Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer of '69

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Science Times interviewed 21 Americans (including Gloria Steinem, Janis Ian and Barney Frank), an Englishman and a Pole to recall how they experienced this monumental event. (Great stuff -- read them all HERE.) I was only 2 that summer, so I have no recollection of it all. But historian and playwright Martin Duberman's response resonates with me the most, for reasons that will become obvious:

I was underwhelmed by the whole thing. I couldn’t understand why people were so excited about Armstrong’s “one small step” comment. To me, it wasn’t immortal prose.

By the summer of 1969, I had become very political. I suppose that’s why the moon shot didn’t mean that much. I was preoccupied with the black struggle, the war on poverty and feminism.

Three weeks before the moon landing, the bar that I regularly frequented in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, was the scene of a pitched battle between New York’s Police Department and the bar’s gay patrons. As luck would have it, I didn’t happen to go to the Stonewall Inn that particular night -- though I later went and looked at the milling crowds and the wreckage.

That seemed momentous. Gays had taken the lessons of the civil rights and women’s movements to heart. The effects of that moment are still with us, 40 years later.

1 comment:

Henry Holland said...

What a small, stunted viewpoint. Human beings visited another WORLD, a mere 10 years after the program started, it was a HUGE step forward for all of us. It had profound implications for the future (in terms of visiting Mars and planets outside the solar system) AND it was a huge incubator of technology that is used today.

Gays still can't marry, are routinely fired from their jobs and kicked out of their apartments, are beaten/killed with monotonous regularity and we're still the minstrel butt of jokes for heteros. Yeah, Duberman, all that work really paid off, didn't it? [insert eye rolling emoticons here]