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Folks we don't know


Fri, May 8th, 2009
Posted in Commentary



Heroes and Villains share an important commonality; they are always outside of our personal social systems. When I was a kid, all the boys wanted to be cowboys even if they had never seen a horse up close. Girls wanted to be Princesses though Minneapolis was thousands of miles from the nearest castle. A prince on the side was optional; we were the budding generation of feminists, after all. Besides, none of those booger eating boys we saw looked up to the task.

As children our villains were Snidley Whiplash, the Joker, Eddie Haskel, Boris and Natasia, characters who taught us that evil doesn't pay. They, like the cowboys and princesses we longed to become, set the parameters for our childhood. Good on one end of the spectrum, evil on the other. We grew up in between each extreme.

We all must grow up. We realize that cowboys barely exist anymore and few ever really did and Princess never came up in the aptitude test results. We lowered the bar. We came to worship movie stars and professional athletes.

Now, we sit in front of huge televisions, watching Lives of The Rich and Decadent and hope that our daughters don't want to be Paris Hilton (they do) or that our sons didn't hear about the latest bar brawl involving four Minnesota Vikings and one mouthy drunk in a downtown alley.

So, in our adult cynicism (if an adult isn't a cynic, they aren't paying attention or are on great mood altering drugs.) Now, we choose villains.

Damn Politicians-crooks, every one of them.

Doctors just want to rip me off so they can golf on Wednesday.

The teachers pick on my kid because they don't understand his "spirit".

Those jerks that drive minivans can't make a left turn.

Every Muslim is a suicide bomber.

Jews are all rich and greedy.

Homeless people are just lazy.

Gay men and women want to molest small children.

Black men live to date blonde women.

City People are snobs.

Farmers are cheap.

Pick your group. If it's a group, it's likely someone we don't know personally.

Whatever our villainous group, we can agree it exists outside our circle, right? Doesn't that tell us something?

The oddest hybrid mix is our collective love/hate of the Uber Rich. We all envy and emulate them. We watch Desperate Housewives like we watched Dallas, knowing that if we had all that stuff, we'd have no need to murder anyone; what's wrong with those people? What are they whining about?

So it is with Wall Street Bankers. I don't know any. Do You? I was in New York once and saw the only Rolls Royce I've ever seen. It had a driver standing like a Royal Guard at its side in front of Chase Manhattan Bank and I imagined some guy who looked like Richard Gere high up in that huge building, bossing people around while his car stood idling in case he chose to dash off and buy Rhode Island after lunch. It's a breathless fantasy.

Well, now we know. The ultimate in success is to be called to testify before Congress. Lindsey Lohan gets on the news when she's drunk (again) and the Vikings get scolded for orgies on Lake Minnetonka but they never made it to a congressional hearing.

If our kids give up their cowboy hats for a Brooks Brothers suit and dream of being called to a congressional hearing, we might want to suggest they examine the possibilities of life as a rock star. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards look pretty worn out but they are still rocking on and being made a Knight in England is more admirable than a congressional investigation.

Perhaps we should learn, and teach our kids, to admire people we know. It makes us all take on admirable qualities because we can see them up close instead of behind a big screen. Better yet, it's hard to hate faces we get to really look at, if we can't learn to admire small things, we might learn to hate less.

As adults, let's agree it's OK for heroes to look different than us and to suspect some villains look exactly like us. Now, that is scarier than Darth Vader!

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