by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The film First Man debuted at the Venice Film Festival. The movie chronicles the life of Neil Armstrong, the first human to land on the moon. A social-media-fueled firestorm ensued when it was revealed that the movie doesn’t show the moment where the American astronauts planted the U.S. flag in what, I hope, will one day be considered American soil on the lunar surface. …
… Conservatives had a field day, and understandably so. The idea that America went to the moon, at the height of the Cold War, in a “space race” against the Soviet Union primarily as part of a global vision of universal human solidarity is silly.
But in fairness to the filmmakers, the idea that this wasn’t a giant leap for all mankind — as Armstrong famously said and as the plaque on the moon declares — is silly, too. Landing on the moon was widely regarded as a human achievement around the world. But that shouldn’t detract from the national pride Americans feel for it. It should complement it.
… [W]hat I think everyone is missing is the dog that didn’t bark. Specifically, liberals should be aghast.
I spend a lot of time arguing that conservatives should not imbibe too deeply from the bottle of nationalism. But it should be noted that one of the reasons many conservatives have decided to get drunk on nationalism is that so many liberals have cut patriotism from their diets.
Pride in American accomplishments should not be a partisan affair. And yet, from flag pins to the Pledge of Allegiance, so many of our dumbest and nastiest political fights over the last few decades have been purely symbolic fights over national pride.