It’s happened again. A fallen hero is in the news. Olympic “Blade Runner”, Oscar Pristorius stands accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend, lawyer/model Reeva Steenkamp. People are shocked; they are in a state of disbelief.
I live in South Central Pennsylvania, where Penn State football is almost the regional religion. Last year, the support for Joe Paterno began with the force of a wildfire and it continues to this day. People “KNEW Joe Pa”. Granted, they had never actually met or had any type of personal contact with the late coach, but they “KNEW and LOVED” the man. What did he know? I don’t know, because he was a stranger to me.
Lance Armstrong was a national hero for years, all the while lying about doping and actually threatening legal action against his accusers. John Edwards was by all accounts a decent family man. He also just happened to have fathered a child with his mistress while his now deceased wife was undergoing cancer treatments.
We all feel like we KNOW these famous athletes, actors, singers, religious leaders and politicians. We step to their defense if stand accused of a crime or a dramatic slip, ignoring any and all evidence that leans toward their guilt.
And yet……… How many times have we been shocked by something a close friend has done? How many people do we know whose marriage has fallen victim to betrayal? If people who we actually do know, actually do interact with, can sometimes do something we find totally out of character, then why do we feel as if we intimately KNOW what a total stranger will or will not do or be capable of?
Maybe we long for someone who is beyond reproach. Maybe we are projecting what we wish these mortals were, instead of understanding that they are human beings with human failings; human beings with sometimes superhuman talents and abilities, but humans all the same. Sometimes they aren’t very heroic at all. Maybe instead of trying to create a hero in a total stranger, we should strive to BE more of what we are searching for.