In part, Seth said:
Armstrong could have taught the world about science. He could have done work that would have won him a Nobel Peace Prize. He could have had a huge impact on his country and the world. Instead, he mostly disappeared.
I want to offer a different perspective about Neil Armstrong. Sure, his role as spokesperson was important, but it was overshadowed by two other roles he played.
First, he was a surrogate for (a) NASA and (b) the entire human race. As a surrogate for NASA, he stood for all the tens of thousands of people who were responsible for putting the first human on the Moon. As a surrogate for the entire human race, he stood for all of us ("one giant leap for mankind.") For a surrogate, you want Everyman...someone ordinary, almost colorless. (Long before Apollo, a science fiction writer published a story in which the first man on the moon was named Armstrong. Amazing prediction? Not at all...the author later explained that he had chosen the name to resonate with "Jack Armstrong, the all-American man" -- because he reasoned that the first guy to step on the Moon would be a generic "all-American man.")
The second of Neil Armstrong's roles was the guy who accomplished the Greatest Thing Ever. After you've been the first person in history to step on the Moon, ANYTHING else you do is an anticlimax. Anything else you do, you're "trading on your fame for a lesser cause," or "making a fool of yourself," or "engaging in a pathetic attempt to gain additional glory." Anything else you do trivializes the accomplishment of the Moon landing. Just imagine the attacks if Armstrong endorsed a liberal or conservative cause or agenda.
Remember, Armstrong is a surrogate for everyone on Earth. He shouldn't be taking sides. He belongs to history; as a name and a symbol, he'll last as long as the Human race does. You don't expect the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China to speak for particular causes; you expect them to sit silently and be admired by posterity. Armstrong's in the same league.
No, once you've been the first person in history to step on the Moon, the only gracious thing to do is drop out of the public eye, retire to your farm, and live out your ordinary life as an ordinary guy.
The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.
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