Stop idolizing, America!

In the whirlwind of inauguration week, the country was bursting with emotions from elation to pride to relief. Seeing Obama take the oath, hearing the crowd roar in approval, and feeling the historic significance of the day, I, too, felt a swell of emotion, but I also felt slightly disturbed by the level of media attention surrounding the new First Family and how idolized they had become in such a short amount of time. Idolatry has been around probably since the beginning of humankind, which in the context of religion or worship is acceptable, so long as it does not reach the heights of fanaticism. In recent years, however, private citizens with public jobs have become idols thanks to a lemming-like population and a media willing to capitalize on people’s personal lives. Our society has unfortunately become accustomed to regularly seeing details about celebrities’ love lives, baby names, and custody battles sprawled across magazine covers at the grocery store checkout lane. It’s typical to see the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears gracing these covers, but on a recent trip to Hy-Vee, President Obama appeared on nearly every single one. At first, it seemed normal, since the scope of his fame is so huge, but then I realized that many of the magazines were not as concerned with the nation’s future or policies, as they were with how the Obamas were going to decorate the White House or what type of dog they would adopt. While those topics are both fairly innocent, it was alarming how obsessed the U.S. had become with its new White House residents. This is not the first time the country has had a likeable First Family, nor is it the first time we have shown interest in them. However, when Michelle Obama can turn one designer from obscure to renowned, and the coats the Obama girls wore during the inauguration can cause such a stir that the J.Crew website crashes, then something is terribly amiss. It was after this that I considered how bizarre our fascination with fame truly is. Popular public figures used to be admired and people would emulate them, but now people admire them so much, they actually want to be them. The entire entertainment news industry is based on average citizens desiring to be someone else: someone prettier, smarter, and more successful. It is completely understandable for a singer to respect Beyonce or for an aspiring actress to admire Angelina Jolie, but we shouldn’t support People magazine paying $14 million for pictures of her children or them telling women how to get a body just like hers. This fixation is largely an issue of individuality(or the complete lack thereof), but also an issue of privacy. It’s time for our society to stop enabling this obsession over public figures. The Obamas knew that as the First Family they would naturally be in the spotlight, but I hope that our country will allow them to remain, at the very least, a semi-private family, and that we will judge Obama on his policies, not on the way he and his wife dance. We’ve learned from past experience that placing people on such high pedestals can make the fall harder, so the country might be better off treating Obama like a stranger, even if his job influences our lives. Similarly, we should begin to appreciate celebrities for the work they do to entertain us, but understand that their work is just a job, and their lives deserve to be private. There is a fine line separating idolatry and respect, and this country needs to finally recognize the difference.