In recent days, it appears as if Rome has fallen -- and quite quickly for some. The lives and careers of athletes, entertainers, political leaders and high-profile professionals have seemingly collapsed in front of our very eyes. When I was a child, my late grandmother used to tell me that there would be consequences and repercussions for my actions, good and bad. I learned pretty quickly what that meant and learned to behave accordingly in order to avoid the consequences and repercussions doled out by her for bad actions.
On Aug. 27, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick formally plead guilty to a federal dogfighting charge and minutes later apologized to the NFL, his team and the kids for his actions. Days ago, Sen. Larry Craig came under fire for pleading guilty to a disorderly conduct charge relating to allegations that the Idaho Republican solicited sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Subsequently, he stepped down as the leading Republican on several Senate committees, yet has refused to resign from his elected office. Unlike Vick, Craig maintains his innocence and says that he only pled guilty to quell the "witch hunt" that was being waged against him by a local newspaper, alleging that he had engaged in other homosexual activities. These allegations, along with his recent conviction, have Republicans calling for his resignation because Craig is on record as being "pro-family" and campaigned against gay marriage. Former astronaut Lisa Nowak is on trial for allegedly stalking and accosting Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, her romantic rival. You may remember that Nowak drove nearly 900 miles to carry out her plan. She is now claiming temporary insanity for her actions, having apologized to Shipman and her family, but blaming a litany of mental illnesses for her bad behavior.
Like Newton's Third Law of Motion, for every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction, and unfortunately, these folks have found this out. In America, we have a culture of people who feel that they are above the law because, quite frankly, we treat them that way. Because they are "special," we allow them to behave badly, explaining their actions away by covering up their misdeeds.
Many people -- including pastors, politicians, entertainers and athletes -- have elevated senses of themselves because our society props them up. I recently had a student athlete ask me if she could sign up for my class, although her practice schedule would preclude her from attending all but three classes. The class meets three times a week for 16 weeks and she was actually surprised when I told her "absolutely not." I'm not a hater, and I do know that athletes in particular have rigorous schedules. But, I am not going to allow someone to "not take my class," while taking it, so that they can meet their academic requirements when attendance is worth 20 percent of the grade. It is not fair to them, the other students in the class or to me.
Due to the fact that we live in a culture with misplaced priorities, "special" people feel justified behaving in unacceptable ways and thinking that we are going to go for it. These recent headlines suggest that there is a shift in the public's willingness to explain away bad behavior, which is a good thing. Did race play a role in Michael Vick's destruction? Absolutely. Does it matter? No, because at the end of the day, he plead guilty and must face the consequences and repercussions of his actions. He did the crime, so he has to do the time, especially in Virginia. It was interesting to watch his press conference, alongside reports that Lindsay Lohan was only sentenced to 24 hours in jail for a another DUI and with bringing cocaine into a police station, and Nicole Richie only served 82 hours of a four-day sentence for drug possession and driving down the wrong side of a highway. For some reason, I'm not thinking that Vick's sentencing is going to go that way.
Is Senator Craig being railroaded by the media? Quite possibly. But he plead guilty to the charges and, quite frankly, lacks the integrity to walk away quietly and to restore dignity to his family and to what should be a vacated office. So, he still thinks that he is "special." He builds a career on slamming gays and is busted for soliciting sex from a man? Oh, the shame. Is Lisa Nowak crazy? Probably. Should she go to jail? Absolutely. Will she? Who knows? Honestly, I think that having the whole world know that you drove 900 miles in a diaper to confront a woman over a man that was not even yours is punishment enough. We'll have to wait and see.
In the meantime, we need to be careful about whom we bestow heroic status upon ... these people are like you and me: fallible. The same industries (media, entertainment, sports, political) that build these people up are the same industries that tear them down. Perhaps we should teach our children not to idolize people that they do not know, and to recognize that there will be consequences and repercussions for their actions, even if it does not happen at home.