It is the rare breed that will voluntarily invite our large (not to mention boisterous) family over to socialize. It is truly exceptional that an overnight invitation is extended to the whole brood. But this summer, we received such an invitation from some dear friends in Texas, and we jumped at the chance. Their hospitality exceeded even the high standards of the South and we all savored our long weekend together.
Since our hosts live in Houston, we got the opportunity to visit the NASA Space Center. The kids were blown away by all the exhibits which were very interactive, though I am not sure how much knowledge regarding our space program they actually gleaned. I mostly counted heads and distributed snacks but toward the end of our visit, I had to acknowledge a certain vague skepticism on my part that surprised me. It wasn’t of the conspiracy theory, moon-landing-hoax variety but more along the lines of philosophical disagreement.
As I sat in the “Blast Off” theater trying to convince Andrew that, sadly, no, we weren’t really getting ready to head to the moon, I noticed a certain lack of patriotic ownership, so to speak, on the part of the NASA tour guide. One would think that throughout this tribute to the technological advances in the area of space exploration, the country that is achieving the most (not to mention footing the enormous bill) would be praised or even mentioned now and again. I guess in the end I felt a bit cheated. Okay, so I haven’t done much in the field of aeronautics, and our contribution to the overall federal budget is on the small side. Nonetheless, there was an international flavor to this nationally funded program that made me feel a bit like someone going into a burger joint only to find they only had pad thai noodles on the menu. Nothing wrong with pad thai; I probably prefer it to a burger. But it’s the principle of the thing.
This disassociation with the United States reminded me of other programs that receive a great deal of money from the government (remember, the government is “We the People”) and yet seem to prefer to receive their payment under the table rather than acknowledge themselves as truly and exclusively American. NPR, PBS and our entire public educational system from kindergarten to state universities come to mind. They all too often remind me of sulky teenagers walking a few feet behind their parents in the mall, who desperately hope no one will see the family resemblance but have no problem with someone else paying the bill at the food court so long as they don’t have to sit at the same table.
Now I have no problem with organizations speaking their mind, promoting their own agenda. If the people over at NASA want to form a circle around the International Space Station and sing “It’s a Small World After All,” they have my blessing. I just don’t particularly want to pay for it. Or if I do, I wouldn’t mind them waving a flag or two while doing so. Not to say “Hey, look at us—our country rocks and you don’t” but just as a ‘thank you’ to all those who work hard to support those programs. And if NPR wants to look down their noses at those of us who don’t fall into their political niche, that’s fine too. I just would rather not fund their snobbery.