On Thursday evening, Ryan Gosling made international news when he justified the fact that the new Damien Chazelle biopic of Neil Armstrong will skip the whole planting the American flag on the moon thing. Gosling, a Canadian, explained, “I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it.”
Now, the real reason that the film won’t include the planting of the American flag is that the distributors obviously fear that Chinese censors will be angry, and that foreign audiences will scorn the film. But it’s telling that the Left seems to attribute every universal sin to America, and every specific victory to humanity as a whole. Slavery: uniquely American. Racism: uniquely American. Sexism: uniquely American. Homophobia: uniquely American. Putting a man on the moon: an achievement of humanity.
All of this is in keeping with a general perspective that sees America as a nefarious force in the world. This is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States view: that America’s birth represented the creation of a terrible totalitarian regime, but that Maoist China is the “closest thing, in the long history of that ancient country, to a people’s government, independent of outside control”; that Castro’s Cuba had “no bloody record of suppression,” but that the U.S. responded to the “horrors perpetrated by the terrorists against innocent people in New York by killing other innocent people in Afghanistan.”
In reality, however, America remains the single greatest force for human freedom and progress in the history of the world. And landing a man on the moon was part of that uniquely American legacy. President John F. Kennedy announced his mission to go to the moon in 1961; in 1962, he gave a famous speech at Rice University in which he announced the purpose of the moon landing:
For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding. Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation. We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.
The moon landing was always nationalist. It was nationalism in service of humanity. But that’s been America’s role in the world for generations. Removing the American flag from an American mission demonstrates the anti-American animus of Hollywood, if we’re to take their values-laden protestations seriously.