It is a hard time to be a kid. Two places where kids can dream, in their hearts and heads and the fullness of their childhoods, are in the worlds of sports and politics. They can picture themselves running the bases for the ultimate slide, throwing the ball to make the impossible out, standing at the podium to change the world. Now, thanks to Alex, Lance, Eliot and Anthony: not so much. One after the next, the hero's narrative: the local, scrappy kid made good, the kid who worked his way up, the kid who never said no, those narratives have disappeared. In their place are stories of men who have shown one and all that they lie, they cheat, and they steal. What, you may ask, do they steal? These stories steal the dreams of kids.
Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Weiner insist we watch them, even though we now know their mendacity. They like to be watched, and they want us to do it.
Are we are so desperate for a candidate for comptroller, the person responsible for ethical oversight of a financial system, that the only person we can find is someone who broke the law by hiring prostitutes? What kind of story is this?
We have to explain to our bike-loving child that those glorious images of Lance in his yellow jersey were all a lie, replaced by a narrative in which Lance lied and cheated and bullied his way to medals.
For children these stories are difficult, confusing and ultimately disillusioning in ways that are far more damaging than we may realize. Yes, children so want to believe. But it's even more serious than that. Children need to dream. It is part of the work they do as their brains grow and develop. Some of the work of childhood is to inhabit other worlds, to imagine oneself inside the hero's world, to capture the sensation of what it means to triumph. This is important work. Not to literally become famous baseball players or cyclists or politicians. But to realize that moments of transcendence came from hard, hard work. The scrappy boy throwing balls in the backyard or the kid pedaling fast downhill or the child who listens deeply to stories to someday craft his own, those are all stories they too could become.
These stories tell narratives that are all about risky endeavors, ones that require great self-sacrifice and at the same time, a unique and exquisite boldness of spirit and soul. These are Harry Potter-esque experiences of hope and drama, elegance and exhilaration.
These men, lost inside their hubris and narcissism, have stolen these narratives from our children. They leave us to explain what it all means while they continue to make us watch them. It is not fair to our children. I wish these men would go away, disappear from the public stage, and go off to deal with their pathologies in private.
I am sorry for the children, not for these men. Children deserve better heroes. They deserve the sorts of narratives that make their hearts race, make them literally jump up for joy, and make them believe they too could do that for someone else, some day.
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