2007/07/22

Absurdly Personal - Of Rovers and Redemption

Tammy Faye Messner, the weepy, over-the-top televangelist we all remember from the eighties passed away Friday at the age of 65, and on hearing the news I tried to summon up some shred of sorrow. I mean I know that in the intervening years, through the incarceration of her first and second husbands, the collapse of the Bakker media empire, and her battle with colon cancer she's become a better person. But still I was coming up empty.

Meanwhile, on Mars, the greatest, most astounding scientific endeavor in human history could be coming to an end as a continent sized sandstorm starves the two mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, of vital solar energy. And lest anyone underestimate the importance of the little scientific packages that really, Really, REALLY! could, these machines have been up on mars doing their jobs for 10 times their original operational lifetime! The scientists at JPL deserve medals.

So here's the thing... I am more saddened by the imminent end of the rover mission than I am by the death of someone who, I think, really did try to redeem herself, and I'm having a hard time figuring out what that means.

28 Comments:

The Rovers are the little engine that could. If only the rest of our space program was as efficient.

It's a shame that Jim didn't precede her, there is no justice in the world. Hopefully there is one in her afterlife.
The question isn't why you can't think of anything to write about Tammy Faye Messner. The question should be why you think you should.

As with a lot of other issues, I think our plugged-in newsfotainment culture creates within us a reflexive belief that celebrities have real impact upon our lives.

Rags like People, US, Larry King et al have fooled us into thinking we really CARE about celebrities, rather than just admire their talent.

So when they pass we feel we have to say something positive, to speak from the heart to acknowledge their heroism/achievements/struggle. It's a pop culture ritual requiring us to publicly grieve about dead celebrities in order to prove our own humanity. Blogging gives anyone a way to be public, so I suspect it makes public display of sadness even more compelling.

But in actuality they are total strangers -- why feel pushed to express sorrow publicly over a celebrity? Why not the people being killed by genocide every day? Victims of abuse in our own country? People we allow to live under the freeway simply for being mentally ill?

They are anonymous, which I think partially proves my point.

Objectively, I can't say I'm sorry she's dead. I can only say I regret she is unable to carry on with helping others, which she has done since casting off fundamentalism. I recognize her for that.

I regret she died an apparently lingering death and her family lost a mother and grandmother.

But I would say that about anyone.
I am not saddened by her death, however, I am saddened that we have troops dying for a lie!
Deb... You know, I don't even know what has happened to Jim Bakker. Strange that...

Suzie-Q... Not arguing with your observation, I do wonder about our ability to connect with the single death more readily than the deaths of thousands. I mean... let's face in the annals of warfare the 3500+ deaths of US soldiers is small potatoes. Is it worse that they've died for a lie? Perhaps, but then how do we judge other conflicts? More men died at Antietam in an hour--for hubris, pride, and misplaced honor--than have died in 4 years of the lie that is Iraq.
Mr_Blog... Compelled? Perhaps by virtue of visibility, I suppose. Though I'm not so sure about the issue of wanting to always say something nice. When Jerry Falwell died, my response was an outpouring of poetic bile. Not so with Tammy Faye. Maybe it's just the sense of pity one feels at her former life.

Anyway, this just goes to show that I'm nothing more than a muse. You guys supply all the real thinking.
Kvatch, "infamy" adds a whole other dimension.
Upon her passing, my wife said, "She suffered a lot.", to which I replied,"Yes, and she caused a lot of suffering in other people's lives."
Tammy Faye's death will be a blow to the cosmetic industry, but the Rover's death is a blow to science.

Hopefully that straightens it out for you.
PT... Undoubtedly true, but I think that in her last decade she helped more than she hurt. Of course, as Lew put it so succinctly, it just don't stack up to the blow to science of losing the rovers. ;-)
I am almost wordless on the comparison. I just do not see the two.

I will just say regardless to what she did or did not do here, she was a humane who really suffered during her last few years on this earth.

Regardless to what type of hurt or pain she caused here, you had better believe she suffered here as well.
Tammy Faye started out as one half of a husband and wife con team who felt that they could hide their crimes behind a loud but insincere proclamation of godliness. Unlike Jimmy the living paint palette didn't have to serve 30 consecutive 20 year sentences, or whatever it was.

She continued to exploit a fame that was not based in any way on her being talented, beautiful or otherwise special. I found her appearance on Larry King in the waning hours of her life so offensive that it's a shame Larry can't be charged with any crime over it. Finally Jerry Springer has someone on the air he can look down his nose at.

I have very little patience with these Elmer-Gantry-come-to-life preacher leeches - and I'm an atheist. How can it be that true believers aren't twice as offended by the blatant blasphemy of their own leaders?
///
Love those little Martian spiders, and I echo the kudos to the JPL team that kept them going well beyond their expected lifetime. There hasn't been a story of robotic triumph in space like this since Voyager II.
I am almost wordless on the comparison. I just do not see the two.

Let's talk...I think that's why I entitled it "Absurdly Personal...". The post is not really about either one. It's about me. Other than posing the question, "...what it means?" Perhaps it's about a world where we relate (certainly I relate) more readily to machines that nobly outdo themselves under adverse conditions than to a person who in her last years was on the path to redemption but couldn't make it.

Does that indicate a profound level of disconnect from other people? Again perhaps.
The rovers remind me of the drones in "Silent Running" (1971)...just going about their mission way past their lifetimes and now faced with possible termination. Though given their persistence I wouldn't be surprised if they pull through.

Tammy Faye who? Did she do something of value?
SadButTrue... In many ways I consider the rovers to be much more important than Voyager II. Though there is no doubt that the Voyager series probes were marvels of engineering, I think it's safe to say that they didn't encounter obstacles of near the complexity that the rovers have. Getting through the asteroid belt? Sure a feat of calculation (especially considering the time when it happened) but still just celestial mechanics. The rovers on the other hand had to be reprogrammed from Earth to deal with serious mechanical breakdowns, weather, cold and still delivered more data than all other probes combined.

Truly astounding.

CultureChost... Silent Running? :-) :-) Haven't thought about that film in years. As for Tammy Faye...

Did she do something of value?

What? You don't consider single-handedly supporting the profit margin of Revlon for two decades valuable? ;-)
I was slightly saddened by Tammy Faye's death. I think she did try to redeem herself in her later years.

But, yes, I am more saddened by the rovers.
She was a professional lab rat for the cosmetics industry?
But, yes, I am more saddened by the rovers.

Hopefully the controllers at JPL will be able to keep 'em going. I mean...they've kept the Spirit (the 'problem child') going through three Martian winters already.

She was a professional lab rat for the cosmetics industry?

CultureGhost... Sort of gives the saying, "These products not tested on animals," a whole new meaning, doesn't it?
Couldn't agree with you more, on both counts. If we could find a way to send Tammy Faye to Mars so she could be in that dust storm maybe it would keep her mascara from running. I do not have a single ounce of respect for her, her husband or any of those charlatans. They're evil. But those little rovers are good good good.
I would really find it incredibly hard to care less 'bout Tammy Faye's demise. Good for her that she seemed to realize how horrible - astoundingly horrific! - was her behavior whilst married to the knuckle head on TV, but, so what? Who'd she help to restore the balance after that?

Other than to hope she passed in as little pain as possible and with those she loved around her, all I've got to say is, "Buh bye."

The Rovers on the other hand... {sigh} It'd be wonderful if they can pull through this danger to their continued survival, but, as you say, they've already gone 10 TIMES their designed mission time, so I'm hoping they make it through, but either way, they and their controllers most definitely deserve a hearty "Thank You!!!" for the services they've performed over the last three years.
I know what you mean. I can't feel anything for Tammy. She may be dead, but I bet her eye lashes live on. You can't kill anything covered by that many layers of mascara.
Neil... If Tammy Faye were sent to Mars, I'd think that fine dust would scour the makeup from her face, and for perhaps the first time ever, we'd have seen the real Ms. Messner.

Michael... Here's to hoping. Though I'd never like to say that we should give up manned space exploration, the astounding things those instruments have done almost convince me that we can do with robots anything that we could do with humans.

PoP... "Night of the Lashes" :-)
I feel the same way, Kvatch. The better we do at the robotic stuff, the safer and more precise will we be able to construct our manned missions.

Or at least we can if we minimize the politicization once goals have been set, eh.
I can't say Tammy Faye was genuinely kind but she seemed to genuinely believe in her own kindness. Bottom line for me, she was a liar and a thief who preached lies and myths.
Okay, here's my pseudo-analysis. You cared about the two Mar's rovers because they enriched your life with knowledge and understanding. On the other hand, Tammy Faye represented dishonesty and corruption. She may have redeemed herself later on, but she will always represent a person who indulged in excess and abused people's trust.
Michael... That's a good point. You have to be more precise with robots, as there is less opportunity for innovative thinking.

Tree... Perhaps it was just that she was genuinely...genuine? Believed her own press, so to speak. Though, I do get the impression that she also attained some wisdom in her final years.

Kathy... Nicely put. I certainly like your analysis better than my original "profound disconnect from people," position. Then again, I am a frog, after all. How connected to Tammy Faye could I possibly feel? :-)
Sorry but I have more sadness and empathy for the dogs Michael fuckwit Vick killed, maimed and otherwise caused harm to than Tammy friggin Faye.

The only reason this smarmy broad is known to the public is because of the carpetbagging bs she and Jim Bakker pulled on their followers.

Its God's job to forgive her..not mine. Although it sounds like I am filled with animosity towards her, I am not. I really feel nothing for her or her passing.
All of this talk about Opportunity ans Spririt has reminded me of how excited I was when those things first started exploring Mars. It was thrilling to think about something from here being on another planet, moving around, exploring.... Besides, Mars has always been my favorite planet (next to Earth, I mean).

A friend of mine was talking about Tammy Faye last night and how she became a gay activist despite her objections to homosexuality. Isn't that what we all are supposed to strive for? Acceptance and tolerance? I have more respect for her now, I have to say.
Dusty... Can you really be a "carpetbagger" if you're from International Falls, Minnesnowta? I kid! But seriously, I think that many people share your ambivalence toward Messner. I certainly do.

Nvisiblewmn... I'm not sure that I would use the term "gay activist". Though, I know that the sympathetic portrayal the gay community gave her did a lot to change her attitudes. She often expressed her appreciation on that topic.

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