The Breakfast Table

Geezers in Space

Dear Nick (I can still call you that, I hope),

Thank you so much for that resounding declaration of pro-choice sentiment, and especially for the lovely bumper sticker, which I have just affixed to my car. As for the weighty issue of copyrights, this one could be as sticky as abortion, though hopefully with less shooting and related mayhem involved. It has come up in my life via the sub-issue of electronic copyrighting, which my union, the National Writers Union, staunchly upholds, thereby promoting the notion that information is Property (the assumption being that a writer’s writings constitute a form of information.) I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand I’d like to be paid for my work, and the current rates for print journalism being close to the minimum wage, I’d like to be paid for my electronic products too. On the other hand, I have at times … No, Bill Gates is listening, so let me make that: I have certain friends–well, just acquaintances actually–who routinely purloin electronic info (software and data) by the electronic equivalent of cat burglary, because said info is just too expensive for a minimum wage worker to pay for. So where does that leave me, I mean, my acquaintances? Please, some ethical clarification.

But you dodged the John Glenn question. Since there is no scientific rationale for his venture, at least none that this former scientist can detect, the sinister possibility arises that his launch constitutes a test solution to the social security “crisis” invented by the Republican Party: Shoot the geezers into space where they will join all those satellites and fragments of space garbage now eternally orbiting the earth. I suppose it’s a humane alternative to dissolving in one’s own urine in one of our permissively regulated for-profit nursing home chains. In fact it puts me in mind of the Walker Piercy novel (the one with “ruins” in the title) where the elderlyare sort of blissed to death with a lethal concoction of ecstasy-invoking drugs. After all, the worst regret of my life is that it all has to be spent on this two-bit planet, light years away from the center of what is patently a nondescript, second-rate galaxy–so I’d sign up right now for either method of egress (jet propelled or chemical trip.) But is Glenn aware of the true purpose of his mission?

CNN and Time ‘s Impact offered a gratifyingly feminist exposé of Glenn last night. Seems Glenn was instrumental in nixing what would have been the first woman in space–trained astronaut Jessie Cobb, an American woman. An old news clip showed him as a whippersnapper uttering some tautology about how there should be no women in space because there were no women in space blah blah. But the good news is that Glenn’s flight may open the way for Cobb, who is now pushing 80 herself, to finally get off the rock.

Or is this good news? Maybe the reason Cobb will finally get to go, if she does, will not be because NASA owes her the ride, but because the Social Security Administration has determined that she’s finally old enough.