There’s something about humans that makes us need to have people to look up to and strive towards. It makes sense. From when we’re young through our entire lives we are looking for people that can show us the way. Looking for behaviors to pattern and actions to emulate. Life is confusing and trying to find a balance between what we want/need is difficult. It makes sense that we look to others to learn how to find out how to move through the murky muck we call existence.
The thing is though that there has to be a time where we stop emulating and start acting on our own.
There has to come a time when we find our own path.
There’s a weird thing about Americans in particular where we raise people we’ve never met and know only through the fractured lens of fame up to these pedestals made of wet clay. There’s become a sort of disturbing ouroboros mentality towards the people we put on these pedestals. We raise them up only to knock them down and then potentially lift them up again.
We want admire and idolize these people so much that we come to hate them for what we seem to think we can never have/never be and so we find every reason we can to bring them down to our level.
The thing about idols though, about the people we treat as heroes, is that they’re no different than us. They’re messed up, screwed up, flawed and faulted people who are often doing the best that they can. Just like us.
We’re all screw ups, most of us just don’t have to have the lens of fame on every last thing we do.
Once upon a time our idols were the people we wish we could aspire to be because they showed skill, talent, grace, wisdom, or some other property/ies that made us feel as if those were things we sought but could never attain. Now our idols are the rich, the famous, the charismatic, and the beautiful. So many of us are more interested in those temporary and fleeting attributes and we build those people up higher and higher so that we can take more glee when they inevitably do something all too human and come crashing down.
We don’t even want idols anymore, we want gods.
And then we want to kill them.
There’s been much said over the years about HP Lovecraft and his notorious bigotry and racism, as if these are suddenly new personality traits that were hidden all these years. Here’s the thing, Lovecraft, along with being an unfortunate product of his times – white, cis, male, protestant fearful of anyone that didn’t look like him and assuming everyone was ‘coming to take over’ (lord what an ancient viewpoint, HA!) – and a product of his upbringing – a sickly sheltered kid that lived in books and letters. This isn’t meant to be a handful of forgiveness thrown like sand over vomit. Lovecraft had a whole heaping helping of ugliness to him. But see, here’s the thing – no one told us we had to idolize him. Nor that we had to even like his writing. He’s a writer. A man. It’s up to us to decide what value his writing and legacy have. I can’t argue against not wanting him as the standard bearer for a full genre of fiction or as the symbol for an award when those should embrace ALL and he clearly didn’t do that himself.
But man, he never asked for any of that.
He was a dude that wrote stories and books.
He had an incredibly imaginative mind, had a beautiful way with language, and helped to create a new type of genre fiction.
That doesn’t mean we need to idolize him though.
He was a guy with flaws.
Love his writing or hate it, we have no right to judge the man when none of us has ever met him. If we want to analyze him and how his views colored his writings, then have at it. If you want to turn your nose up at someone whose views disgust you and possibly would have held you in contempt, then by all means do it.
Just don’t convince yourself that a day couldn’t come where all of your own sins can be dug up and jangled about for the world to judge.
We want to create these idols, these human deities, but we don’t want to take into consideration that many of these people never asked for this. They’re just doing what they do and we’re projecting.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s those sorta paper celebrities that fool their way into stardom but yeesh do they fall hard when people finally get bored.
Lovecraft is the easiest person to pull out as an example but truly there are oceans of them out there. When we finally lose Stephen King, he’ll be lambasted for his addiction issues. He’ll be called to the carpet or that notorious IT scene. Every last sin, and Tweet, and whatever else people can find will be exhumed so we can knock him down and prove that see, he wasn’t so special after all? HMPH!
And on and on and on.
There’s a point where, until it comes to abuses of people and criminal exploits that cause deep harm, we’re maybe better of not knowing.
Why do we need to know?
Why do we need them to be perfect and why do we do everything we can to make them less than even we are?
Why do we do it?
Because we’re nuts and we have to have things to obsess over and analyze.
It’s just how we are.
We need these distractions from ourselves or we’ll turn that gaze inward and either have to try to repair inner damage or just tear ourselves down and no one wants to do that.
Well, they shouldn’t want to do that.
I strongly suggest against that.
Pick a form of art, a type of fame, or any sort of thing that makes a person stand out from the rest and if you give them more than a cursory look you’ll find blood on their hands. You’ll find mistakes, or lies, or any number of other sins because that’s what we’re all made up of – mistakes.
All we can try to do is to grow, evolve, and do better.
Who are we to dig into people’s lives to find their embarrassments and sins?
Who gave us the right to do that?
For sure we need to think long and hard if we want to support people who had ugly hearts and minds, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate their art.
Art and artist are not the same.
Oceans of a-holes have created art that moves not just the heart but the culture.
But if you can’t jibe with that then don’t.
That’s a right we all have.
You have to decide what you can handle.
No one else.
But that goes too for someone who DOES like the art (and maybe even the artist) you don’t agree with.
It’s their right too.
We are complicated creatures and mores, views, standards, and what is and isn’t acceptable change with the culture.
What we think is fine now will some day be proven to have been utterly wrong.
That’s just how it is.
So maybe we all need to step off of our soapboxes for a moment and accept that some people lived their lives in ways that we disagree with but that doesn’t make them demons.
It just makes them flawed.
I have said it before and will keep saying it – if we’re gonna go around judging everyone out there for the things they did in the past then you sure as heck better take in the alchemy of what it was to live in those times. Someone can still be ignorant and stupid and racist and bigoted and misogynistic and on and on but you sure better weigh those sins against the backdrop of the era, the person’s life, and what the world looked like. That doesn’t forgive these sins but at least gives them a context and doesn’t just pick and choose things in a vacuum.
I said what I said.
And there you have it, back to where we started. All of us, each one of us, screwed up and doing the best we can. Villains to some folks, heroes to others, and to ourselves utter messes that we hope will figure their stuff out some day.
There are a lot of people held up as idols that we disagree with and who turn our stomachs.
But can we stop pointing our fingers, and stamping our feet, and screaming about ‘canceling’ every darn person we disagree with.
And while we’re at it let’s stop making every person with a modicum of skill, talent, or a mix of that alchemy that sets them apart from others into living gods so we don’t feel the need to get our ires up and freak out about them.
We don’t have to agree with everything, or everyone, and we can vocalize it, but unless we’re willing to have someone do the same thing to us some day then we should maybe consider the repercussions and ramifications of our personal grudges because we’re dealing with real people here and real lives.
We’re all just people, doing our best, screwing up, being messy as heck and maybe we should invest more money into walking our paths and sharing some joy with others and not in tearing folks down but what do I know?
You do you.
But if you do it, own it, as sinner and saint.
And when you own it…it’s up to you what you do with it.
Me, I just don’t have the time to invest into tracking down skeletons in closets, and I don’t want to screw with people’s lives. Even if they’re the aforementioned a-holes. I’ll leave that to the social media academics.