Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thank you, Robert Heinlein

I suddenly realized that with all that has been going on around here, I missed marking the centenary of the birth of Robert Heinlein, (It was two weeks ago) arguably the most influential writer in the history of science fiction. I have particular reason to thank him, because in my teen years, when I was having crises of faith, a couple of his books gave me not answers, but more importantly, the questions to ask.

One piece of his- a very short essay for the radio show, This I Believe - was a powerful influence for me and millions of others. Reading it will help you understand me a bit better, for I agree with everything in it except the opening sentence: “I am not going to talk about religious beliefs...” I believe this essay to be one of the most profoundly religious pieces I’ve ever read.


Robin Edgar said...

Do you *really* believe this part Joel?

"Despite shortcomings from lynchings to bad faith in high places, our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history."

Joel Monka said...

Yes, I do- most especially when compared to other world powers. Internally? Let's compare poverty in the US to other G-8 nations... in France, for example, the poor are crammed into high-rise tenements with no functioning elevators or air conditioning- I know, I saw it- which not only results in nation-wide riots, but can turn deadly, as it did in 2003 when 14,802 people DIED from heat exhaustion! (less than 300 died in the US) According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average below the poverty line household in America has a refridgerator, washer, dryer, two TVs, (at least one of them color) a VCR and/or DVD, stereo, and problems with obesity...

Externally? Forget how many Americans died in two World Wars, fighting for other people's freedom, forget how much aid the American people (as opposed to our government) sends abroad- the U.S. would have to work for years to match all the atrocities the Eurpean nations visited on their colonies. (Even Canada's hands are not totally clean- talk to a few native Americans up there.) The only nations with a better history of foreign relations are those that do not really participate in the world, like Switzerland.

The U.S. falls terribly short of its ideals- but that's what ideals are for, to keep you striving for better... something a lot of the first world has given up on. The only way to avoid embarrasing failures is to stop trying.