03 November 2014

Of a Dog, a Landslide, and a Speech


O
n this day in history (according to Wikipedia and the BBC) the Russians launched a dog into space in 1957, Lyndon Johnson beat the shit out of Barry Goldwater in a landslide election in 1964, and Richard Nixon called on the “Silent Majority” to support his war effort against a vocal minority who had the temerity to object to being shipped off as cannon-fodder in a “limited” war that never seemed to end.
What do these events have in common, other than the date? Probably nothing, except that each of them is something I actually remember, something that struck me about it at the time. Getting into space excited me as a child; I wanted to be part of it—but I felt sad for the sacrifice of the dog the Russians hurled into the great unknown. As a teenager the Goldwater-Johnson election was the first race that I felt I had a stake in; Goldwater terrified me with his plans to escalate a war in support of a corrupt government in a remote part of the world, and I was afraid his presidency would lead inevitably to a nuclear war. (I think I still have a drawing I did at the time showing the earth in rubble with the only intact artifact being a pro-Goldwater sign. And I’ve written before about the stark insanity of Nixon’s speech about how we, the American people, should sit down and shut up. It was none of our business how a war that might take our own lives (or the lives of our family-members or friends) was conducted. Nixon had a plan. A plan to get us out of that war Goldwater wanted so desperately to get us into. As a joke of the time had it, They said if I voted for Goldwater we’d be dropping bombs on Vietnam. Well I did, and we are.
Well, anyway, Laika, I drink to your memory.

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