by Chris Haire
There are many reasons to hate George Lucas.
His decision to have Greedo shoot first.
Jar Jar Binks' "messa gonna die" Stepin Fetchit routine.
Changing Raiders of the Lost Ark to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Howard the Fucking Duck.
But there is one reason to hate the flannel shirt-wearing Emperor Neck Fat of Skywalker Ranch, one that trumps all others: George Lucas killed NASA.
See, younglings and padawans, your fellow Americans used to dream of traveling to the moon and Mars and planets far beyond our solar-system suburb instead of plopping back on the couch with a bag of deep-fried corn shits and watching yet another PG-13, Sweet Valley space opera. They studied. They designed. They built. They flew. But that all changed thanks to George Lucas.
Since Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977, we've seen the rise of second-rate sci-fi flicks and TV shows and the decline of the U.S. space program. Sometimes the story is in headache-inducing 3-D. Other times there's an army of transforming, jive-talking. leg-humping robots. And occasionally there's a bunch of really angry Smurfs riding Crayola-crayon dragons and sticking it to the military-industrial oedipal complex. But regardless of who's smurfing who, the mothersmurfing point is the same: Outer space is just another green-scene set on the 20th Century Fox back lot; it's not actually a place that human beings tread. It is not the realm of our hopes and dreams. And exploring it is no longer a point of national pride.
And so we have come to the sad, sad day when NASA's headquarters, the Kennedy Space Center, is forced to throw a garage sale in order to pursue future, underfunded projects. Why? Uncle Sam and the American people have decided that NASA's mission is no longer important, and so, year after year, the space program gets less and less funding and its once proud and highly-skilled workforce is decimated and demoralized. As Brian Vastag of the Washington Post reports NASA has "already torn down the big gray tower on one of the two space shuttle launch pads" and sold the facility's copper wiring for a much-needed $621,000.
Sadly, NASA's yard sale goes beyond selling copper wire like a toothless fucking meth head. It includes leaving the space shuttle to rust in an otherwise empty warehouse. Vastag writes: "The future of the second shuttle launchpad remains uncertain ... NASA officials were talking with “two or three” potential customers ... But there’s still no word on who might be interested in renting the huge Vehicle Assembly Building. For now, the decommissioned space shuttle Atlantis rests on the building’s floor, its engines removed, its windows blinkered.
And it gets worse. Vastag notes:
Behind Atlantis, a sea of gunmetal gray desks, tables, cabinets, office chairs and other discarded furniture awaits removal. Among the castoffs is a lone white refrigerator, its door ajar. It bears a handwritten note that says, “Free to good home.”
I know, depressing. (Please read Vastag's story for how bleak the picture is for NASA. The above quotes don't fully show the picture.)
Of course, George Lucas isn't solely to blame. While you can argue that he poisoned our dreams with silver screen trifles, you can't say that the filmmaker is opposed to the very scientific disciplines that make space exploration possible. For that you have to turn to the Religious Right, whose virulently anti-science agenda has festered in the open wound of the American culture war — the one pitting the hopeful forces of progress and education and tolerance against the scared shitless swarm of anti-evolution, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist paranoids who know with a terrible certainty that the end times are near — that is unless we overturn Roe v. Wade or ban same-sex unions. At the very least we must prevent Barack Obama from returning to the White House. That might be enough to convince God not to smote us.
Somehow this latter group has taken hold of the American mind, and they are chartering a course to our ultimate destiny. And now we are feeling the effects of their misdirection with the creation of a grossly uneducated American workforce that dismisses nearly all book learning and curses the learned elites at our nation's colleges and universities. Even worse, there is a profound distrust among the population at large of anyone who has devoted themselves to intellectual and scientific pursuits. Those people are condemned for being godless, ivory-tower devils who smugly look down upon the curiously uncurious masses who hate anyone with the willpower to get their super-sized asses off of the couch.
Instead of advancing scientific and intellectual pursuits, the lazy boys and sofa sisters seek mastery over their smart phones, their Facebook accounts, their DVRs, their XBoxes, their remote controls. Theirs is an obsession with the never-ending stream of must-have tech devices. Theirs is a unrequited love affair with toys. And so we have become a nation of ever-entertained children with little or no desire to buckle down and study, to work their fingers to the bone, to push their bodies and minds to the limit, all in pursuit of truly noble and important ventures.
Today, the average American no longer focuses his attention on the heavens — and to the seemingly impossible, world-changing tasks ahead of us — but to the high-tech tombstones that they hold in their hands. And if things don't change, it will be on those devices that our great nation will carve its epitaph: "Here lies the people of the United States of America. They amused themselves to death while the rest of the world passed them by."