Worshipping celebrities and political figures

BY Bill Reagan

Meryl Streep denounced President-elect Trump at the Golden Globe Awards. Her speech was the lead story on the CBS Evening News the next day. The story even made the news summary on the PBS NewsHour. Ms. Streep’s comments were all over social media for days.

Notably, President-elect Trump responded by tweeting his opinion of Ms. Streep’s acting ability.

The reason, of course, that this made the news is that Ms. Streep and Mr. Trump are both celebrities.

It seems we like celebrities. Popular programs like TMZ and Entertainment Tonight bring all the latest about the celebrity world into America’s living rooms every night.

The cult of celebrity is very much like the popularity of sports. Both give us a way to live beyond ourselves and find a tribe to belong to.

“Cult” means “worship.”

When Clemson wins the national championship, or maybe the Cowboys win the Super Bowl?, we feel like we have won. When Meryl Streep speaks or Donald Trump tweets what we’ve been thinking we feel like our voice has spoken. We feel that “we” have let “them” have it.

Many say that celebrities should shut up, that their opinions are no more important than the opinions of regular people. Freedom of speech applies to famous people too.

The problem isn’t that famous people use their right of freedom of speech. The problem is the cult (worship) of celebrity.

It is easy to let sports heroes win our battles for us and celebrities do our thinking for us. Easy, but not good.

President Kennedy told the American people, “We choose to go to the moon . . . not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” And we went to the moon.

I’m a firm believer in doing things the hard way. The hard way gives you new skills. The hard way makes you think and forces you to commit. The hard way develops what you have, and gives you what you do not yet have.

Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.