Last week, Montana elected Greg Gianforte to Congress in their special election. The day before, Gianforte was charged with assault for body slamming a reporter. The people of Montana chose the candidate who had physically attacked a journalist 24 hours prior to the election. Last November, America elected Donald Trump as President of the United States. I could write a book on the number of moral atrocities that Trump committed before and during his campaign, but I’d highlight the leaked tape of him bragging that he can commit sexual assault because he’s rich.
What does this say about the qualities that we look for in our leaders? The obvious answer in the case of politics is that the people are prioritizing a candidate’s political ideology over the morality of his or her actions. We’re willing to look the other way on moral issues with candidates to ensure that our political goals match those of our leaders. While this is understandable, it highlights a much deeper problem in our society— one that goes far beyond politics.
Take our sports heroes for example. Pitcher Aroldis Chapman allegedly fired a gun at his girlfriend and choked her, but his fans don’t care because he can throw a baseball at 103 miles per hour. It seems like more people hate him for shutting out their favorite teams than for his violence. NFL star Ray Rice received a mere two-game suspension for punching a woman in the face, while Tom Brady got knocked four games for allegedly deflating a few footballs. Deflating footballs, thereby compromising the integrity of the game, sparked a bigger outrage than domestic abuse. We can’t stand to see the sports we love defaced, but we’re willing to turn a blind eye to our star athletes’ immoral actions off the field so that we can keep watching them play the game.
We see this with the celebrities we obsess over as well. We let Nick Viall date 30 women at the same time on The Bachelor, forcing them to compete for him. We don’t care that he asked three fathers for their blessings in the same week because we enjoy the entertainment value of 30 drunk women fighting over a man on TV. We turn a blind eye as Justin Bieber eggs a neighbor’s house, assaults members of the paparazzi, and spits in people’s faces because we like to be entertained by his performances. We’ve decided to look up to these celebrities, to fuel their fame and fortune despite their immorality because we want to be entertained.
Looking at American culture, it seems that we choose our leaders, role models, and heroes based not on who they are, but what they can do for us. Be it an ideological agreement in politics, physical strength and athletic ability in sports, or entertainment value in the case of celebrities, we ignore character and morality when we choose who we propel to fame and stardom. In the process, we send a loud and clear message that you don’t have to be moral to be successful, and we enable celebrities to continue this pattern of bad behavior. Do we want to continue this trend? Do we want to teach future generations that morality and human decency are no longer important? Let’s ask ourselves, how far aside are we willing to cast character and integrity?