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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The coffin of my youth

Add another nail.
Walter Cronkite has passed. And for the most part, everyone is sad. I've heard a few people lambaste him for the Vietnam War. I know I wasn't there. I know that I don't know that much about the whole thing. But I do know that winning isn't everything. If your win costs you more than your resources, if it costs you your soul and your friends then the win is nothing. And I do think he knew that. Walter Cronkite was the voice that calmed our chaotic house every night around 6. Nobody was yelling at anyone else. And when he talked about something, you knew he had a clue. Some may think that wasn't the case with Vietnam... fine. But with everything else, he spoke with authority because he educated himself on a subject until he had it.
Specifically, for me, it was Space. The final frontier didn't seem so strange and foreign. With Richard C. Hoagland at his right hand, Cronkite brought the distant stars into view with his grasp of the technology that NASA employed to stretch the scope of human endeavor beyond our thin stratosphere. If you want to balme anyone for the solidity of my Trek fandom, blame Cronkite. The wonders of the Enterprise seemed so much closer to me as a child than t hey do now because he told us what NASA was doing to advance our understanding of space and its idiosynchracies. With Cronkite at the helm of public support, NASA flourished in appropriations committees until their complicity in militaristic campaigns became known.
His was the voice of so many important occassions in America both sad and joyful. He told my mother about Kennedy and Monroe. He told me about Elvis, Crosby and Grace Kelly. He ended every broadcast with "And that's the way it is." But, oddly, I never took that to mean it would never be any different. He sign off was not the resignation of defeat but the acknowledgement that the way it is today is today. Until he retired, I was an optimistic person. The crazy defeatest thing settled in afterwards because no one was ever certain that the present was just the present.