Monday, September 10, 2007

Admiring Nowak

We're still shaking our heads over Buzz Aldrin's comments about Lisa Nowak.

Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon (and a retired Air Force Brigadier General) says that disgraced former astronaut Lisa Nowak is someone to be "admired"--but not excused--for her "resolve" in confronting a romantic rival.

According to the AP, General Aldrin's comments were made on Time magazine's website:

"Astronauts are not superhuman. They lead ordinary lives and have varied personalities," Aldrin said.


"I think Nowak should be admired for traveling across the country at night and not getting out of her car to put in gas or go to the restroom. It is not excusable, but it is understandable for an achiever to fall into a trap."

Wow. Captain Nowak was able to negotiate her way from Houston to Orlando (just like millions of other motorists) and she did it while wearing an astronaut diaper. What discipline. What concentration. What a stinky car that must have been at the end of her journey.

If that's an accomplishment to be applauded by the masses, God help us. Our standards for public admiration have (apparently) reached a new low.

General Aldrin failed to mention that Nowak had a few "companions" on her trip to Orlando, various implements (including a hammer) that were aimed at harming her romantic rival, Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman. According to Florida prosecutors, Captain Nowak had a little more in mind than simply confronting a rival. That's why she's facing felony charges of assault and attempted kidnapping, to name a few.

As a former astronaut, it's understandable that General Aldrin would look for some redeeming features in Lisa Nowak's little escapade. And certainly, Captain Nowak led an exemplary life until she decided to have an extra-marital affair (with fellow astronaut Bill Oefelein) and became enraged when her lover dumped her for a younger woman. That's what prompted that marathon drive to Orlando.

Never mind that she had a husband and three children back in Houston. Never mind that she was--and is--a senior officer in the United States Navy, which demands only the highest standards of conduct from individuals at her rank. And never mind that she parlayed her training as a naval aviator into a position as an astronaut--a job sought by thousands of our best and brightest, but afforded to only a few. And, having reached that lofty position, Lisa Nowak was willing to throw it all away over an adulterous relationship. There is nothing admirable about the course Captain Nowak embarked on six months ago, regardless of past achievements.

We will agree with General Aldrin's assertion that astronauts are not superhuman. They deal with the same problems that many of us face. By his own admission, Aldrin struggled with alcohol and depression after returning from the moon, but eventually overcame those demons. Likewise, Lisa Nowak is hardly beyond redemption. After dealing with the criminal charges she now faces--and the personal issues that triggered the entire, sorry episode--Captain Nowak can move on to a healthy, productive life.

But part of that healing process means confronting her current problems head-on. And, in that regard, the jury on Captain Nowak is still out. In recent weeks her attorneys have complained (successfully) about the inconvenience of a court-ordered monitoring bracelet, and announced plans for a "temporary insanity" defense. These tactics suggest a defendant who's more concerned about avoiding unpleasant consequences, rather than assuming full responsibility for her actions.

Taking a step in that direction--however difficult--would be admirable, indeed.


Frank said...

Astronauts are a very tight knit group. Many of them have pledged to always be there to help the others. They take this pledge very seriously and I think Buzz was trying to do his best with what he had to work with.

Spook86 said...

Well, in the Nowak case, he doesn't have much to work with. As a man of deep religious convictions, Brig Gen Aldrin might be better off suggesting that Capt Nowak find a spiritual anchor, and take it from there.

gr8scott said...

ba da ba da ba da ba da...

(Picture my right index finger flapping my lips as I mutter a sound)

I can't believe he said that!

Frank said...

I went to the original article and you are right Spook86...,9171,1659730,00.html
It was a Ten Questions article that he had time to think about and respond. By his remarks I thought he was ambushed by a reporter who caught him off guard. It pays to read the source article before commenting :(