I have been reading through, here and there at odd moments as I find the time, the Fall/Winter number of The Chesterton Review, generously sent me by Fr. Ian Boyd, C.S.B., the journal’s editor, and designated its Special Journalism Issue.  Chesterton always insisted that he was no more, and no less, than a “jolly journalist,” a freelance in the truest sense of the word, a literary Don Quixote at liberty to charge any windmill he encountered though not necessarily for the purpose of leveling it—rather indeed, as often as not, of knocking it straight up on its foundations.  Father Boyd, in his Introduction, recalls that GKC aimed all of his literary production, which includes novels, short stories, plays, and poetry as well as journalistic articles, at what he called “training the minds of men to act upon the community” and “making the mind a source of creation and critical action.”  Boyd further quotes an observation by Étienne Gilson, the French philosopher and historian of philosophy, that Chesterton was able to intuit truth without needing to reason his way to it.  Chesterton’s work is famous for its parables, which indeed amount to its essence.  Accordingly, the editor has devoted this number of the Review to “a study of the journalism in parables to which Chesterton devoted much of his writing career.”  I am enjoying it very much—in particular, the reprinted articles by Chesterton himself.  Beyond that, picking and choosing almost at random, I have so far come across nothing better than the following sentences by Greg Sheridan (“G.K. Chesterton: The Journalist as an Artist”):

[Chesterton] also taught me—and this is terribly important—that intellectual life, and above all, intellectual combat, is great fun.  It is mortal, it is serious.  You are conducting a serious battle against serious enemies, but it is enormous fun.

        —Chilton Williamson, Jr.

Reading “Whitey on the Moon”:Race, Politics, and the Death of the U.S. Space Program, 1958-1972, I see that author Paul Kersey builds on Norman Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon (1970) and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (1979).  Both authors had noted the public reaction to the moon landing of 1969, which was sharply divided on race lines.  The world took it as an historic triumph for the U.S.; American blacks were unimpressed, preferring to see NASA as the expensive plaything of whites.  For them it was a diversion of funding from inner-city blacks to projects starring white men.  The Rev. Ralph Abernathy had led a march to take poor families and a symbolic mule team to Cape Canaveral to protest against the moon shot.  He promoted a deep collective will to fund earthly projects like housing, welfare, schools, and jobs.  In this the protesters succeeded.  As early as 1961, Edward R. Murrow had sent a memo to the administrator of NASA asking, “Why don’t we put the first non-white man in space?” and this was the seed of the endeavor to advance blacks into the space program.

This effort ran into problems.  With strong backing from the White House, Capt. Ed Dwight was chosen as the black standard-bearer for the space program.  He was good, but not outstanding, and three days after the Kennedy assassination Dwight was dropped from the astronaut-training program.  “When my protector was killed, I was out,” he said.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 channeled immense sums into the social-welfare programs that blacks demanded, and the results, in Kersey’s acid overview, are meagre.  His prime suspect is Detroit, which 50 years ago was 72-percent white.  “Today, Detroit is 82 percent black, a bankrupt shell of a city.”  NASA remains, but its great days ended in 1972.  Kersey’s cheerless conclusion is that we could have been on Mars, but instead funded black America, with suboptimal results.

        —Ralph Berry