I grew up admiring all of the wrong people. Holding them up as heroes. Singing their praises to all who would listen.
It came with the weakness and lack of self-reliance pervasive throughout much of the environs of my lower middle class roots and was cemented in place by weak-kneed writers and journalists who, in the Halloween costumes of historians, practiced a perverse form of propaganda.
FDR was at the top of the list. I used to pay homage to the four-term president, visiting his family home in New York’s Hudson Valley in an annual rite of passage, even taking my kids when they were young to honor the “great” man.
Only years later, would I see him as the father of the nanny state that he was. Yes, FDR accomplished exceptional war time feats but to me his legacy is more about the man who fine-tuned the art of buying votes by giving away the store. Had he lived, he would have been emperor, ruling over swelling masses of dependents, just where he wanted them.
Although Woodrow Wilson never rose to the heroic proportions that I elevated FDR to, I viewed him as an exceptional president. A major player on the world stage.
And therein lies the rub. Yes, Wilson played on a global stage, founding The League Of Nations, because from his pathetic perspective, America mattered only because it was just another member of a collection of nations. To Wilson, America’s exceptionalism was a badge of honor we had no right to wear. Our power should be surrendered to a world order–one that presents itself today in the form of the petty, racist, anti-American freak show known, paradoxically, as the U.N.
Later in life I would see Warren Buffet as a giant of American capitalism. As a financial genius who tipped his hat to the great nation that provided a clear path for all to achieve extraordinary feats. And then, in a pathetic and clearly manipulative way, he embraces the very big government, the wealth redistribution, the war on business and finance that would have stopped him in his tracks before he crossed the finish line. Instead of encouraging a new generation of free market capitalists, he joins the chorus vilifying them. He is not an oracle: he is a plastic salesman.
For me, the lesson is that there is a hero-making industry at work 247 creating would-be icons to be bowed to as idols. Perhaps we should reject them all and believe only in God and ourselves.