The Apollo Leap


They Went to the Moon
& Discovered Our Earth

This famous shot of the Earth rising above the Moon’s horizon was taken half a century ago by astronaut Bill Anders, helped by Frank Borman and Jim Lovell. But it didn’t come to light until a few months later. When it did, it went straight to my wall.
Like millions of teens, my room in 1968 was a dizzying array of passions and people I admire. There was a spot for the Earthrise shot next to a tongue-stuck-out Einstein, a bonnet-clad Che, a nearly nude Brigitte, Beatles, Hendrix, and Caetano Veloso to boot.
So, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin finally touched down on quaint-named Tranquility Base 50 years ago this Saturday, the deal was already done. Still dauntingly impressive, but the new world had been discovered the previous December. And it was blue.
To this day, we’ve yet to know another heavenly body that, despite being rock-solid, appears translucent and blue in space like no other. No other has oxygen and water enough to nurture life’s exuberance, all packed into such a transfixing image.
No one but this planet is suitable for the likes of us. And never before it was so close to being murdered by the very species that depend on it the most. In 1969, Earth’s blueness was a revelation to be cherished. Now, it’s our only argument for survival.

GO FOR GLORY. BRING BACK ROCKS
We’re bound to this ship, no matter how far we may go. And we haven’t even got far. In fact, we couldn’t really go anywhere without carrying our home with us. Since that’s impossible, whatever we do to our home, will determine the fate of its dwellers.
Even those who’d like to leave it and live somewhere else, know that it’s a one-way ticket out of life. And maybe to the relevance they’re sure won’t be achieved here. Bon voyage to them, there’ll always be a need for pioneers. But I’m staying put, thank you very much.
The Apollo 11 trip to eternity remains one of mankind’s greatest achievements. But it’s also one of our biggest failures, as we did little to step beyond it, and now it’s as great as a masterpiece in a museum: intriguing but shut away from reality, an end on itself.
We’re inspired by that moment, as we should, and we relish its significance, for it reflects all that’s great about our nature. It transcended everything around it: the nation that finally placed a man on another world; war; the politics; all of it.

THEY PUT A MAN ON THE MOON
But it was but a moment, now lost in time. In five decades, we went from the unshakeable hope for the future, the human genius and the power of technology, to the far-out opposite end of clarity; we simply don’t know how we’ll get through this crisis.
We knew then that a trip to the Moon would be remembered, and celebrated, and it could trigger a new era, fulfilling our destiny as wanderers of the great beyond. Now we’re actually afraid that there won’t be anyone left then to mark its first century anniversary.
For over 200,000 years, we’ve walked all over this planet, explored every nook, probed each hole, went down all abysms, and climbed up mountains high and higher. We dove its deep oceans and tested its fiery volcanos. We died and were reborn many times.
Our civilizations are built out of this world’s dust and bones. But one thing our journey hasn’t quite led us to yet is to the harmony of coexisting with the sphere that supports us. We have nothing on the serenity that the pale blue dot floating in the vacuum exudes.

SOMEONE HAS TO TELL THE KIDS
All we’ve built now conspire to destroy us, and we should be so lucky if, in the process, Earth’s spared. We may not see this, but if it survives us it may no longer be blue and ethereal as it looks now. It’ll have to be violent to rid itself of the plague of us.
And yet the fight to reverse course and start it over, even if not from the very beginning, is not just possible but our best shot. It’s either that or reckoning with angry kids we’ve sentenced to live and die in a poisoned era. That or we will choke on our own mistakes.
It was thrilling to believe we’d stepped up, and anyone could be a guest of another planet. Even that the very fuel and raw materials, (more)
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52 From the Coup

A Day for Brazil to Count

Its Democratic Blessings

The Ominous Use of Brazil's National Colors (A Tarde, 2015)There are two wrenching, overlapping moments hitting Brazil right now: one punctual, threatening to postpone the future for another 40 years. The other is a permanent state been of self-doubt, of insular auto-sabotage that betrays a profound fear of realizing the dreams that it has been dreaming for so long.
Thus, if Brazil were a person, March 31th would feel like having a screwdriver making turns while deeply encased in the gut. Any other year, it’d be a day to be quickly forgotten, as it’s been for over half a century. But this year, the pain’s different and the bleeding, worse.
When the tanks took the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and other Brazilian capitals, on that March of 1964, they were not just aborting democratically elected President João Goulart. They were strangling a nation trying to come on to its own.
For the 1950s had been Brazil’s rebirth, and the promise of a time unlike anything that had come before. It was the decade the nation discovered its blackness, its youth exploding with possibilities, and most people started moving to live in modern cities, with an emerging industry to boot.
Suddenly, Brazilian popular culture, music, cinema, fine arts, architecture, even its passion for football, acquired an exuberance, a gusto for living that surpassed that of all ethnicities that had been thrown in the mix since the founding of the nation in 1500.

WHEN BOOTS HIT THE GROUND
That’s what the truculent military coup hoped to squashed like tropical cockroaches. The country’s powerful oligarchy, and the always unsecured middle class, readily embraced the muscular support from the U.S., who couldn’t bear seeing Brazil fall into the Soviet Union lure.
The military showed a unified front, swiftly consolidating power, even as they were at each other’s throats behind the scenes. Their single-file determination drove great Brazilian minds to exile, or to an early grave, but also had a tenacious resistance to fight from day one.
While tirany indebted the nation, and mercilessly punished dissent and free expression, Brazil grew around and despite it. It took 21 years to restore democracy. It may take many more (more)
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* Dead Presidents
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