November’s moral dilemma
by Greg Zsidisin
|Where in the order of priorities does space fall? What nearer-term sacrifices would we be willing to make in order to promote the proposed government space agenda?|
Yet, for me and about half of our politically-polarized nation, there is no more important agenda than seeing Kerry/Edwards replace Bush/Cheney. Our alarm at another Bush term stems from such issues as the move from a multi-trillion-dollar surplus to a multi-trillion-dollar deficit, two costly tax breaks that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, and the simultaneous budget-breaking foray into Iraq that has stretched our military thin and diverted us from other dangers.
My point here isn’t the validity of my worldview, but rather that given that view, where in the order of priorities does space fall? What nearer-term sacrifices would we be willing to make in order to promote the proposed government space agenda?
If you are a space supporter, and are solidly with Bush, there is little dilemma: he has an exciting space plan, and is probably likely to support it more in a second and final term. If you support Kerry, you must consider that this opportunity will likely be lost, but that further rash moves in another round of Bush/Cheney will have been avoided.
It is thus that Wernher Von Braun has helped me make a confident choice for November. I would not suggest that George W. Bush merits comparison to Hitler. However, Wernher Von Braun and his team faced an analogous, if much greater, moral dilemma in developing rocket technology for the Nazis. The V-2 missile work at Peenemunde hastened the day when humans would walk the Moon—indeed, much of the same team was involved in both efforts. Yet in the near term, that team created “Vengeance Weapons” using slave labor at both Peenemunde and the barbaric, underground Mittlewerk production facility (also presided over by key team members). The inaccurate V-2s were purely terrorist weapons, and they led directly to the nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that have terrorized the world since the late ’50s.
|My urgent desire to see NASA move forward with exploration will take a backseat to concern for the well-being of my country and the world.|
Even those of Von Braun’s team who were patriotic Germans and/or hated Jews and foreigners as they had been raised to do, must surely have felt some guilt for the concentration camp victims who suffered in front of, and because of, them; for those unknown civilians on whom their weapons fell; and later for the threat their rockets posed to the world. Yet Von Braun and his teammates shilled the notion that they were always looking at the stars, that all they merely wanted was to build space vehicles. This was indeed their great opportunity to do so; it only came at a terrible moral cost, away from which the team members (if not the world) seem largely to have looked.
So it is that, at a much smaller and personal level, the example of Von Braun instructs me in voting against Bush/Cheney. Given that I (among many others) are opposed to, and fearful of, what the pair might do in a second term, my urgent desire to see NASA move forward with exploration—born of frustration by the end of Apollo when I was a child, borne out by the space activism work that consumed me as an adult—will take a backseat to concern for the well-being of my country and the world. I will do so knowing that an opportunity to move space exploration forward may be lost.
Having said all this: is it truly “do or die” for space in this election? Here are several factors to consider:
|When I vote for John Kerry on November 2nd, I will do so with a clear conscience that I have made the correct overall choice, with the confidence that the floodgates on private spaceflight have opened.|
A caveat: it is possible that Kerry’s proposed tax hikes for the wealthiest, should they be enacted, would chill both investment and participation in the early private space tourism industry, which at this point is a playground being built by billionaires in which millionaires will play. While tax exemptions for the industry seem a good bet and have been discussed, a first-order assumption that tax hikes will be a detriment would seem fair. (None of the space-investing billionaires and millionaires to whom I have written have yet replied on this issue.)
So it is that when I vote for John Kerry on November 2nd, I will do so with a clear conscience that I have made the correct overall choice, with the confidence that the floodgates on private spaceflight have opened—and most importantly, with the hope that America will recover from the excesses of Bush/Cheney to take center stage in the next great wave of space exploration.