Wrong Heroes and Role Models

The original Roy Rodgers, a true Icon

Originally published
in the Tigard Times
November 1995

Half of America seems to be in mourning because rock and roll guitarist Jerry Garcia died. It's like he was a guru. Am I missing something here? Wasn't Garcia a leftover from the 60's? Didn't he die in a drug treatment center in Sn Francisco? Isn't he a pathetic figure who made it into middle age and was still a heroin addict?

Hero or role model? Garcia was neither and I would hesitate to counsel with a 'guru' who hadn't solved his own problems. Capable musician? Sure! And I have the same problem with another rock and roll singer, Michael Jackson.

I've heard Mr. Jackson described as an icon. I don't think so. I have also listened to him on national TV telling Diane Sawyer that he had invited little boys for “sleep-overs.” Hey, the guy is in his thirties, and he's still involved in an identity crises about his race. He doesn't know if he wants to be black or white. I know what people would say about me if I slept with little boys, and I know what the law says about it too.

A talented musician and dancer? Sure! Hero or icon? Jackson is neither. I don't want my kids emulating him.

The next example is “Iron Mike Tyson.” “One of the greatest boxers who ever lived.” the quotes are from his promoter, Don King. Mike Tyson is really a convicted rapist, fresh from the Indiana state prison. He seems to feel no remorse for what he did to his victim. Is he hero or role model? Tyson is neither! I remember when the only thing that came to mind when the word “Tyson” was spoken, was a brand of chicken.

I find myself generally disappointed in the class of people we worship as heroes. It's how far a guy can hit a baseball, or how far he can throw a football, or how many times he can throw a basketball through a little round hoop. Is that what's important to the world? A local television station honors the high school athlete of the month. Sports are great, but lets honor our scholars too. How about adding the best high school scholar of the month?

What moves this country is not athletes, never happy with the money they are paid. It's the kids who study an extra half-hour and work a little harder on their grades. I thrilled as I watched the Jeopardy TV shows that featured college students, and I marvel at how smart our kid can be. I caught myself thanking God that we have young folks like that. They are America's future. They are the thinkers, the ones with new ideas to lead America into the next century

If I have a choice between a kid who can figure out a complicated math formula or a kid who can throw a football from one end of the field to the other, I'll vote for the scholar, and the country will be better for it. Yes, I long for a more simple time when an icon was the Virgin Mary or maybe Mother Teresa, and our heroes were Hopalong Cassidy and Gene and Roy!!

Don DuPay