Rudnik > The Allure and Conceit of Reform—and the Will to Try

| April 1, 2015

As Humans we yearn to make our Societies Safer and Better.  And that’s often all that matters.


Nick Rudnik, Valdosta Today Opinion Contributor

In 1950 Ray Bradbury published among his most coveted works, The Martian Chronicles. The tome, a series of collected vignettes written by Bradbury in the late-1940s, details a conjured struggle between native Martians and colonists from Earth, who escape great wars and conflict on their own planet for the promise of starting over on the fourth planet from the Sun.

My personal favorite is the final short in the book, “The Million-Year Picnic.” The piece tells the story of a Minneapolis family of five as they take a poached rocket ship from Earth to Mars for a “fishing trip.” Towards the end of the story, the father destroys all documents and ephemera detailing their lives on Earth. He then tells his three sons that he has a surprise for them—he’s going to introduce them to the “illusive” Martians. They saunter towards the banks of one of Mars’s many canals, where the father tells his sons to peer into the water. There, they see only their reflections. “There they are,” their father tells them. They’ve become the Martians. They’re not returning to Earth.

Bradbury’s last story is, in my opinion, his best because, unlike the others in his collection, we don’t know if the Minneapolis family makes it on Mars. We are left only with the inchoate feeling of hope; we desperately want them to succeed where so many others have failed. The family left Earth with the faith that what awaited them over 140 million miles away was something better; that regardless of what life was like on Mars, merely a shot at a new one was far better than the one they left behind.

What makes us human is our sense of optimism. Indeed, oftentimes we’re confronted with challenges on our planet and we fail. But what sets us apart from the great heap of other sentient life in the universe is our ability to meet challenges in the eye and, although they may seem insurmountable, have the capacity to confront them with a sense of hopefulness and, above all, a willingness to try.

Science fiction is among the best ways to tell a story for it allows the author to say something profound about us without putting the biases and preconceptions of the reader at the forefront of his or her mind.

Consider now the impending nuclear deal with Iran. Forty-seven Republican senators, led by freshmen Tom Cotton of Arkansas, signed an open letter to the Iranian government insisting that any deal with the U.S. won’t last—so, in short, we should just give up. In short, Sen. Cotton circumvented adhered diplomatic channels and directly appealed to the Iranian government; a government Sen. Cotton would likely agree is a staunch enemy of the United States.

To date, the United States and Iran have yet to reach a uranium enrichment agreement. Perhaps we never will. Perhaps the eventual solution to the Iranian nuclear program will be a series of U.S. strategic missile strikes on key enrichment facilities. But perhaps Sen. Cotton should have waited for John Kerry’s state department to exhaust any and all diplomatic solutions before lambasting the head of his government, while deriding another (one who, again, is an avowed enemy).

Sen. Cotton typifies a school of thought where the only diplomacy is no diplomacy. The only solution is war. Indeed, he may be right: negotiations will breakdown and we’ll be left with only a military alternative to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon—an end all across the political spectrum have been decidedly against. Though, we shouldn’t put the cart before the horse, we should try our best to prevent Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomacy, not more conflict.

At this juncture we don’t know if the Obama administration’s negotiations will be successful. Truly, they may fail; and fail handily, at that. But what makes us human, as in Bradbury’s short, is our willingness to try, to take the difficult and inimitable path to achieve a better life.

The choice is ours to make. We can continue to rattle our sabers or we can walk towards the canal and gaze upon the Martians—those who yearn for a better tomorrow despite the obstacles. Regardless if it’s here in the United States, here on Earth, or even one day on Mars, there will always be those who want more conflict, more war, more turmoil. Bradbury teaches us just that in Chronicles.

But while there will be those who yearn for war, there will be those who are willing to peer into the water and be the pioneers, be the ones who seek another way, a better way. We may not succeed, we may not achieve the lofty goals we seek, but if we haven’t tried, or refuse to, we’ve already failed.

That much is all but guaranteed.

rudnik-thumbnailNicholas A. Rudnik is currently pursuing a degree in political science with a concentration in American politics at Valdosta State University. Previously, he’s served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 111th Congress and in the Office of U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop. Further, Nick has served on staff at an institutional interest group, the Association of American Law Schools, in Washington and has worked in the private sector. He has presented his research, focused primarily on congressional parties and elections, at regional academic conferences and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in political science. Nick is currently completing two manuscripts relating to southern congressional elections and judicial decision-making in the area of campaign finance; he can be contacted via e-mail at Follow Nick on Twitter: @NickRudnik.

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5 Comments on "Rudnik > The Allure and Conceit of Reform—and the Will to Try"

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  1. Johnson Brannen says:

    You’re a strange dude.

    Young and naive.

  2. Larry Godwin says:

    Here’s an open letter to Nick Rudnik.

    Below is the actual text of the Senate letter to Iran. Senator Cotton has the simplistic task of educating the Iranians on our form of constitutional government and how it deals with international agreements. The Senator points out that we have a government with co-branches that are charged with working together to ensure that America’s interests are protected. We do not have an Emperor who can simply reach and ratify agreements on his own, and expect them to last. Senator Cotton points out that whatever one President does on his own can quickly be undone by the next President.

    Nick, you assert that Senator Cotton is a warmonger. I challenge you to look over this letter and tell us where your charges are warranted against Senator Cotton and the other Republicans that signed this letter. In other words, stop making stuff up. Perhaps you should follow your own advice about searching for peace and attempting to find common ground with your Republican couterparts instead of constantly searching for political war.

    I look forward to your response. Here’s the text to the Senator’s letter.


    An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

    It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution—the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices—which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

    First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

    Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

    What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

    We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.