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HarvestBall
jwg

The shuttle spectacle

The loss of Columbia is sad but not worth such an incredible spectacle of wall-to-wall news. Being an Astronaut is a hazardous occupation of course and there are things that NASA could have done and will do to make it safer. So there will be some valuable news when they complete their investigation and decide what to do as a result of what they learn. Any death is tragic. But lets have a little perspective on this.

In a Boston Globe Op-Ed today Derrick Jackson writes about the Hoover Dam - the title is America's legacy of sacrifice. 96 people died during is construction from 1931 to 1935. He writes about seeing the Oskar Hansen memorial on top of the dam on this past Saturday afternoon after hearing about Columbia. He writes that the winged figures are supposed to represent "the immutable calm of intellectual resolution and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific accomplishment." The figures also represent a "largeness of spirit, a willingness to assume risks for an ideal". The parallel is pretty interesting. The weather conditions were extreme (140 degrees) and the working conditions were worse. He writes "The men at the dam showed how deep you can dig within yourself in an environment almost as hostile as space"

In another Op-Ed Robert Kuttner writes "But something was off about the relentless, repetitive, almost obsessive media coverage. What does this say about us as a people?" He writes about how democracy is eroding and people don't have enough time to vote but they have plenty of time to watch spectacles on TV.

I had been thinking about how many people die everyday while innocently going about their business - auto accidents, drive-by-shootings, caught a fatal disease while in a hospital for a minor procedure. Isn't that just as tragic? And then I read the end of the Kuttner article where he writes "All of us - making time for our children, taking care of aging parents, studying for exams, mending marriages, soldiering on after misfortune - are daily heroes. And every death is a personal tragedy no less excruciating than the Columbia disaster." Well put.

OpEd page (only good for today)

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I really don't think it's an issue of tragicker-than-thou. It's an issue of what grabs collective attention, what serves as a touchstone for us as a society. There simply exist too many deaths from murder/starvation/wasting-illness/what-have-you for society as a whole to mourn with the intensity you've been noting. For good or ill, such is common. It's the out-of-the-ordinary that gets attention (of course, perhaps this is the very thing you're noting and lamenting).

And people are mourning for more than 7 deaths, of course; the space program is important to me, and I shudder to think that it might undergo setbacks or even dismantlement over such as this.

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