A little recent weekend channel surfing resulted in an encounter with “Jesse Ventura’s America” on MSNBC. Intrigued by something new, I sat and listened, and concluded that the point must be that MSNBC is using the former wrestler and Minnesota governor to bring to TV talk what the World Wrestling Federation has brought to sports – content designed to provoke and titillate, with zero pretense of any attempt to convey anything true or accurate.
The lead-in to the show is a headshot of the ex-governor scowling about what’s on his mind. In this case, he wants us to know that he “resents” the fact that there are those who think that public personalities should consider themselves role models. When he was governor, it was so bad, he couldn’t light a cigar in public without being called to task.
Gov. Ventura’s guest to help him tell this tale of injustice was former NBA star Charles Barkley. Yes, of course Barkley agreed. It’s the fault of parents. They should teach their kids at home and they should get off athletes’ backs. After all, we can imagine what it must do to a person to be paid tens of millions of dollars to put a ball through a hoop. To demand on top of this that athletes think about how they behave in public and how they might influence the children that watch them? Outrageous. Ventura and Barkley both agreed the real problem is rampant hypocrisy. We should be “real,” “honest” and tell it like it is – which is what this show was about.
The live audience seemed to enjoy all this and didn’t really seem to pick up on, nor were concerned that they were being insulted. The two hulky ex-athletes chortle how good things are now that work only consists of doing one “scam” TV show per week.
And scam it is. Barkley addressed rumors he may run for public office. He said he’s thought about it, but hesitated. Things are so good for him now and politics is such a clammy, dirty business. Finally, Sir Charles said something accurate: Getting involved in politics would require he actually think about social problems in a serious way and be held responsible for what he says. This would involve thought and work, and maybe most out of character, genuine caring. For someone used to spouting off however he likes, and then shrugging responsibility for what he says and does because “I am not a role model,” this would be a true change of life.
If Charles Barkley, with all the blessings this country has cast his way, took a humble moment to look at reality, there is no way he could flippantly dismiss his responsibilities as a public figure . His claim that responsibility for children’s behavior should reside exclusively within the family shows he hasn’t bothered in any way to look at his own black community. Very sadly, in most cases, black children have no intact family toward which to turn. In communities in our nation’s cities, seven out of 10 black children come from homes with no fathers. The black family – thanks to 40 years of welfare-state programs – is in shambles.
Children will look somewhere for guidance. With no framework at home, they will look outside. The percentage of young black men in our cities neither working nor in school is around 50 percent. Where does Charles Barkley think these kids are getting their values – and where does he think they are formulating their views about what life is about?
Ventura raised the issue of homosexuals and “gay marriage” – and how both of them handled it tells us where they are both coming from.
Barkley, of course, said he doesn’t have a problem with “gay marriage” because it doesn’t affect “me” (a conclusion he mysteriously drew despite going on to agree there should be state laws legalizing it). The governor clarified his view that homosexual behavior must be genetic because, he said, he never had to make a conscious decision to be heterosexual. Assuming he also never killed anyone, we may conclude that the astute former governor also sees murder as genetic. The values that Barkley and Ventura championed in this enlightening interchange are certainly those that our nation’s youth could use – egotism, relativism and victimization.
There are few today of any political persuasion who are not concerned about social deterioration in the country. As a black conservative, I focus on my own community where things are not in good shape at all. Out-of-wedlock births, abortion, crime, unemployment and AIDS are now the rule rather than the exception. Blacks are slowly awakening to the fact that the welfare state has been the problem, not the cure.
We must revitalize the black family and this is impossible without the restoration and transmission of the traditional values that have been systematically undermined over the last 40 years. The impact of popular culture and celebrities on youth – particularly youth from broken homes – is beyond question. It is critical that athletes like Charles Barkley come to terms with right and wrong in this world and the responsibilities that they currently abrogate.