet sites are not reliable — gave her ample opportunity.

In “The Days of Miracle and Wonder“, Noonan appropriates Paul Simon lyrics to discuss yet another “searing reminder of American heroism.” Ironic, is it not, that heroism as defined by the Columbia incident and 9/11 means that you end up dead? Never mind that the Israeli wasn’t explicitly American; US taxpayers paid so much of his salary throughout his career that we have at least a proprietary interest in the Colonel.

Enough of all that, for now, anyway. Because Noonan has what amounts to tenure in the corporate press, she can write a fragmentary reverie about Saturday’s events and have it pass as the official version of acceptable grief. Noonan described Bush’s “blunt words” as “explicitly God based”, because his speechwriter stuck in some quote from the Book of Isaiah to impart gravitas. Mr. Bush’s “thoughtstream”, to hear the former Reagan speechwriter tell it, leads “straight to the spiritual”

Yep, Peggy, he’s Jesus with a security clearance. Wasn’t Bush the governor of Texas who mistook executions for sitcoms? The puppet gets up and reads some canned mush about why “mankind is led into the darkness”, and we’re supposed to squint until we see an actual statesman behind the microphone? Peggy, please.

Noonan’s piece isn’t simply a well-rehearsed gushing about Bush’s innate spirituality, however. She intends — or WSJ intends for her to — provide a definitive reaction to what essentially is a media tragedy. The Columbia may have exploded, but NASA didn’t undercut newscasts with mawkish strings. That was Fox News. The US puts a military full-court press on the rest of the world, with all the death and destruction that implies, and rather than address the issues of expansion and empire honestly, we’re supposed to be transfixed by manufactured tragedy.

Noonan alludes to the idea of tragedy being served up when she discusses the 1986 Challenger disaster. She describes “schoolchildren across the country were watching the Challenger go up, they were watching on TV sets and in auditoriums, because Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, was on the flight. The children saw it all. It was supposed to be part of American schoolchildren learning about space, that’s why the schools were showing it live. It was a learning tool. . . and the children learned more than anyone would have expected.” About bravery, about the “everyday courage of astronauts. . . all the Americans doing big and dangerous things in the world–members of the armed forces, cops and firemen, doctors in public hospitals in hard places.”

The children indeed learned more than they expected that day in 1986, Peggy. I was in eighth grade just then, and remember all the Challenger jokes being told by all of us who weren’t deaf-mutes. You might remember them as well; if not, I’m sure they’re on the Internet. There was an impromptu assembly a week after the disaster about the “inappropriateness” of such jokes; though it was allowed that they were defense mechanisms, they were of course beyond the pale.

People assumed that the jokes were defense mechanisms against the tragic loss of those brave souls, or whatever the phrase of the day was. Looking back, though, I think they represented people internalizing lessons about their relationship to government. Those folks in uniforms, however heroic they seem at the time, end up dead. For a moment of ephemeral glory before the media cycle is finished churning their bodies and souls within its gaping maw.

All the corpses are forgotten eventually, Peggy. The original Challenger crew. The corpses who died for stalemate in Korea and Vietnam. Those who have met their ends in Afghanistan, liberating the pipeline route from those who live on it. Those who are about to meet their ends; those poor bastards who signed up for this government’s war against evil, who had no clue it was all smoke and mirrors.

ANTHONY GANCARSKI, author of UNFORTUNATE INCIDENTS [2001, Diversity Inc.], accepts email at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.

 

More articles by:

ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com

April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail