“Death Star” petition the metaphor we need

Shane Wade
Opinion Editor

If only the White House’s slogan was “Make It Real.”

In keeping with the theme of ridiculous petitions, including a petition by residents of a number of states, most prominently Texas, to secede from the U.S., 1,964 people have felt it necessary to petition the White House to “secure resources and funding and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.” The suggestion is clearly a riff on award winning economist Paul Krugman’s joke that, in order to bring the United States economy out of the depths and spur economic growth, we fake an alien invasion.

Take it as it is, but the suggestion isn’t, on principle, as otherworldly as it sounds.

We’re in a time of political and economic stagnation, rapidly approaching the fiscal cliff, while simultaneously spending billions of dollars on military expenditures, including the $8.5 million we send to Israel for defense every day, according to the Congressional Research Service’s 2012 fiscal report.

If we’re going to spend such an extravagant, and questionably necessary, amount of money on defense, why don’t we go whole-hog?

If not a real Death Star, we need to invest in a metaphorical one.

America is a nation in decline; our education system is secondary, our politicians are divisive and we’re not living up to past expectations. We aren’t the dreamers that landed on the moon, made cosmic travel practical and invented the Internet.

That was yesterday.

Yesterday, we were inventors and innovators. Today, we’re just commercial redesigners. Whether it be smartphone technology, drone warfare or disaster capitalism, most all we’ve done as a nation for the past few years is repackage and redesign current innovations and inventions.

Despite the great strides NASA has made in the recent year, including landing the Curiosity rover on Mars and discovering a planet made of diamonds, the agency has been granted just $17.7 billion for its 2013 budget, a paltry amount compared to the Air Force’s budget of $170 billion. Our financial prioritization has to be reflective of our ambitions.

Investment in higher education, technology and science must be put to the forefront and replace social security as the untouchable third rail of budgetary politics. Every president for the last twenty years has promised us a return to the moon in some fashion, but no such aspiration has been fulfilled.

Big dreams and big ambitions gave birth to this great nation and big projects will be needed to revive it. That doesn’t necessarily mean fictional construction projects or fake alien invasions, but it does mean a change in the status quo of governmental budgetary funding. It means creative solutions to real world problems.

I’m proud to attend an institution such as ours that prides itself on funding and encouraging exceptional scientific endeavors. It is my hope that VCU can soon bring those exceptional endeavors onto the national and international stage.

We, as individuals and a community, have the potential to make “it” real for both ourselves and our compatriots.

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