Monday, January 15, 2007

Is (red) the new black?

During my tour of Robben Island, I found myself standing in a courtyard next to a picture of Mandela standing in that very same courtyard. I turned to Kate and said excitedly, "Nelson Mandela stood right here!" Of course it seemed immediately weird to me that I was standing in a place with such a dark history, acting like...a twelve year old at a Justin Timberlake concert.

In a culture where fascist regimes are reduced to action movie premises, and (Product) Red makes charity a fashion statement, I couldn't help but wonder if my passion for justice is fueled in part by the whole do-good fad.

But as I sat on a plane headed back the states, I remembered going to DC with my family in third or fourth grade. I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and thought to myself, Martin Luther King Jr. stood right there!

In the movie Adaptation, a character says, "It isn't who loves you that's important. Its who you love." As little kids we love people who represent things that impress us. When we get older we often chose heroes who impress other people. We pride ourselves on being hip or well-read or socially aware enough to admire so-and-so.

As a little kid, I admired MLK because he was brave and important and fought for civil rights in a way that is counter-intuitive to most people. As an adult, having heroes needs to amount to more than buying a Mandela t-shirt (which I did). The stories or our heros should challange us to look around and find ways to live out those characteristics that we appreciate. Otherwise, you're just another fan.

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