We didnt know it at the time. But in 1965 when they buried Sir Winston Churchill in full pomp they were burying(not before time) our Imperial past. The tears for Neil Armstrong the first man on the Moon were in a similar way, tears for an America that has disappeared.
The USA of the drive in, the high school prom, PNut Brittle,Pan Am and Kodak, New World confidence and WASP must do,can do ,will do. Gary Cooper in High Noon forced despite his good manners to show the black hats how to behave,how its really done.
The astronauts were so brilliantly portrayed in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Test pilots who were turned into single combat warriors. They rebelled against being lab rats. When one psychiatrist asked an astronaut what he saw on a blank piece of paper,the astronaut looked the shrink in the eye and said “I think its up side down”. Another after having had a sperm test,stool inspection and prostate check lost it when he took his enema into the commanding general’s office and slapped it down, declaring “If you want us to have enemas do them yourself”.
When they first saw their space craft they spotted no windows or controls and that they despite their qualifications as pilots were just substituting monkeys. They got windows put in,even in outer space pilots had to see where they were going.
At first the US programme was a shambles. Rockets blew up on take off,worse in mid flight, satellites disappeared, nothing worked. The astronauts were seen as spam in the can.The whole country looked at the space men as kamikazes who were prepared to die for their country in one great gesture. Whats more they were all as American as apple pie,old glory and they were all married to Debbie Reynolds lookalikes. The Americans could not get enough. They looked good,they were doing good and they were going to die making the skies safe for democracy and freedom..
And so it went. The missions kept having to be put off.The country tuned in waited and were told it would happen another day. They waited. The weather cleared and then off went John Glenn. Five hours later and seven times round the world he’s back. No one wore panties that night.
John Glenn turns up at Congress. He was the crew cut,lean jawed Presbyterian pilot addressing the world. He has flown where only two others have been. Space. But he tells them although he has been where his only companion is God himself , he”still gets a lump in his throat when he sees the American flag” he points up to gallery to his mom and dad uncles and aunts and ends,”above all I want you to meet my wife Annie,Annie the Rock”
Its so corny, so right, so America without therapy and before drugs that everyone in Congress starts to cry. Then its off to New York for the ticker tape. Even the big fat policemen, chewing gum and gun toting, can’t stop themselves bawling. The single combat warriors had shown they had the right stuff and they had won.
And now they are all dead. And the High School prom had to be cancelled because a lesbian couple demanded the right to dress up as man and wife. No more drinking and driving,driving and drinking. All that is left of the martini is the olive stone.