Parenting more significant than celebs? behavior

By By John Stafford

By John Stafford

The most conservative state in the union saw a fever pitch of bad-influence cries after the now infamous bong photo surfaced of former golden boy Michael Phelps. “What about the impressionable children?” was thrown about mindlessly this past month. These simple accusations, reminiscent of Socrates’ “corrupting the youth” allegations, neglect to acknowledge the fact that it doesn’t matter what Phelps does.

As inspirational as he might be as an athlete, his influence is nothing compared to the influence a parent has on a child. No doubt children’s minds are malleable8212;it’s how they learn8212;but to think that a photo of one Olympian engaging in perceivably illegal acts is going to have a greater impression on a child than years of parenting is naïve, to say the least. Rather than hoisting Phelps up on that crucifix and making him the scapegoat of the “moral degradation” of our society, we need to take a step back and communicate with our children. If you want your children to grow up drug free, be a parent and explain to them in a rational way why this would be a good lifestyle choice. If this is done correctly, the actions of Michael Phelps, Lindsay Lohan, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Clinton and countless other drug experimenting celebrities, will be looked at as they should be, as their actions and personal lifestyle choices are just that8212;personal.

For many of us (but certainly not all) America’s worship of celebrities often goes too far. Images of a young man crying over YouTube for Britney Spears to be “treated fairly” comes to mind. Utah is a prime example, with the Sundance Film Festival drawing hoards of A-listers, wannabes, has-beens and the sheep who will wander Main Street in search of a shepherd in the form of Tobey Maguire.

I once braved the 8-degree weather to find a gathering of people, surprisingly large even for Sundance, shaking violently and huddling for warmth outside an art gallery. When I asked them what they were doing they said, “Waiting for David Archuleta.” To this, I replied, “Who is David Archuleta?” I was taken aback by the ferocity of the condescending response when they all unanimously cried, “He’s from American Idol!” My bewilderment that people would wait hours in freezing weather so they might be able to catch a slight glimpse of one person was only amplified after I searched on YouTube for Archuleta’s music.

It’s fine to admire celebrities for their talents, but worshiping them to the point that their lives become more important than yours or overshadow real issues in the world is taking it way too far. Dave Chappelle summed it up best (yes, I am aware of the irony of quoting celebrities to show our excessive worship of them) “I remember right around September 11 on MTV they were like “we got Ja Rule on the phone lets see what his thoughts are on this tragic event,’ Who gives a f*** what Ja Rule thinks at a time like this? I don’t wanna dance, I’m scared to death!”

Phelps is an accomplished athlete who can swim remarkably well, nothing more, and nothing less. He does not claim to have all the answers, nor does he present himself to the masses as a messiah-like figure whose lifestyle should be put up on a pedestal and admired as the paradigm of existence. In reality, the fact that he was stupid enough to pick up a bong during a house party in which about 90 percent of the people probably had access to some sort of camera phone, should be more of a deterrent to marijuana use than any D.A.R.E campaign could ever be. If not the rest of the country, Utah should get over it.

[email protected]

John Stafford