What Do We Value
Some Eastern cultures revere the elderly to the point of ancestor worship. In our society, once they have outlived their usefulness, the elderly are often relegated to retirement communities or nursing homes. The unborn are no better off than the aged. Unwanted babies are aborted and disposed of like garbage. Animals are also not immune to our “throw away” mentality. Shelter employees hear myriad complaints as unwanted pets are dumped at shelters: “He’s too big, too old, he ate my shoes….”
So what do we value? Celebrities, actors, celluloid heroes, of course! A little nip, a tuck, and some Botox create “the look”. An army of personal chef’s, trainers, make-up artists and stylists perfect “the look”. They memorize their lines, and perform on cue. Is this the stuff of heroes? I think not.
Recently, I watched an Animal Planet special called “Hounds of Glory” .The program followed military dog handlers and their military ward dogs (MWDs) into combat in Afghanistan. It was apparent how much our military personnel have in common with their K9s. Both are brave, devoted, intelligent, and loyal until death. I loved watching the skill of the handlers, the talent of the K9s, and the bond between dog and handler. I was ill prepared, however, for the stark realities of combat. Although the gore was edited out, I saw a German Shepherd killed by a grenade, and his devastated handler dealing with the aftermath. I saw an Airman on patrol. I saw the explosion when he stepped on an IED. I saw medics whisk him away. I wondered if he’d survive. He did. Surgeons saved his leg, but he lost several fingers.
When the Airman returned to the states, they showed his homecoming reception. They did not roll him down the Red Carpet in his wheelchair; they rolled him off an elevator. He was not thronged by hordes of paparazzi. People did not swoon over him, intoxicated by his very proximity. He was greeted by a small group of friends and family in a quiet, non-descript ceremony. The closest thing to paparazzi was the film crew recording the event for the documentary.
Real heroes don’t seek fame, fortune, glory, or adulation. They face death because it is their duty. They don’t parade around on stage preening, and basking in the limelight and feeding their insatiable egos. Celebrities are only play-acting when they work. The fear they emote is conjured up, the danger they face is imaginary, the product of a writer’s imagination and a special effects director’s skill. Then they congratulate themselves on a job well done with hedonistic self-indulgence. This is a far cry from a boy and his dog dodging enemy fire in the heat of a hostile desert a half a world away.
In our society everything is disposable. Our elderly, the unborn, our pets, and yes, even our used up military personnel who are left to languish in under funded VA hospitals. Largely ignored, they are imploding from untreated psychological wounds suffered in combat and are committing suicide at a rate of two per day. Never mind those appalling statistics, the Oscars are on TV!
Make no mistake. I am not maligning the celebrities who are shrewd enough to parlay their good fortune into ever expanding wealth and influence. I AM, however, directing my ire at the ignorant hordes that worship plastic people at the altar of pop culture. The dissonance between what is worthy of attention and what we actually bestow our adulation upon is as glaring as it is incomprehensible. The extent to which Americans idolize celebrities disgusts me. There is no movie star I know of who is fit to shine a soldier’s shoes.