11/17/07 — Real respect: Fame doesn’t necessarily justify a pedestal

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Real respect: Fame doesn’t necessarily justify a pedestal

You have heard the admonition not to “worship false idols,” right?

Well, if there ever was a week of news to support that advice, it was this past one.

During those seven days, this nation watched the beginning of the O.J. Simpson trial — take two, and the indictment of professional baseball player Barry Bonds.

Simpson is being charged in connection with an alleged armed robbery, while Bonds is answering for months of speculation that he lied to a federal grand jury when he flatly denied that he knowingly took steroids.

Add to that the latest evidence that Britney Spears has no business anywhere near a child, and the celebrity rehab revolving doors, and you have enough scandal to fill two or three tabloids.

But the purient nature of the news is not the issue here — and it shouldn’t be the focus of efforts to try to make this world a better place either.

What this week’s events should hammer home is that the celebrity worship that has dominated American culture for decades is out of control and needs to be stopped.

Instead of allowing children to wear jackets touting the numbers of professional ballplayers, why not tell them stories about men and women who have changed the world either through innovation, integrity, courage or determination to fight for what’s right?

Why not put our Silver Star and Medal of Honor winners on a pedestal instead of a man who now probably will forever leave a tarnish on the baseball homerun record because of his refusal to deal with the steroids issue openly and honestly?

Let’s teach our children that the measure of a man is indeed his honor, courage and character, not the number of yards he has run on a field or the number of passes he has caught.

Why not give children real heroes to celebrate instead of false idols?

There will still be room for sports heroes — and there are quite a few of those. But as we honor athletic accomplishment, let’s also look for role models, for those who have excelled not just on the court, field or diamond.

Let’s talk up those whose accomplishments have changed the world, rather than extolling the virtues of those who set records that could soon be broken or who have performed well on stage, but not as citizens of the world.

Celebrities and athletes are not automatically role models. They, like everyone else, earn that title when they do something extraordinary as human beings. Then, and only then, should they be models for our children and grandchildren.

The shift won’t come easy — if it ever does — but it could be the answer to making sure the nation’s young people really get what it means to be a hero or a heroine — and encouraging them to strive to become one themselves.

Published in Editorials on November 17, 2007 11:32 PM