Does anyone else feel really let down by all the revelations about our old hero, Bill Cosby? Wow; seems surreal… But actually, it reinforces a point that I have often preached, but apparently not heeded. Heros aren’t those people… They aren’t! End of Story!
So you may ask, “What do you mean ‘those people?’” Well, I mean those people that you really don’t know – and I mean really know. We forget the power of the camera and the lure of the media. Now in this case – Cosby’s case – it’s perhaps a bit more understandable that I, we were fooled. I mean really. Isn’t he a hundred years old yet? I mean he’s been around forever. His humor, stories, characters… they have been a substantial part of the backdrop of my life. From his earliest comedy albums, to his Saturday morning cartoon characters, to the hilarity of his early parenting years, to his prime-time TV series, to his getting older monologues and more recently to his flat out getting old comedy specials. I mean, didn’t we really know him? Well, apparently not!
And I think that that is the whole point. Be careful what you think you “know.” I mean really know. Here’s what I “know.” You cannot love anything more than your own child. The most loyal form of love is that of a dog… That’s what I know for sure. Everything else I think I know is beyond empiricism and enters into the realm of faith… My mistake – and perhaps yours – is when we put to much “faith” into others.
So, having read and re-read that last paragraph, it would be easy to assume that I am a pessimist. Well, I’m not. I just firmly believe that we put way too much faith and far too quickly in media-driven personalities as if somehow being famous also make them somehow a higher form of humanity. My experience has shown me that all too often, removing the filters that most of us have to slog through on a daily basis can take a normal person and turn them into something that believes they no longer have to adhere to the normal precepts of life. What it is to be human. How it feels to have to live by the rules and find our way through all of this… I don’t begrudge anyone their fame, but I do begrudge them their superiority.
The list of the fallen is longer than I can list. Bill Cosby is just the most recent, and admittedly one of the more sad additions to that list that we created. He may have come along for the ride, but we supplied the horse and carriage. We made him believe he was somehow above it. That his personal desires and selfish appetites outweighed common decency. We are all so quick to give it up to those that we raise up on high without really “knowing.”
OK, so who is worthy? The answer is difficult and very personal. My list of heroes is not your list of heroes. My experience is not your experience. What has impacted me in my life the most is very personal to me and those who were there to cause or be part of that impact, they are my heroes. I remember times when my parents were heroic. My wife has been heroic. My children have been heroic. I hope and pray that somewhere in the rapidly lengthening shadows and not so subtly dimming twilight of my life that someone somewhere has seen me as heroic…
I have had friends that in moments of darkness and personal loss or pain, have stood in the gap and been heroic. I have seen common strangers at risk to their very life, inexplicably take actions to save someone from peril where they did not know that person and just could have looked on while tragedy happened. They are heroes. The teacher, who after decades of lackluster support and meager appreciation, continues getting up every day and doing again for the children that are not theirs…they are heroes. The soldier that “gave the last full measure of devotion;” They are heroes. These folks are real heroes. Not the athletes, the actors, the singers and those having their “Warhol Moment.”
No, we create them and we destroy them as we do constantly in our news cycles all the time. But real heroism happens down here with us… in the mud and the heat and the sweat of reality. This is where people meet people and touch each other in real ways that have real impact and make a difference. These heroes I salute!