When I was growing up, Pete Rose was my hero. I loved the way he played the game. He gave 100%, every game, every day. You can denigrate him for betting on baseball. It was wrong. You can say he was a Hot Dog. But Charlie Hustle earned his name. Likewise, I loved watching Jack Klugman’s Quincy. He, too, ran as fast as he could into whatever brick wall stood in his way. If I could distill their personalities into one word, it would be passion. It is passion that I have always hoped to impress upon my children. Find whatever you love and pursue it relentlessly.
However, today’s heroes can no longer be recognized for their passion, but rather their popularity. Seriously, can anybody tell me what Paris Hilton or any Kardashian, brings to society, other than manufactured drama? P.T. Barnum said, “Without promotion something terrible happens… Nothing.” Lady Gaga is the new Madonna, a master publicist with limited talent. Talent and hard work has given way to reality TV, American Idol and an instant gratification mentality. However, as alarming as this development is, there is another that is far more damning.
There is an Irish proverb that states, “If you want an audience, start a fight.” This type of publicity is best represented by the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Stephen King, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called Glenn Beck, “Satan’s mentally challenged younger brother.” Why? Let’s review a few quotes from Mr. Beck:
“When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.”
“Can you let your son’s body become the same temperature as your son’s head before you turn this into a political campaign against the president? Could you do that?” (This to Judea Pearl following his son Daniel’s beheading at the hands of Pakistani militants)
“Not a single time have we gotten a right from Congress or from the President. We get them from God.” (Really? Makes you wonder about the Second Amendment, doesn’t it?)
“The most used phrase in my administration if I were to be President would be, ‘What the hell you mean we’re out of missiles?’”
Mr. Limbaugh also has a litany of available quotes, but this is a blog and not a thesis. Ironically, the Information Age has sparked a new Dark Age. The endless availability of information has resulted in people seeking out only the information with which they agree. If you’re a conservative, you watch Fox. If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC. CNN, probably the most balanced of these three, is suffering in the ratings because of this phenomenon. Debate is non-existent. Compromise a sign of weakness.
Nowhere is this chasm in conversation more evident than on the issue of guns. Debate has been reduced to bumper sticker sound bites. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”
The NRA is the lobbying arm of gun manufacturers cloaked behind a bastardized interpretation of the Second Amendment and followed by a Kool-Aid drinking public. Fact and common sense have no place in the conversation anymore. Fact, the United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but owns 50% of the world’s guns. Look at this graphic from CNN. Does anything stand out as being apart from the norm?
And yet, we can’t get Washington to approach gun control because of the fear politicians have of the NRA. Where does it end for the NRA, .50 caliber sniper rifles to greet the mailman? Fissile material on eBay? This paranoid mentality instilled on their flock is scary. They believe that the Day of Confiscation is imminent, that the government is about to turn on them and subjugate them, that fascism and socialism are the new American order. For people so concerned about the Second Amendment, they show no faith in a government that created it. Every armory-owning yahoo is now a Constitutional scholar. However, as the NRA was their teacher, they reduce the Amendment to an unimpeachable, fortune cookie-like “right to bear arms,” selectively forgetting the “well regulated militia” part.
It is frustrating. Discussion dissolves into name calling and with the high ground (if not the moral high ground), the gun-owning majority dismisses a rational minority. Congress is deadlocked on every issue, mirroring a public paralyzed by institutionally fed convictions. We can be passionate about our convictions and open to discussion. We are better than this. Where are our heroes?