Friday, July 3, 2009
Independence Day! A time to celebrate and show gratitude to those who made America great: our founding fathers and heroes.
I’m not cloudy on this, but I think too many Americans are. I don’t think many people understand or recognize the difference between a hero, a celebrity and an idol. I don’t really fault anyone. We simply don’t see as much heroism as we see celebrity.
During these past few days, we’ve lost several celebrities and one idol. To be a celebrity or an idol required that OTHERS see you in a special way. It doesn’t require heroics. It merely requires that you do something that appeals to someone else. Today, the news has been exclusively about Sarah Palin and Michael Jackson, a celebrity and an idol. A celebrity is a well-known person who is celebrated by others. An idol is a well known person to whom passionate devotion is shown. These people may or may not be role models. They may or may not be persons noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, or persons who have risked or sacrificed his or her life or serenity. They may or may not be heroes.
Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Ted Bundy, Jim Baker, Frank and Jesse, Elvis. All celebrities. None heroes.
Most celebrities and idols don’t last very long (unless they are captured on film), and the strangest of circumstances can produce them. I remember “the NEW girl” at Jefferson Davis High School. She was as pretty as 100 other girls in that school of 2400. But she arrived on a “slow news day.” We had nothing to talk about that day, so everyone began buzzing about “the NEW girl!” Students and teachers alike were finding excuses to get out of class to walk by the door of her current classroom to look at her. When she walked into the lunchroom, kids climbed up on tables to get a good look at her. It was insane! She withdrew from school after only a few days with us. I’m hoping she got to her new school on a day when there was a huge fight or a fire in the restroom and she could get in under their radar.
I went to a website that listed American heroes, and I had to disagree with most of the choices. All of the choices were excellent role models, but few had sacrificed anything for liberties or rights or justice or freedom or others. I believe a child that says “NO” to drugs or sex or gangs or other peer pressures is more of a hero than Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. I know my father is more of a hero than Paul Newman or Michael Jordan. I do not mean that these people are not good role models, are not influential, or have no following of fans. I’m just not sure that they sacrificed at the altar of courage and nobility.
Our young people should want to emulate Pat Tillman instead of Dennis Rodman. They should admire Ronald Reagan more than Justin Timberlake. They should appreciate Patrick Henry’s words more than Michael Jackson’s moves.
Yes. I loved to watch Michael move. Yes. I’ve been fascinated by Sarah Palin’s charisma and moxey. But charisma and the ability to be a good public speaker or to buy prime time on television does not make a hero.
On this Independence Day, teach your children about the people who gave us our independence. Teach them about the courage of George Washington, the sacrifice of Davy Crockett, the turmoil of brother against brother, the lives lost on battlefields and the hard decisions that informed leaders must make. Teach them about the Constitution. Teach them that THEY rule this country. The Congress should merely do what we want them to do. Teach them to speak up with their votes and their involvement in America, so that we can remain a democracy.
You may want to introduce them to Yankee Doodle Dandy, my 4th of July annual treat, or take them to a Tea Party! Have a good, safe holiday!