It surprises me how many times I have a blog post all ready to go and I check out one of my favorite sites and find someone else has just written about the same subject. This wouldn’t be unusual if it was referring to a news story, but often it’s not. In the most recent case, I was ready to write about heroes and how I’ve learned to accept them as flawed. Elyse, on Skepchick, wrote it first though, in the post “Heroes We Deserve.”
One of the things that I’ve come to realize (and about time, since my life is more than half over) is that people we admire don’t have to be perfect. Which is a good thing, since of course no one is perfect or even close. We don’t expect our family and friends to be perfect, and we damn well know we aren’t perfect, and just because someone is in the public eye doesn’t automatically mean they receive a mantle of infallibility.
I used to be so disappointed when I found out one of the well-known people I liked had made a mistake. Now I am much more likely to say, “Look at the stupid thing So-and-So said,” and weigh it against his or her body of work. Of course sometimes someone will say something that is unforgivable (if they go on a racist rant, for instance) or the weight of errors they make is so overwhelming that it buries the good that they’ve done.
One of the first big reality checks I had was with Bill Clinton. I campaigned for him and was excited when he won the presidency. I even, believe it or not, thought at first that he didn’t have sex with that woman. I know, I was very naive. I was not so much disappointed about the sex but about how he lied about it. Lying or refusing to admit you’ve made a mistake always makes things worse. A sincere apology, not one of those “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” with a subtext of “But I’m not sorry I did it” types, goes a long way in restoring trust.
I’ve finally learned not to put people on a pedestal. Many of the famous or semi-famous people I most admire are scientists, writers, musicians and activists. I admire them for their intelligence, humor, compassion, and for being really good at what they do. And now, when they do something less than admirable, I treat them like I would a friend. I roll my eyes and quote Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”