Archive for February, 2011

Life trials of the rich and famous

Why does fame lure so many when so few stories of fame ever end well?

A component of our makeup is built for impact; it’s destined for greatness. We have a drive to influence a sphere beyond our immediate reach. Hollywood, Nashville, New York and Washington, D.C., owe their notoriety to this. Desktop publishing of videos, photos and text make the desire more acute.

But for every 100 people who can handle adversity, only 1 who can handle prosperity. Most lack the foundation of character necessary to handle the weight of fame.

Reversely, fame reduces one’s freedom. Paparazzi and adoring fans encircle the famous like prison wardens around an inmate. Handlers and money-minded agents offer another layer of incarceration. Activities as human as visiting a coffee shop with a friend become next to impossible.

So, the stars of one minute become the rehab patients of the next. Those who looked so happy under the lights now look so sad under the weight.

Why do we follow them? Why do we cheer for them? Their meteoric rises convince us that there is more out there than bills and leaks and struggles. Their precipitous falls comfort us that our lives are not so bad after all.

GQ interviewed Billy Ray Cyrus for its March edition. The soon-to-be divorced father of Disney’s Hannah Montana said he wished none of it had ever happened.

“For my family to be here and just be everybody okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah. I’d erase it all in a second if I could.”

Kudos to Mr. Achy Breaky Heart for his heartfelt honesty.

They all would erase it all if they could. They all would go back to minimum wage jobs and coffee shops and friends for friendship’s sake. They all would exchange the kingdoms they couldn’t handle for the character to see through the shine.

A married New York Congressman resigned last week after failing to resist the urge to send a shirtless self-portrait to a woman he met online. Another example of a king lacking character.

We desperately need artists, actors, musicians, CEOs and politicians with character. We need modern day “celebrities” with the kind of fame that the Old Testament hero Joshua had: “The Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land” (Joshua 6).

We need to teach our kids about the demises, not just the rises, of celebrities. We must show them that chasing after fame and fortune ends in disaster and tragedy more times than not. Many more.

May we model that it is far more worthwhile to build a solid character that can handle the fame that God gives should he, in fact, decide to give it.

Let the people go, Pharaoh

What do protests in Iran, Tunisia and Egypt remind us of? The same things the revolutions in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania reminded us of twenty years ago:

Human beings want to be free. They want honest, accountable and un-self-centered leaders.

Patrick Henry put it this way, of course, when he spoke in favor of sending Virginian troops to the American Revolution: “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Hardhearted autocrats have ruled Egypt before. Oppressed people have previously suffered under heavy-handed regimes of the Nile. But as in the days of Moses, a time comes when the prospect of freedom bubbles over the fear of recourse.

Such days are upon us in the Arab nation known for its ancient technological achievements.

It is fitting, then, that the rise of communication technology has contributed significantly to the calls for political and economic reform. Fifteen years ago there were no mobile phones in Egypt. Today, there are 60 million of them.

A decade ago, information was generally limited to state-run outlets. Now, independent daily papers, Internet bloggers and non-governmental satellite TV stations scrutinize government activity somewhat like a vigorous free press does in the West.

Moreover, like their counterparts in other Middle Eastern nations, Egyptian youth have tasted and seen through the Web and TV the quality of life that is possible when governments are made for people, not people for governments.

Still, there are plenty of stakeholders vested in the continuation of some form of the current Egyptian regime: the armed forces, regime intellectuals, bureaucracy, internal security services, and big business. Such an intertwined establishment has prompted corruption complaints among reformers.

Rules and regulations that keep power consolidated at the top have existed in Egypt since the 1952 Free Officers coup. It’s no wonder that Mubarak supporters have violently hit the streets this week after watching anti-Mubarak protesters go unchecked much of last.

What role should the U.S. play in the situation? We have tolerated corrupt and abusive behavior for decades in exchange for relative stability in the region. We have given billions in foreign aid to Egypt to solidify our ally status.

President Obama finds himself in the same pickle he was in during the Iran protests two years ago: with too much invested in the status quo to support our ideological counterparts, the pro-democratic reformers.

In addition, a hesitancy to endorse reform comes from a general liberal disbelief that democracy can take root in the Middle East. Liberals have long denigrated democracy-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They claim that the idea of democracy is fundamentally juxtaposed to the Arab mindset. They probably also claimed it was juxtaposed to the Communist bloc mindset.

Such a wooden perspective underestimates the flame of freedom in the hearts of common people. It fails to recognize the illegitimacy of the established, self-seeking regimes.

They may hold power, but they lack moral authority. Only moral authority will last; only it will ultimately prevail. We should support those who have it. We should support democratic reform.

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