By Lee Cropp

(Note to the Boss: Honest, I meant to do a serious article for Space and Beyond. Somehow it didn’t work out that way, as I will explain later. There also seems that some don’t care much about using serious in relation to my writing. So my name isn’t Shakespeare, Dante, or T. S. Elliot; but that’s all right, I didn’t care for their style in Lit. Survey 101 either.)

During the Holiday Season, I sat down in front of my computer to compose a piece for the “Space and Beyond” section of the The Virtual Times, My intent was to evaluate the potential for good or evil by the present Congress when dealing with NASA. Succinctly, my position was to be: if Congress (especially the House) as it has adequately demonstrated over the past few weeks, can’t understand how the government works or what it does, how can you expect it to understand how NASA works or how the agency intends to achieve its goals; objectives; and, most importantly, long range achievements. Really this shouldn’t be unexpected since NASA’s plans and objectives encompass years, extending well into the next century. Most members of Congress can’t comprehend any long range goals or objectives going beyond two or six years. Short term goals sometimes extend beyond the next trip home.

As I tried to put words down, my mind kept slipping into the Holidays, particularly those in the past – when my grandson first became aware of what these days meant to him; when my children were younger, and so was I, eagerly waiting for each day to unfold with its glory and wonder, culminating in Christmas Eve church service, and Christmas morning; and even further back, sometime a little short of the Dark Ages, when I was a child watching Pennsylvania snow reflecting and twinkling the color of the Christmas lights. From there, it was an easy slide into wondering was the snow really as deep and the temperature as cold as I remember. My stream of conscienceness moved on to deep and serious matters like, can you go home again? This left me far far away and a long long time ago in relation to “Space and Beyond”, and the material I felt the editor wanted. I did know two things: first I needed something to mollify a grumpy editor, and two, there isn’t any Virtual Writers Guild to protect me from the impending wrath.

After Christmas, matters were complicated, when my wife (You know how wives are when struck with the thought that Ms Clinton just might come visiting. And that we aren’t even Democrats was irrelevant.) decided to do a deep cleaning of the germane area. In the process, we uncovered a few copies of my college weekly newspaper when I was writing a column for the Feature page. (Evidently the halflife of newsprint is better than most environmentalists comprehend; I mean, after 40 years, you can still read it.) This led my thoughts into an entirely new era; a little closer perhaps, but still before the time that space was grist for practically nothing but science fiction. As I read my old columns, my thoughts wandered into the concept that writers are luckier than most professionals; we have hard material that can be used to measure how much our skills have improved. After reading a couple of the columns, I decided that I have improved.

In writing the columns I had no particular subject to cover, but was free to pick my own. With the arrogance and laziness of a college senior, I usually wrote a review of the top news of the week. Maybe I was ahead of my time. Those columns of yesteryear had two attributes that I liked: 1) I didn’t have to cover more mundane beats and meet early deadlines, and 2) I knew people read my copy, because they told me. Some even admitted that they liked it, even a few of the professors and instructors. One professor, a thousand hosannases I didn’t have any classes from him, told me that he read my column every week, and that my style was elementary, my reasoning was pedagogish, and my philosophy, if any, was inconsistent. If he was right, and who’s arguing, even today, I have something in common with our present Congress. When I asked him why he read me every week he said, “You make me think.” How unlike Congress!

Why am I so upset? After all, in a Republic the Congress’ only duty is to do what the voters tell them to do-Right?

Now that I have mentioned review of the news, let’s take a glance of the past year. The leader of events for 1995 was the O.J. trial and verdict with emphasis on the latter. With 99% accuracy (a journalism professor once told me never use 100%), I’ll predict your reaction to the verdict: if you’re EuroAmerican, you strongly disagree; if you’re AfroAmerican you strongly agree; and if you are neither, you couldn’t care less. Now let’s go back about three decades to the outcome of the trial of the men accused of murdering Emmett Till and apply the same question about the verdict. The answers would be just the opposite. Which brings us to the point – in 30 years of supposedly civil rights improvement, the concept of justice is still based on race not on law. The only difference is that the AfroAmericans now control some juries.

While we are on the subject, what disrespecter of sensible and correct use of the English language came up with the BlitheringAmerican label? For self evident reasons I could tolerate AfroAmerican, but going to EuroAmerican and others is too much, even for somebody that can tolerate chitlins and caviar, but not on the same plate. I understand the next step is to ratchet down to countries. So, I’ll be known as a German-Irish-Scotch-English-SwissAmerican. And some of my AfricanAmerican friends with become Tutsi-Zulu-SwaliAmericans. If I remember back to grammar school geography, we were taught that there were five races: white, black, yellow, red, and brown. Did we really improve on that?

Another major incident of 1995 was the Oklahoma bombing tragedy. The depth, width, and senseless of this tragedy could not of been conceived even by William Shakespeare, master tragedian. There is one side comment I’d like to make. I remember a generation or so after mine, the education system and society became very liberal and undemanding. Every student was promoted regardless of achievements, so as not to give them an inferiority complex. The prevailing philosophy was: I want mine now, for tomorrow may never come. Conservatives forecast anarchy and lawlessness in the streets. They were right, but I don’t think they ever conceived that some of the most senseless deadly violence on helpless children would come from their side of the political spectrum.

The third major event in 1995 was the efforts of the Legislative and Executive Branches to balance the Federal Budget in 7 years. Never in the history of our country has so much been done so wrong by so many. Early in the year, it appeared that there was a real desire by both entities to balance a budget-after the usual political posturing. As the year dragged on, it started to become questionable who, if anybody, really want to balance the budget. By the end of the year, it became blinding obvious that nobody really wants to balance the budget. The GOP, proving an Elephant never forgets, wants to move the Federal Government back a few decades, like maybe prior Herbert Hoover. The Democrats, proving themselves Asses, want to keep the country dependent on the Federal Government. Neither party really grasps the message of the last two national elections: the people want to balance the budget but not at the expense of the older generation or the environment. What really concerns me is that the last time neither side would compromise we had a Civil War. This is the year that was, and I bet 1996 will be even better for political writers and cartoonists and probably nobody else. This concludes my meandering- along ways from where I started.