Wright is Wrong: The Right to be Right

As an American I take some pride that the American Wright brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. These Ohio brothers invented the airplane. They were the ones with their bike shop and their stubborn trial and error. They experimented and worked hard and made the airplane happen.

We learn in America that anybody can grow up to be anything they want—even president!

The Wright brothers were actually the ones that won the race. At their moment in history, there was a crowd—dare I say a horde? —of scientists and inventors working on the problem.

When the brothers did their first flight on 1903 at Kitty Hawk, they were not the favored ones to win.

Samuel P Langley was supposed to be the one to invent flight. He was the favorite. It’s funny to talk about it this way. Inventing a flying machine was not exactly a prize fight. This was long before Vegas was giving odds. How could there have been a favorite?

Most of my life, I have known and resented of the people who had the right to be heard. They had the right to be right.

I have been sitting at the table, joining the conversation and my contribution was blanked out. Then that contribution which could not be heard was presented by another person who had the right to be right. NOW the idea was valuable. NOW it could be accepted.

Or maybe it never got repeated by the right person and a harmful course of action was taken instead of the one I proposed.

It was my idea. Therefore, it was unacceptable.

America is supposed to be the place where everyone has the right to be right. Orville and Wilbur were right.

But even in my egalitarian America, this Langley guy was overshadowing the Wright brothers. Langley was a scholar, and he’d bopped around all over doing academic things on the east coast, Chicago and then becoming the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute.

He was in charge of the Smithsonian while he was doing experiments in flying machines. President McKinley gave him a grant from the war chest to make it happen.

Except he didn’t. All the best people, all the experts knew he was going to be the one to invent the airplane. They knew it so hard that they wouldn’t accept that he didn’t.

The Smithsonian tried to re-write history to say that he actually would have been the first except for a few trivial bits of circumstantial things that didn’t really count.

The British have this phrase “in the event” which means “actually” …it could also mean factually, or empirically.

What actually happened, in the event, was the Wright brother flew their plane. Langley never did. The president and all the academic hoi polloi were wrong and bet on the wrong inventor.

Instead of doing what scientists do and admitting the truth, “Smithsonian officials displayed one of Secretary Langley’s “Aerodromes,” as Langley called his airplanes, with the label stating that Langley had constructed a machine “capable” of flight before the Wright Brothers successful flight, Orville was not happy. In 1925, because of this, Orville loaned the 1903 Wright Flyer to the London Science Museum, promising that it would not return to the United States until the Smithsonian renounced its claim”

Sam, Sam the poor loser man. This is your legacy? This is what your acolytes are posthumously protecting? Science, experimentation and learning lost for appearance’s sake.


I am a Cat was written the late 1800s by Japanese novelist Soseki Natsume. A first-person novel from the perspective of a cat—as you might expect that cat’s got a lot of opinions. I’m not that far into it but it stopped me short in the beginning

The cat/kitten’s story starts with his earliest memory. He is alone and trying to find a way to survive. He is carried into a house and given some milk. He is almost immediately kicked out again.

This cat was sure that inside that house was food and warmth. Inside that house was life. His whole kitten self was targeted on getting into that house.

A determined cat. An irresistibly demanding cat. I can see it. I can feel it.

I have been that kitten. Single focus on the one thing. All the world whittled down to one thing.

You know what happens to that kitten? He gets what he’s set out to get.

Not every goal has that kind of clarity. I’ve had other goals that were more like fantasies. Things I would want when I remembered I wanted them.

Goals like that have less of a chance of coming true. Commonly, it’s only after they get promoted to the need-like-life status that they got real.

Life or death focus is hard to maintain. That kind of intensity can only last for a little while.

However, I might need the life-of-death focus to get it started. I might need to fuel the momentum of getting the lift.

For me, that means getting the idea organized. I will need to shape my desire into something I can get a handle on.

Long term goals require a system. When I’m fired up, I can shape it and break it to little pieces that I can actually do.

I can feed the hunger with those little bites. I can make it real.

I can be that cat.