The concept of the role model has taken a significant beating. Once upon a time, positive role models included athletes, policemen, movie stars, our political and religious leaders, and even our mothers and fathers. In many ways those concepts have stayed much the same. It is just that most of those icons can hardly be considered positive any more, by any stretch of the imagination.
Athletes? The highest profile athletes are in that exalted position due to their arrest records. Wife beating. Drug dealing. Drug usage. Dog execution. And that is not to mention their egotistical, narcissistic, strip-club hanging, gangsta-dressing, tough-guy-acting, braggadocio-heavy lifestyles. Yet, these people are paid million of dollars to act like hoodlums and more often than not are bailed out by their teams and expensive lawyers, while we are encouraged by the marketing campaigns of major corporations (who also pay athletes millions of dollars) to treat these thugs like heroes.
Policemen? How many times can you watch the video of four or five uniformed policemen beating on a handcuffed man before you see that there are bad policemen? How many off-duty shootings of innocent people does it take? How many stories like the Downtown LA gang unit corruption does it take before you stop implicitly trusting policemen? Yet policemen are still put forth as tough guys beyond the law in books, movies, and even by the same news shows that sensationalize the bad cops, and they have come to epitomize personal power, even though the most legal power most of them will ever wield comes from a radar gun and a ticket book.
Movie stars and celebrities? You have to be kidding me. Let’s just look at a few names. Paris Hilton the attractive imbecile. Madonna the flaky nude. Britney Spears the slovenly singer. Mel Gibson the racist. Rap stars? Media-hyped hoodlums that have usurped black culture. This list could go on forever. But, like the athletes, they make a lot of money. They throw their weight around. They are bad, dude, bad to the bone. And yet we keep these people in the limelight for our youth to emulate.
Our leaders? Don’t get me started. George Bush, the megalomaniac? Catholic cardinals, the priestly pedophiles? Just do a Google search on the words “political scandal.” You will get over 2.5 million hits. And it is getting difficult to count the number of religious leaders that rail against prostitutes and gays on Sunday morning and then consort very closely indeed with prostitutes and, yes, even gay prostitutes during the rest of the week. Both prostitutes and gays, by the way, deserve much better company. But these lying leaders are rich, and they are powerful, and therefore they are promoted as role models, despite their duplicity.
And I guess that is what it comes down to in our society. What the American public persona values is money and power, period. As long as you have money or power, or both, it is no longer important what sort of person you are or how many laws you had to break, or how many people you had to hurt, to get your money and power. That is simply disgusting.
Are there good cops? You bet there are. About 100 to one. They just don’t get any media coverage. Are there athletes that don’t feel that they have to act like gangsters? Maybe, somewhere, but they appear to be few and far between. Are there top-level politicians and religious leaders that don’t have major flaws? If there are, they are hiding pretty well.
So what is the answer? Well, we could go back to using Mom and Dad as role models. They may not be rich and powerful, but they have gotten us this far. Further, we could stop paying bad little boys that play pointless games millions of dollars to do it. Even further, we could elect people to public office who care about the country and the voters more than they care about themselves and the corporations that have purchased them. That would make a good start at a solution. And maybe somewhere along the line, we could pay the teachers of our children as much as we pay mediocre major league shortstops. That would signal that we have come a long, long way back to real reality.