The Dumbing Down of Heroes
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Last week, President Obama grabbed headlines by commuting the sentences of dozens of supposedly non-violent convicted drug dealers. But slipping beneath the radar was his bestowing Presidential Medals of Freedom upon several members of Hollywood's liberal elite.
For the uninformed, the Medal of Freedom is the highest non-military honor that can be bestowed on an American citizen. So who did President Obama think was worthy of such a lofty honor?
Try rockers like Bruce Springsteen and actors like Robert DiNiro. Coincidentally, both men were harsh critics of Donald Trump and strong supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Even Ellen Degeneres was recognized for having the courage to "come out" as a lesbian, as if that requires any real bravery in Tinseltown these days.
Clint Eastwood, one of Hollywood's few openly conservative directors, agrees that we are tossing around the phrase "hero" too carelessly these days.
"It's overdone", said Eastwood during an interview promoting "Sully", the new movie he directed about Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger, the courageous pilot who safely landed his crippled plane in the Hudson River.
“It’s certainly different [from] when I grew up,” Eastwood added. “It’s all in this sort of politically correct thing where everyone has to win a prize. All the little boys in the class have to go home with a first place trophy.”
When I was a kid, the term "hero" was reserved for people like Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash delivering food and emergency medical supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Not for Diana Ross, the lead singer of the Supremes, who also had a medal draped around her neck by President Obama.
Now don't get me wrong. I grew up listening to Motown music and "Stop in the Name of Love", "Love Child" and "Someday We'll Be Together" formed the soundtrack of my adolescence. Not to mention that Ross's "Mahogany" was the theme for my senior prom.
Worthy of a few Grammy awards? Absolutely! Deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Hardly.
Same goes for Tom Hanks, a great actor but not exactly an American hero... at least not to me. Ditto for Cicely Tyson.
Then there's Lorne Michaels, best known as the creator of Saturday Night Live. I must have missed the part where he stormed Normandy Beach on D-Day.
Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul Jabbar? Hall of Fame basketball players, but their contribution to American society was limited to putting a round ball through a round hoop - and being paid millions of dollars for doing so.
Because of his conservation work, I suppose you can make a legitimate argument for Robert Redford, but again, not because of his work as an actor or director. And maybe, just maybe, Vin Scully earned a medal for being the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years, covering every baseball player of note from Jackie Robinson to Clayton Kershaw... and doing it with humility and style.
Sadly overshadowed by the Hollywood headliners were legitimate medal recipients like physicist Richard Garwin, mathematician Margaret Hamilton, and Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. But even there, President Obama seemingly caved to political correctness. Instead of basing his selection criteria on qualifications alone, he made sure that men, women, blacks, whites, gays, straights, Asians, Hispanics and even Native Americans were all represented.
Makes you long for the days of real American heroes like John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Booker T. Washington, Jonas Salk, George Washington Carver, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Audie Murphy.
Yeah, I know, they don't teach about Audie Murphy in history class any more... but they should.