Friday, December 11, 2009

Wherein Lies Justice?

It cannot be denied that we live in a "celebrity culture" in which, for reasons not always explicable, individuals become larger than life. It may be through achievements in sports or for being the first to accomplish the unimaginable. Melvin Purvis, Charles Lindbergh and Neil Armstrong come to mind here.

The age of television made a new kind of celebrity. People could star on game shows, have few serious accomplishments, and be practically worshipped. At the end of the day I have wondered what purpose celebrities serve?

Fame is what you make of it. Paul Newman used his charismatic name and popular image to raise money for charity through his Newman's Own Salad Dressing franchise. Bob Dylan is currently doing the same with his Christmas in the Heart CD. Not all celebrities, however, have such laudatory aims. Some stars have used their fame simply for the purpose of bedding women. (I'm recalling an early 1990's radio interview I once heard featuring a member of the band KISS.)

An op-ed piece by Angelina Jolie at Newsweek.com yesterday, Justice Delayed Is Not Justice Denied, offers another example of how famous people can and do utilize their influence. Once people have a following they can use their soapbox to draw attention to issues that might otherwise be neglected, ignored or forgotten. Lady Di and Eleanor Roosevelt come readily to mind. Jolie begins her appeal as follows:

Today we observe Human Rights Day, founded more than half a century ago when the international community declared that respect for human rights and dignity "is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world," and resolved that the horrors of World War II should never be allowed to recur.

Celebritydom offers opportunities to shed light on issues. To some extent they are like our elected officials in Washington. They have both a privilege and a responsibility. In a world as broken as ours we can pray that they take those responsibilities seriously.

Thank you, Ms. Jolie, for drawing our attention to this issue. I don't know what we can do, but awareness is always the first step.

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