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I lived a confused life.

  • It might be that I’m getting old.
  • It might be that I’m an entitled white male.
  • It might be that the Trump world we currently inhabit is spinning off provincial and national despots faster than the acceleration in Elon Musk’s Tesla car or  SpaceX rocket.
  • It might be the minute concentrations of toxic chemicals in the water I quaff in quantity during my runs.
  • It might be my boyish enthusiasm simply overwhelms my good sense.
  • It might be that I switched years back from briefs to boxers.

Or…. It might be that through the internet, human understanding and relations are evolving so rapidly that none of us can live with any certainty of what is appropriate for more than 15 minutes.

I seek out and bow before skilled mentors and inspirational folks that guide me forward towards the “better”. Musicians, athletes, politicians, philosophers, mothers.

I possess a pedestal-in-waiting for the human Wonders of the World.

A fairly recent phenomenon has us (mostly appropriately) tearing down the reputations and glories of people and monuments that we’ve held in high repute for eons.

Columbus NOT

I grew up believing (based on my school teachers’ lessons) that Christopher Columbus was a pioneering hero, Lance Armstrong was a cycling god, Bill Cosby was a comedy legend. The names add up: Michael Jackson, Ben Johnson, Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson, countless politicians and entertainers of all stripes, and on and on.

All fallen angels (though Tiger’s wings have recovered somewhat lately). We see our world through the eyes of today and the knowledge that informs what is good for all.

This week has added a new demon to the pile: Kate Smith, the singer who famously belted out God Bless America to Philadelphia sports’ fans in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Discovered to have sung songs with racist lyrics decades earlier, Smith’s reputation has posthumously crashed like a Boeing 737 Max airplane. Statues and accolades are melting away like Confederate army memorabilia.

Kate Smith syatue

History viewed in retrospect is a harsh judge.

There are two schools of thought on the concept of hero worship:

1. The personal lives and peccadilloes of high achievers remain separate from the achievements themselves. The greatness of the act supersedes the nasty underbelly of the individual. For most of my life, this has been convenient and I’ve subscribed to this notion.

2. Greatness of achievement and quality of character are inextricably entangled. The eminence of the act must be equally matched by the essence of the person themselves.

Now, because life is complicated and nuanced, a third option has occupied my mind space and is my current default.

Like everything else going, this too could change over time.

Here’s my thinking.

3. There are some inherent evils that are pretty much non-disputable, regardless of where you come along in history and the mores of the time.

If you kill, rape or abuse others… common sense, and every religious text has some pretty clear guidelines that forbid inhumanity to humanity and other life forms.

So, when any achievement is glorified or assisted by the placing of one’s thumb or boot-print on another, how can we praise such an accomplishment?

Crossing an unknown dark ocean despite the fears and the secrets it held was an amazing attainment by Columbus and other explorers… but what they did to the peoples they encountered at landfall was barbarously cruel and inexcusable.

How can I celebrate the performance of any politician who (knowingly) advocated that young Aboriginal children be removed from their parents and families and whisked off to residential schools for years?

While the songs that Kate Smith sang (and honestly, Smith was NOT a great singer) are abhorrent in today’s world, I don’t believe that she was a bad person who wished to hurt others… merely a product of the life into which she was born.

We’ll all be judged tomorrow for our beliefs of today. Heaven help us.

Damn… I started out really wanting this post to be light and humorous. MAJOR FAIL! No monuments for me …

I guess that the intermingling of my confusions and my desire to find appropriate mentors dodged its way past my humerus.

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Cosby’s Evil Fingers