While reading the news today, I had another one of those “You cannot be serious!” moments. I read and reread an article, hoping to find something, anything, remotely all right with it. Nope. Nothing. Still in a state of no, no, no, and rapidly approaching annoyance, all the while trying to keep outrage at bay, I Googled offending topic, and even went to the subject’s web site; but it was more than true, right there in living color.
An Atlas V rocket on the NROL-39 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office had been successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Over the years, this particular type of news release has become slightly ordinary; not common, but not shocking, either. And it was not the launch of yet another classified payload for one of our nation’s big five spy agencies that made my eyes bulge, staring in disbelief, and causing the already deep furrow between my eyebrows to press further into my skull. No. It was the patch representing the agency and this launch that made my head spin.
It is within the context of how important tradition and history are to me that this disturbance is understood. I value tradition, because to me it is the foundation upon which histories, be they personal, family, or national are built; and I believe our traditions help define our histories, giving them color, texture, and details to better understand the depth and breadth of who we are, what we have been, and where we are going. Added to the importance I place on tradition and history, I believe statements we make about ourselves verbally or visually, communicate exactly what we desire people to believe about us, on every level, especially a national level. The statements made become the traditions, which eventually, in time, become the history. It is all related, linked forever in the collective mind, and once out there and imprinted, it cannot be taken back. If we want to be taken seriously, honorably, and well-intentioned, we really need to keep these goals at the forefront of our creative thoughts when formulating anything representing what we want others to believe about us, now and in the future.
All this having been stated, imagine how disconcerting it was to see the patch representing a satellite launch from a spy agency with a multibillion dollar budget sporting a cartoon depiction of a giant, yellow, octopus, tentacles wrapped or preparing to wrap around the entire planet, with evil snarling lips, glaring sinister eyes, and a caption stating NOTHING IS BEYOND OUR REACH. I beg your pardon? I believed it was common knowledge and generally understood, even by children, that due to having numerous arms emanating from a common center, the octopus is often used as a metaphor for a group or organization which is perceived as being powerful, manipulative or bent on domination. Use of this terminology is invariably negative.
Included in the article I read was an actual defense of the logo by an agency spokeswoman who said that “there’s a very good reason for the symbol: The octopus is intelligent, and therefore a good emblem for an intelligence agency.” Acknowledging I am not an expert on the octopus, I do know that it is a cephalopod mollusc, and it is smarter than clams, crabs, snails and starfish. But, that is all relative; so is my dog, and she is dumb as a box of rocks. Besides the octopus not being nearly as intelligent as this particular spokesperson wants us to believe, I also know that, again metaphorically speaking, I would never trust or put my confidence in anything or anyone who had a keen sense of touch, but whose brain was unable to communicate back to itself a picture of what it was touching. Nor would I want to be linked with a team member who, perceiving danger, can jettison one of its arms, leaving it behind to deal with the threat, and who also can squirt dark protective cover into the situation, both actions enabling it to scuttle away to its own personal safety.
Now setting aside the values and traditions onto which I tenaciously hold, and the outright challenge I put to a spy agency regarding choosing a cephalopod mollusc to represent its intelligence, there is one more insurmountable issue for me: I have watched SpongeBob SquarePants, and cannot ignore the fact that it is no slight resemblance the National Reconnaissance Office’s octopus bears to SpongBob’s blue octopus neighbor. They both share the same crabby, hostile facade, and I for one would rather a representation an agency of my country expresses as reflecting its mission, purpose, goals, or intentions be anything other than a pernicious, nasty cartoon character who looks just like Squidward Tentacles.