Lindbergh's Moxie

Today is the day that Charles Lindbergh landed safely in France after being the first person to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean in a plane all by himself.

That was 1927.

Nearly 90 years ago.

Mind blowing statistics being what they are and all.

It's much easier to cross the Atlantic now.

By jet plane of course.

I just watched a documentary about a woman who tried to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat.

Not the greatest of ideas, but she certainly had Moxie.

Moxie is the thing people had back in 1927 instead of courage. Lindbergh had moxie. A whole lotta moxie. And he was an interesting fella.

Fella is what dudes were back in 1927.

So he wins the Ortiz Prize by becoming the the first person to cross the Atlantic in a plane all by himself. Which made him a super super iconic rockstar matinee idol moral giant near-religious icon. We don't have those any more here in 2015. We prefer our idols to have flaws.

Flaws sell better than virtues.

Then he spent most of the Depression flying around the U.S. and Europe to drum up enthusiasm for air travel. Of course there was the whole bit of his son being kidnapped and murdered, revolting, and then Europe exploded into warfare and he was sent over to inspect German and Soviet Aircraft, and the Germans gave him a medal. The U.S. was not at war at the moment, so we were pretty cool about the whole thing.

That's pretty much where his narrative gets fuzzy.

We didn't know how to sell flaws back then, but we certainly knew how to (re)write history. We've been doing that ever since there was such a thing as writing. So Lindbergh gets honored by the Germans, he's clearly a Nazi.

He also said some stupid things about the Jews.


He was against the war, but biographers believe it was communism he was against, not fascism he was for.

Then there was the whole eugenics thing.

The belief in cultivating a superior human stock.

It had been suggested as early as Plato that maybe the human race might wanna consider breading themselves like race horses. It was popular among feudal aristocrats and it only took a few hundred years before realizing that marrying your sister was a terrible idea. The theory got picked up again after Darwin's evolution and Mendel's theory of inheritability became a thing. And then it got really going when the Nazi's decided that being tall, blonde haired, blue eyed, and conspicuously humorless was clearly the model for human perfection.

I had a friend who had been mountain climbing in Europe who marveled at his German counter parts. He told me stories about how they'd be climbing all day, and the Americans were tired and nearly broken, while these 6'4" machine-like German climbers would be smoking unfiltered cigarettes and didn't even look out of breath.

He actually said this:

"Damn dude, I hope we never have to go to war against these guys."

I squinted at him.

"We did dude.  . . . Like twice."

My friend wasn't a believer in Eugenics, he just had a temporary moment of awe.

Lindbergh was an isolationist and a believer in Eugenics. He didn't want the U.S. to get involved in the war, and he thought there was such a thing as human perfection.

We should all allow ourselves a few misfires.

But he did get caught saying some stupid things. And then because he just assumed he was right he never backed off. The history that was (re)written about him wasn't very flattering.

We like to raise our heroes with enthusiastic fervor.

We like to bring them down in the same manner.

We're weird.

What we didn't know then, but we do know now, is that there is more genetic variation in a handful of ants then there is in the entire human population.


You look at anyone else in the world and you might as well be looking in a mirror, as far as genetics are concerned.

The only real differences between 5'10" me and my 6'4" German cousin is that he can climb a mountain, and I'm smart enough not to invade Russia.

Eugenics has a super modern push now too. Not that we are in the process of state sanctioned breeding (just yet), but we're getting remarkably close to a time when we can start picking traits at birth. We are also getting close to where we can turn certain things on and turn certain things off like an Englishman flipping a switch and waking up Brazilian.

We might see stuff like that in our life times.

And you gotta be a little curious as to what set of Nucleic Acids will make Billboard's Top 50.

Athletic or cerebral?

Left handed or right handed?

Do gentlemen prefer blondes?

Does size matter?

You know . . . the really important stuff. And the problem is is that we are so genetically un-diverse that such tinkering could theoretically wipe us out in a few generations.

We actually have to mingle more.

Funny how Lindbergh, the first man to cross the Atlantic in a plane, making transcontinental mingling possible, was just a little bit racist.

But he did have Moxie.

Which turns out not to be genetic.

Go figure.

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