Thursday, November 30, 2017

Who Are the Role Models These Days?

First, a comment or two about politics; but it's related to something that has been bothering me:  famous men behaving badly.  Yesterday, President Trump, who often complains about "fake news," tweeted out some inaccurate videos that claimed to show Muslims in acts of violence; he got the images from a far-right British organization known for spreading anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messages. The president never bothered to find out if the videos were fact-based (several were not) before he sent them to his many followers, much to the dismay of some members of congress, American diplomats, and even the Prime Minister of England.  As might be expected, Mr. Trump's press secretary defended his sending out false videos, because "the threat is real."  The threat of what, I wanted to ask:  as I see it, the threat is from a president who regularly sends out inflammatory messages, just to please his base and perpetuate his own biases.

I have never understood why Mr. Trump thinks rudeness is a good thing. He uses Twitter to name-call, stoke resentment and outrage, spread conspiracy theories, and insult anyone he personally dislikes.  I find this behavior very disconcerting, and very un-presidential.  In all the years I've been alive, I've never seen a president act this way, just like I've never seen a president curse in public (as Mr. Trump did when expressing his anger at NFL football players who kneel during the anthem) or accuse the media of being "the enemy of the American people," or say that news networks like CNN, and more recently NBC, deserve to be investigated. Third-world dictators talk this way, not American presidents.  And yet, his supporters love and defend this behavior, for reasons I truly don't understand.     

But before some of my readers claim I'm just another "lib" who hates the president, this isn't just about President Trump.  Yes, he's the most recent example of famous men getting in the news for all the wrong reasons.  But as I mentioned in my previous blog post, this is absolutely NOT partisan, and it's not entirely political. Consider all the stories over the past several months about various indiscretions and outrageous behaviors by men in both political parties, as well as some members of the media. The biggest names recently were Al Franken, John Conyers, Matt Lauer, Russell Simmons, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Joe Barton, and Roy Moore, but there were plenty of others. Some of them, sad to say, have had their defenders; but for the most part, large numbers of us have become frustrated at the wealthy and privileged men who feel they can do whatever they want and get away with it.

It all started me thinking about if there are public figures we can still look up to.  Many of us grew up admiring some of the folks we saw on TV-- I remember my parents admired Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, for example.  I personally admired Pope John 23rd for taking a strong stand against antisemitism in the church.  Perhaps you recall Justice Thurgood Marshall or Senator Jacob Javits, or pro athletes like Roberto Clemente and Ted Williams, all of whom devoted much time and energy to causes that helped the less fortunate.  And although I didn't agree with Ronald Reagan's politics, I thought his devotion to his wife Nancy (and hers to him) was commendable.

Okay fine, perhaps if there were 24/7 cable TV and social media back then, we might have learned that some of these folks had many more faults than we were told about.  But my point is that these days, we're at the other extreme: every day, we learn that yet another famous person or political leader isn't what we thought they were. So many movie and TV stars, athletes, talk show hosts, and political figures turn out to be crude, petty, greedy, and self-centered, or they're in the news for sexually harassing someone.  Now and then, there's a feel-good story (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seems to be one lately), but these past few months have given us example after example of high-profile folks who were brought down by their own bad behavior.

I'm generally an optimist, so I'd like to believe there are some famous people who really do take their marriage vows seriously, or don't claim to be religious while secretly breaking the majority of the ten commandments, or who really are compassionate and it's not just an act.  One of the things I've always admired about the rock group Rush was that success never spoiled them, and they remained family men, rather than getting caught up in the "rock star lifestyle."  So, I'd be interested in your suggestions for famous people you respect and admire, not because they're in your political party or you loved their latest hit movie; but because they have a history of trying to make the world a better place. I hope you can give me some names, as I'd like a little good news for a change!

1 comment:

  1. To answer your question, Dr. Halper, you need only look in the mirror.

    As a regular reader of your blog and a follower of your Facebook page, I have spent many hours poring over your erudite, poignant essays and prose. And at the risk of coming across to you as either cloyingly unctuous or uncomfortably adulatory, I could sit at your feet like a disciple because of your exceptional ability to stir the mind, yet calm the soul.

    Now, I'm an unapologetic adherent of individualism; consequently, I normally eschew the circumscribing labels inherent to identity politics. Having said that, I ask you: What other cognomen is there for a liberal feminist Jewish Bay Stater whose words never fail to influence and inspire the mind, heart, and soul of a white, right-leaning small-"l" libertarian fundamentalist Pentecostal preacher's kid from Tennessee?

    A role model, of course!

    May you and yours always know and enjoy every blessing from G-d, my friend.

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