Lessons From ‘Hidden Figures’
BY BETH PORTOLESE
I just saw the movie ‘Hidden Figures.’ If you have not seen this movie run, don’t walk, to your closest movie theater and see it. If you don’t know the story, it centers on three African American women who worked at NASA in the early 60s. One of them was instrumental in determining the mathematical calculations that were needed to launch John Glenn into space. These women triumphed over the outrageous racism of the time to do great things for NASA. By the end of the movie I was crying and feeling pride in them and my country because of a long ago space launch.
This movie brought back memories from when I was a kid. Who of a certain age doesn’t remember watching NASA launches. I remember my family gathered around the TV to watch. i particularly remember staying up really late at night to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. It was really incredible if you think about it. The most incredible thing was how the whole country watched this. The movie depicts John Glenn’s orbit around the earth and how concerned everyone was when it looked like he may not make it back alive. Everyone was rooting for him and listening to the radio and TV.
Flash forward to today. Can you think of anything the whole country seems to root for? Is there anything that has happened recently to bring everyone together? After a divisive election and constant talk about how divided the country is, it is really depressing to think about. One of the reasons that the movie made me cry is because things just seem so awful now. What has changed and who is to blame for this?
I think social media plays a part. I can’t go on Facebook these days without getting angry about what I’m reading. It’s gone from people talking about what they had for lunch to article after article about what our president and government is doing. Depending on what side you are on (notice I say which side) the articles featured reaffirm your viewpoint about the bad things the opposition is doing. It’s exhausting to read it now.
Our politicians revel in it. If they can keep us all fighting each other, they figure we won’t notice the fact that the same group of (mostly) men seem to be getting reelected over and over until they have been in Congress for 30 years. These people represent states that they haven’t really even lived in for years! They act like they are concerned for what is good for the country but if that were the case, they would try to compromise and work out solutions for the betterment of the country as a whole, not just the people who support their party. It’s sickening when you really think about. They see everything in black and white when the problems we face now require thoughtful solutions that fall into the grey area. We should be getting all the great minds in this country together (just like they did with the space launches) to figure out solutions to our problems and then act on them. Why don’t we do that?
Some would say that we reap what we sow. The country has gotten more rude and crass so of course we would elect someone who tweets out insults in the middle of the night. The dignity the women in ‘Hidden Figures’ showed seems to have gone by the wayside. There is nothing dignified about the behavior of people on the reality TV shows we can’t get enough of these days. The more undignified and loud you are, the more the camera focuses on you.
I can’t help thinking that maybe the pendulum has now swung as far the opposite way as it can. Perhaps we have reached a time where things are getting so far off base that people will come to their senses and start thinking about what is good for the country. A country where we help our neighbors no matter what their political views are. A country that believes in facts, like the mathematics used to launch rockets, not alternative facts. A country where, instead of taking selfies, we take pictures of people coming together and helping each other.
We can only hope.