The Strange Hero Beside Me

Content advisory 18+ A good question is this: how much do we really want to know about the people we have the highest regard for? This can include our parents, husbands and wives, the president of the country, the highest priests, and all our favorite football heroes and film stars. It could include Jesus Christ himself.


Assuming there ever was a real man Jesus -- the one many worship as the Son of God -- and of this, the history books give only the scantest evidence -- we might assume that he engaged in at least some of the activities that the rest of us do. I am not trying in the least to be vulgar or even disrespectful here, but do any of us really imagine Christ hunkered down on whatever passed for a toilet seat in those days? Or, since it must have been very hot wandering around in the desert back then -- no deodorant, no toothpaste, etc.,-- that maybe Jesus didn't smell very good most of the time?
People often speculate as to the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene -- even suggesting that they may have been married and had children (historical opinion is staunch that if Jesus was really a rabbi, then he would have had to be married -- as stipulated by Hebrew law of that epoch). So guys, think of the last time you had sex: can you imagine Jesus Christ carrying on pretty much the same way? (Would he have cried out "O God!" at the climactic moment?)


You can call me sacrilegious if you wish -- but if so, you will miss the whole point. What I mean here is that it is impossible for us to 'worship' Jesus as the Son of God (the God incarnate in the human form) without at the same time denying (or at least refusing to fully acknowledge) that Christ the man would by human definition have had to possess the same creaturely aspects as we ourselves do.
So to imagine Jesus taking a dump out in the meadow is not a dirty thought but an acknowledgment of reality. Same as when your girlfriend takes a break from tea down at Шоколадница, tells you she is going to powder her nose, and heads for the bog. You can imagine what she might really be doing in there, but do you sincerely want to know?

Of course not. Because as long as you are in love with her -- or maintain the illusion -- there are certain places you don't want to go, certain areas you don't need to explore, certain realities you just don't want to confront.
That is why we don't have heroes anymore in our culture -- yours and mine. We know too much. The media makes sure of that. The public wants scandal and filth, the media produces, and the 'stars' of all this palaver -- we know them as 'celebrities' -- are only too happy for the free coverage. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Of course, in prudish places like official, corporate America, where the APPEARANCE of being squeaky clean is still held in high regard and the big brand name companies -- who use famous athletes, for example, for product-endorsement purposes -- insist on having these thugs, rascals, and werewolves (ordinary folks, in other words) come off as vestal virgins, at least the IMAGE of pristine purity and legitimate hero-status is preserved.

But when one of our saintly pin-ups is discovered to be just like the rest of us, after all, or even worse -- smoking crack, having sex in a public toilet, or beating up the wife -- the fall from grace is STUPENDOUS -- and the lynch mob that soon forms want to string him up in the town square. "We appointed YOU to be one of our 21st-century GODS, and look what you DID !!!!!" they squeal. "We thought you were in CHURCH and you were out behind the convenience store BANGING that BIMBO!!! How dare you !!!!"
The only solution after that is for Big Bad Rufus or Slick Willie or the good Reverend Give-It-Up-Bitch or Father-Bend-Over-Boy is to very publicly seek PSYCHIATRIC COUNSELING ("I was a slave to the addiction") or become a BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN ("coz it wuz the devil making me do all them things") -- and then, maybe, just maybe, he can make a comeback and be restored to grace. Especially if he is still good enough to win another championship or star in another Oscar-winning film.


Go to any city and admire the statues. Moscow, Paris, London, doesn’t matter. Do you realize that the vast majority of the ‘heroes’ cast there in marble or bronze were, in reality, criminals and murderers (mass murderers in some cases)? Sure, a few of them deserve their nice place in the collective memory, but most of them were villains of the first order. You know what I would like to see sometime? A statue of some worn-out looking mother and her four hungry children that she is trying to feed. Especially if she is receiving a Russian pension. That is a REAL hero.
We make tin gods out of the tyrants and psychopaths of the past. The longer they have been dead, the purer they become. And, as religion has been defined as “history for those who can’t read”, so are past heroes the creations of people who either don’t know the facts or can’t face them.
And who are our modern heroes? Well, for that, we must make a foray into the glamorous world of technology. There we will find the likes of Steve Jobs -- who probably did become a grand man as he neared his end, but who was a freak and an arrogant tyrant most of his life. Apparently the same is true of Elon Musk. A first-rate jerk, according to a contemporary biography one of my students referred me to.


The current President of Russia. The country is falling down around his ears, the economy is collapsing, educated people are heading for the border as fast as they can get there, but he just received a 76% endorsement from the Russian people. So I guess that makes him a hero, right? I mean, how can 76% of the people be wrong?

It is said that it is harder to forgive a friend than an enemy (we trusted the friend), so it is tempting, after we have built up a false god, then knocked him down, to show OUR redeeming humanity by letting him back into the human circle again. Another of those fuzzy feel-good stories. Maybe that explains why all those martyrs who were burned at the stake or broken on the wheel -- who were mostly public nuisances in their day -- are now viewed with reverence.


But of course in the past, there were heroes and heroines galore, and we didn't know anything about them except to gaze up at their perfect smiles as they posed on their golden mountain-tops -- and bow to them from our own lackluster place way down below in the shadows. The fabled 'Camelot' marriage between John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline was no such thing after all. He was a skirt-chaser from Day One, and she had affairs also, including one with his brother Bobby after his death. And she married a Greek shipping tycoon later -- not some good old boy from the neighborhood. But during their moment together on the world stage, nobody knew the bad parts. And the press (media) protected them. Not so later on with Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Everybody found out what a mess it was. She was supposed to be a goddess too -- but when she died her boyfriend was the playboy son of a filthy-rich Egyptian. Hardly Maggie from the Meadow with her shepherd swain among the lambs.
None of them ever were heroes and heroines in the way we wanted, yet for a while we made ourselves believe it.


The best baseball player of the 1950s and 60s -- Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees -- was a drunk. We didn’t know that when we saw his ruddy, handsome face on the back of the cereal box. In those days, the media protected movie stars and ball players. Half the leading men in the films were midgets or gay or downright evil and a lot of the women were whores and dictatorial hags -- but WE thought they were just DANDY.
But why, unless we were the most gullible and naive of fools (were we ?) should we have expected anything else? Nor can we plead innocence here. The Age of Mass Media hadn’t arrived in a full crescendo like it exists now -- but we all knew very well what went on inside our OWN houses. Could we seriously have hoodwinked ourselves into thinking that the houses down the road -- or in Beverly Hills, California, or the New York Yankees clubhouse -- were full of better people?
Now we know the truth, and after such knowledge, what are we supposed to do?
What I do is just laugh and say “Welcome to the club.” And then I say “Soooo You weren’t that different from me after all? OK, let’s have a beer and forget it.”


Especially when I think of how my radiant youthful idealism has given way to a cynicism of the surliest kind over these many years -- I don't hold it against them at all. They were just people. I merely hate the hypocritical forces of society, then and now, that hold up the Policeman, the President, the Teacher, the Preacher, the Football Star, the Movie Star, and even Jesus himself -- as godlike icons so much better than me.
None of them ever were, or have ever been, more than hobos decked out in fine clothes or strangers on a bus -- that great Greyhound bus riding across an America of Dreams, an America that never existed, the place where Svidrigailov in "Crime and Punishment" said he was going when he committed suicide.
I would like to have met Jesus Christ, not at the foot of the cross, but at a bus station. Or even in a bar. No sermons. I would have watched him to see how he acted. How he looked at the women. What was really in his smile. Was he happy? Did he really have mercy in his heart? Was he full of contradictions? Did he understand the word 'irony' ? If so, then after a few glasses of wine, I probably would have liked him just fine... Maybe I would have gone down the street with him. Or followed him on out of town.

===Eric Richard Leroy===

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