From thearchives - Published from 1982-96, Fidelity magazine was the predecessor of Culture Wars.
Why Send a Mother into Space?
by James G. Bruen, Jr.
From the April 1986 issue of Fidelity magazine
Of all the questions that surround the shuttle tragedy, one is likely to remain unasked: Why were we as a nation sending a mother of young children into space?
Twenty years ago, because of respect for the family and its unique role in society, fathers of young children received dependency exemptions from the draft. Our society was then unwilling to jeopardize families by forcing fathers to leave their homes for military training or by forcing conscripted fathers into combat in Viet Nam. Now, NASA, because of its desire for popular support, sympathetic publicity, and funding, has enticed the mother of young children from her home for training as an astronaut and has intentionally exposed her to great danger, with tragic results for her and for her family.
The death of Christa McAuliffe is the symbolic fulfillment of the feminist promise. Feminism’s emphasis on self-fulfillment and personal experience even at the expense of responsibility culminates in the woman’s renunciation of motherhood and family. That renunciation takes many forms: contraception, abortion, abandonment, divorce, and working outside the home are obvious methods used to avoid the responsibilities of motherhood and family. Feminism promises individual self-fulfillment but delivers the shattered family, and often does so with a concomitant shattering of the moral, physical, emotional, and financial well-being of the woman who sought self-fulfillment.
Christa McAuliffe reportedly described herself as a Kennedy liberal and a feminist. Long before she entered NASA’s contest and won the right to experience space flight, she chose to leave her children daily. Instead of being at home with her children, she chose to work. Indeed, if she had not worked outside her home, she would not have won NASA’s lottery, since the gimmick was that all entrants had to be teachers. The months of training and preparation for the flight also required a willingness to leave her young children for an extended period - not just during the day, either. According to feminist thought, that doesn’t matter much if you have the opportunity to do something you think is more important, interesting, or exciting than raising children. The need for the mother in the home and the entreaties of her six-year-old daughter to get her to stay home instead of going into space are relatively minor considerations when opportunity beckons.
Perhaps, though, we as a nation have already answered the question. Perhaps we sent the mother of small children into space because we no longer care much about the family or its role in society. And now we can’t even ask the question explicitly, because the emphasis on self-fulfillment is so pervasive that few people will even consider that motherhood should limit the opportunities available to a woman.
Christa McAuliffe is now touted as a hero and a model, but it is unclear what her act of heroism was. Surely it was not heroic to leave her family, and I would not want my daughters or wife to emulate her.
Christa McAuliffe was also a Catholic. Apparently we were classmates for a year at a Catholic high school in Framingham, Massachusetts, but I don’t remember her. Reports in the Catholic press after her death indicate that she remained active in her parish and taught religion classes there until she began preparations for her shuttle flight. Her Catholic faith and education obviously were more pertinent to the flight than was the training that NASA gave to her. I hope a good confession was a part of Christa’s preparation for her trip on the shuttle to meet Christ. And perhaps, if she is in heaven, she will pray that we ask ourselves why we as a nation continue to encourage women to leave their families and renounce their motherhood.
James G. Bruen, Jr. is an attorney.
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