November 19, 2005

Book report...

I'm currently reading Titan, by Stephen Baxter, on the recommendation of my son. It's very entertaining so far. It's about a last-gasp effort by a dying NASA, launching a low-budget expedition to Saturn's moon Titan, where slight signs of life have been detected.

But there's one thing in particular that interests me, as a conservative blogger in the year 2005. The book was written about 10 years ago, takes place in 2007 and in some ways it is a very revealing liberal fantasy.

• The glorious American space program is almost dead.
• Young people don't care about space, or much of anything.
• A villainous Military-Industrial Complex tries to shoot down (literally) the brave expedition.
• AND, there's a disastrous incoming Republican President, a FUNDAMENTALIST, who hates space travel, and almost everything else...

...Armed militia bands came in from Idaho and Arizona, to fire off black-powder salutes to the nationalist-populist who promised to repeal all gun control laws. In the crowd, Hadamard saw a couple of Ku Klux Klan costumes...there was a rumor that a a former Klan leader was being made ready to become a future White House chief of staff...in his speech Machlachlan appealed to the people to end what he called the "Israeli occupation of Congress"...

...foreign aid stopped. The UN was being thrown out of New York,...started to build a wall, two-thousand miles of it, to exclude illegal immigrants...withdrawn the US from the North American Free Trade treaty, from the World Trade Organization, from GATT...he had raised tariff--ten percent against Japan, fifty percent against the Chinese--and world trade collapsed...

...And back home, Machlachlan had cut off any remaining programs which benefitted blacks and other minorities...

Well. Quite a fantasy. And fascinating, considering that the story takes place right about now. So what's happened? We can compare! We actually have an evangelical Christian Republican president, and Republican control of Congress!

But, strange to tell, it's the liberal Democrats who are now the protectionists and isolationists. And it's Christians and conservatives who are the idealists, who want to change the world, and overthrow fascist dictators and stop genocide in places like Sudan. It's the Republican administration that is pursuing free trade, and, conspicuously, NOT building a 2,000 mile-long wall on the border. And trying to expand NAFTA, and working with the WTO. Even trying to work with the UN (!) for which they get precious little thanks from Lefties.

I think Baxter's picture, which we have all heard over and over, is a protective fantasy. One that hides a painful truth. The sourpusses, the reactionaries, are now on the Left; something they are in deep denial about. It's mostly lefties who now claim that Jews are secretly running things (and it's Dems who have the former KKK leader.)

In Baxter's book, young people are weirdly indifferent to the adventure of space, and graying NASA veterans are leading one last charge. This is probably mostly a Baby-Boomer fantasy, but it also covers something liberals don't want to think about--"liberal" is no longer synonymous with young and cool and idealistic.

And, far from losing interest in space and letting NASA die, people now, young people, are starting thrilling new space ventures (and letting NASA die). The big-government/NASA/send-only-the-elite-few vision of space travel is being replaced by one where young billionaires want to let everybody get to space. And it's not a movement that has much connection with traditional politics, but it fits more with conservative thinking than liberal.

There are lots of people still in denial, still insisting, comically, that fascist insect Republicans and prudish Christians are sending us back to the Dark Ages, and that every judicial nominee is going to undo the Civil Rights Movement. But the evidence to the contrary is all around them. And the person pushing it in their faces is President Bush, which is why he drives them nuts. One revealing oddity of the book is that the author is very savvy about political maneuvering, except that this horrid President can just do whatever he wants. Baxter must surely know that a President can't raise tariffs, or withdraw us from a treaty, or expel the UN. Congress does that. But he is a useful boogyman, not an attempt at reality...

Posted by John Weidner at November 19, 2005 8:30 PM
Weblog by John Weidner