Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Where Have You Gone, Donny Most?
I've learned the hard way not to invest too much in heroes. Inevitably, they always disappoint.
It's an impulse of childhood, I suppose, to take regular people, apply a singular lack of perspective and then impose on them an impossible-to-maintain overlay of whatever virtue you prize most--honesty, integrity, strength, charisma, the ability to eat a whole live puppy, etc. Projecting forward then, it's a typical part of the maturing process when we see heroes for what they are: regular people who sometimes lie or cheat or insist on cooking the puppies before they eat them. The fantasy world of a child's lack of perspective is destroyed and replaced by the stark reality where people are, I think we can all agree, assholes.
And it's very hard to hero-worship an asshole.
I learned my lesson with Willie Aames. Eight is Enough. Charles in Charge. Tapped Heather Thomas in Zapped! White man with an Afro. And he wasn't even Jewish! Perfection as far as I was concerned.
I know, you're thinking: why venerate the second banana? Why not worship Scott Baio himself, the Lead Dog in this particular sad, sad pack?
It's a strong argument, but the decider for me was that Willie Aames did not carry the burden of the Chachi taint. That will forever haunt Mr. Baio while Willie Aames I could love unconditionally.
You dress like your hero, you talk like your hero, you pay lots of money to perm your hair so you can have a white-boy 'fro like your hero...
And then one day you're flipping channels and there he is, Willie Aames, talking to someone. Yes! Let the Aames comeback begin!
It's a one-on-one interview and they're talking and they're talking about... Jesus? Oh my God, Willie Aames is talking about Jesus! What's this now? Given up drugs and whores and booze? Now pimping his new project, the Christian kids' show "Bible Man"?
It sounds innocuous, but remember, I grew up to be a Democrat. We believe in nothing. We only approve of children's television if it is publicly funded and somehow manages to promote both literacy and communist homosexuality. Further, we hate all things to do with Christianity.
That day, Willie Aames was dead to me. I finally was able to leave childhood fully behind and embrace life completely as the America-hating baby-killing Christ-hater I've been told I should be. Thank you, New York Times.
As adults, we adopt heroes with a little more circumspection, a little more personal reserve and a lot more cynical flexibility. We expect our ballplayers to use steroids and our celebrities to be secretly gay Scientologits and our political leaders to be lying, corrupt, ideologically-shallow reeds in the wind of public opinion.
There is one person left in this world, however, for whom I retroactively reserve a little bit of that childish perspective-free veneration. Of course I'm talking about my man, Bill Clinton.
Clinton doesn't care about public opinion. If he cared about what people thought and spent all his time figuring out the political calculus of his actions, would he have let a tubby girl half his age blow him in his office while president? No, I think not.
Clinton was a full-grown adult during Watergate. He knew it wasn't the crime but the cover-up that gets you. But he didn't care. He lied about his oral-sexcapades anyway. Because he has integrity. He's his own man.
And just this week, even though Connecticut polls are showing voter rejection of Joe Lieberman because of his support for the Iraq war, Bill Clinton doesn't care. Public opinion might be swaying this way and that, but our Bill supports Joe. Why? Because he knows that the principle is what's important.
The principle here? Incumbency. Voters retain incumbents for Congress at rates exceeding 90%. So even though he might disagree with Joe on major issues, Bill Clinton knows Joe deserves to keep his job for the express and simple reason that it is his job.
You have to admire contrarian stands for the sake of an ideal. For this--for what he believes in--Bill Clinton has pulled out all the stops and come to Connecticut. He brings to this fight his full répertoire of personal and political skills. I don't want to scare Ned Lamont, but I've heard he's even brought his penis with him.
That's the kind of hero a grown-up can get behind. I'm not even sure Bible Man has a penis.
This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.0