Your RDA of Irony

National Paranoia Day…almost

October 4, 1957:  Those Filthy Communists Start the Space Race

What was a Sputnik?  On October 4, 1957, the news of a Soviet satellite eclipsed the premiere of “Leave It to Beaver.”  Didn’t the Cleaver Family realize that it now was in peril?  (Eddie Haskell was too evil to die.)  Our American sense of complacency was shattered.  Of course, we could have blamed Hollywood for the Communist triumph.  After all, in the early Fifties we had blacklisted Larry Parks and Howard DaSilva for losing  China to the Reds?  With Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, Hollywood even had a new crop of New York Jews to scapegoat….

Strangely enough, however, the country remained surprisingly sedate.  Yes, considering that Soviet missiles probably were targeted at every grade school, we now would have a national policy of air raid drills.  Fortunately, hiding under a desk or lining up against a wall of metal lockers are equally effective safeguards against a 8000 degree thermonuclear blast.  And now the American dream house would include a fallout shelter.

And some of the other reactions were actually useful.  Public schools now were encouraged to teach science.  If the Soviets were endoctrinating their little Red Pioneers with chemistry and physics, America’s children could no longer afford to be blithely ignorant.  “Knowledge is power!” said Frank Bacon (Francis doesn’t sound sufficiently American), and that would be our national policy.  Naturally, we weren’t going to forfeit the skies to the Commies; we would build satellites, missiles and rockets too.  We would race them to the Moon, and may the best socio-economic system win!

True, the Space Race didn’t turn out to be as fantastic as Stanley Kubrick imagined, but it was pretty cool.  The youngsters will just have to take our word for it.

  1. Michele says:

    I remember watching Sputnik blink by overhead. That alone made me interested in science. In these benighted times, when the country is descending into ignorance and bragging about it, we could use a smart enemy to raise the bar. Instead, Al Qaeda sees our ignorance and raises it by a Stone Age.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Dear Michele,

      Today, Faux’s commentary would either deny the existence of outer space or denounce Sputnik as an attack on God. (After all, He lives up there.)


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