Heroes are tricky.
Almost all of us have been guilty of hero worship to some degree or another. My heroes tend to be writers like Neil Gaiman or activists like Rosa Parks, or those blessed few who can be both, like James Baldwin. But even then, my hero worship is pretty low-key. I might want to be as involved as Rosa Parks, but I don't have a shrine to her in my house; I certainly wish I could write as well as Neil Gaiman, but I wouldn't pay $300 for a pair of his old socks.
My best friend gets far more serious about his hero worship. I can still remember his admiration for Lance Armstrong, back in the day. He read books about Lance Armstrong, and books by Lance Armstrong. He watched films about Lance Armstrong, taped the Tour de France so he could keep up with Lance Armstrong on each leg of the race. He even signed up for a charity event and became one of a couple thousand people who once took a bike ride with Lance Armstrong. And when he found out Lance Armstrong cheated, it was a blow to his system. Heroes are tricky, because sometimes they fall.
I say all this because -- if you haven't already figured it out -- I am, by profession, a public school teacher. Specifically, I teach high school Social Studies, which means that after the events yesterday at the U.S. Capitol, I got to hang out with school-age young people today as they processed what went on there.
Some were outraged, as you might imagine. Some, of course, had no idea what had transpired because politics is B-O-R-I-N-G. But a number of them ranged from a bit put out to downright shell-shocked. Between myself and some of my colleagues, here's a brief sample of some of the things we heard:
A number of yesterday's outcomes were negative. People lost their lives. Federal property was destroyed. The democratic process was delayed (though not overcome). But I have to wonder if the President considered what the outcome would be for some school-age children, who finally found out he was not as popular as they had been told, who finally saw through messages that had been fed to them by a biased media, who finally recognized that even their heroes could go too far. It's said that lessons like these are part of building character, and since almost any experience helps build character, I suppose that's true. But a lot of young people had a painful lesson in growing up today, and as someone who was in the building with them, that wasn't easy to see. No one likes watching dreams die, and young people should remain young as long as they possibly can.