We Want to be Offended
by Ned Wicker
Alec Baldwin has been taken off of MSNBC because of an alleged gay slur. Others have been taken off the air because of alleged racial slurs. Still others have been taken off the air for not being politically correct.
There is a certain commonality with all of the cases we read about in the press concerning those who have been under public scrutiny for things they said, or didn’t say, or for things they have or have not done—there is always a bad choice of words, followed by extreme outrage and a complete lack of forgiveness.
Forgiveness for Those Who Misspeak
The Book of James in the Christian New Testament talks of our tongues getting us in trouble, but unlike American society, there is forgiveness offered to those who misspeak or offend. Our modern media celebrities are on the air because they were acting stars, or they cozied up to the right executives, or they look good on camera, or in some cases they paid their dues and they’re just plain good at what they do. We love our celebrities.
We build them up and make them rich. We worship them. We live vicariously through them, as if their lives gave meaning to our lives. The only thing better than building them up is tearing them down, because with so many people, the failure of, destruction of another human being, in a sock sort of way, makes us feel better about ourselves.
"I'm better then that guy!
Pushed into a corner, we all admit our faults, but at least we’re better than that poor slob, because everything he’s doing is worse than what I am doing. Celebrity failure is isolating. We can forget our own shortcomings and focus on the public failure of another human being and pray to God that he/she gets what’s coming to them.
We live to criticize Lindsay Lohan for her drug and alcohol use. We can’t wait to see which celebrity is going to trip up next, because we need them to fail. It validates us.
It's someone else problem, I'm fine!
We look at substance abuse in much the same way. It’s their problem, and by golly I’m glad I don’t have it. Just look at what those awful people are doing. The failure of others, in some cases, is the only success people will experience. I can feel good about myself, because the other guy has fallen.
It’s a shallow satisfaction, to be sure, but we will cling to it just the same. What if the failure and suffering of another is my failure and suffering? What if that very public showcase of human frailty is an expose on my own inadequacy? Regardless of race, creed, national origin, financial viability or social standing, we are all interconnected. We are all in the human condition. Addiction is something we can all experience.
All the same
One person is on the streets with the stereotypical bottle in a paper bag, while another guzzles bourbon at a political gathering and may or may not be sober when roll call comes and an important vote is on the table. Another is in his/her bedroom taking a hit of heroin, while the other takes serious amounts of opiate pain medication in the office, ignoring the dosage amounts on the prescription.
If both are addiction, is one worse than the other, seriously? The Apostle Paul wrote “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). It’s an important statement because it reminds all of us that we are the same. He does not give any degree to which we fall short, just that we fall short. He makes no comparison, because there is none to make. We all fall short. He makes no distinctions.
There is no delight or satisfaction in comparing ourselves to others who may have less than we have, or thinking ourselves a part of the elite group, or more famous or important than we are.
My neighbor’s accomplishments are his, not mine. I can celebrate his accomplishments, but only in the way of offering congratulations. Likewise if he fails I have not succeeded. Addiction impacts every one of us and sooner or later, it will become personal. If they are not in your family, then they are a friend, or someone at work, but there is no escaping the problem of addiction.
I do not believe that Jesus felt sorry for people, but he did have compassion. He could relate to their human struggle, saw their human frailty, recognized their helplessness and be available to them. There was no financial reward, no political advantage and even at the time of his death there was no particular celebrity as he only had about 120 followers. The value he saw was in the individual and his efforts focused on their success, their well-being.
Judging other is usually the low-hanging fruit
It’s easy to make a judgment. That’s low-hanging fruit that anyone can pick off. We media can play it up big because it’s easy. They get on the talk shows and ramble on about everything that is wrong with this country and the individual they are skewering at the time. Then they move on to the next story. They don’t really care.
If you don’t believe me, watch where the news media goes after a major event. They follow human disaster and feed off of its misery. There is one huge omission from their coverage, a solution. They talk of relief aid coming in, fire fighters battle the burning forests, the aftermath of the shootings, but there is no real action. They may encourage you to contribute to relief funds, but underneath it all is their need to gain ratings.
Interested in people
Maybe they’ll kick Alec Baldwin off of MSNBC. I don’t know the whole story, nor do I care really. But I am interested in Alec Baldwin and the people involved in the story as people, not celebrities, not news-makers, not important folks, just people. Baldwin’s professional success or failure has nothing to do with me, but his humanity does. That’s the difference.