Why our idols always have feet of clay

March 19, 2019

only-humanBefore dawn I tossed and turned, my mind unable to let go of thoughts about the people we admire and maybe even worship.

The people who let us down. Because our idols just about always have feet of clay. The reference is Biblical and complicated, but basically refers to a statue’s feet made of both iron and clay: strength and weakness.

We think our idols are paragons of perfection when in fact, they’re human and like us all, mixtures of strength and weakness.

Only human

I’m thinking of the sainted president, John F. Kennedy. JFK ran the country while cavorting constantly with just about anyone in skirts.  His long-suffering widow (all the Kennedy women were long-suffering and maybe still are), Jackie, had her own romance with Bobby Kennedy (yes, true). Bobby, of course, was married to Ethel. After that, she married Onassis pretty much for the money and it’s said he died while their divorce settlement was being negotiated.

Our image of her was the black-veiled widow with two young children at her husband’s funeral. Many idolized her.  But really, she was just like the rest of us: Human. Feet of clay. The same with Bobby.

For some reason, we need our fairy tales, our believe in the purity of our idols.

Denial is not just a river. I’m on that river right now, coincidentally. But I digress.

That kind of denial or even delusional thinking can be founded even in such august institutions as classical art. You know how traditional Greek and Roman sculpture is white? Well, not originally. Originally, those beautiful, pure white sculpture were brightly colored. But over the centuries, colors wore off, according to a fascinating article in the New Yorker magazine last fall. There was plenty of evidence that these statues had color–remnants of it were there, if you looked. But the art world cast a blind eye to the evidence, because in their view, those sculptures were white. Period.

But that’s not what the reality was. They didn’t want to believe it, so they just couldn’t see it. They were “color-blind.” Even today, some of the art world remains in denial about the facts. Here’s the story if you want to read about it.

My point is that we humans have a great capacity to fool ourselves. To stay in denial about reality.

Don’t get me started

Take televangelists who collect money in the name of God to fund their luxurious lifestyles. Followers just can’t see how venal some of these so called “religious” leaders are. They’re blind to it. Their idols have feet of clay, but that’s invisible to them. They see what they want to see. Because if they really saw what was there, what would it mean to their faith?

And of course, the same with Trump supporters, who accept and justify behavior they would be horrified at if it happened in their family — or if it were done by a candidate of a different stripe.

I’m reminded of the old tale, “The emperor has no clothes” — people today are being hoodwinked by Trump and his minions.  They’re people who never learned how to sift through information with a critical eye.

I’m not sure how we got here, but it’s a helluva place to be.

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