Leaders, Role Models, and Governors
I called my mom yesterday. She lives in Florida. She has been sick for a couple of weeks and thinks her cancer may no longer be in remission. I'm not surprised. She started smoking again this year. She has always smoked since she was a teenager, quitting once in a while, but always going back.
Who's fault would that be, besides her own? There have been a lot of lawsuits and charges lately that big tobacco knew the health risks and covered them up. Allegations even state that big tobacco added in chemicals to make their product more addictive. Well I don't buy into that. People now have all the information they need to make informed health decisions, and they still smoke. New smokers are having their first cigarette today, knowing that it is an expensive, dirty, unhealthy, and for the most part, unwelcome habit.
Do we need the government to step in and ban tobacco? I don't buy into that either. What we need are some better leaders and role models, not governors. When government tells us what to do, we resent it and rebel against it anyway. Now if a political figure could separate his duties as a governor and a leader and implore his fellow citizens to live a more healthy lifestyle, that would be great.
If a leader could plead for his countrymen to eat healthier, lose weight, get stronger, become more active, lessen alcohol and tobacco use, become less dependent on fossil fuels, recycle glass and aluminum...well the list is almost endless. But if this leader could show a genuine need then maybe, maybe people would listen. Look how the state of Minnesota had extra flu shots because their leaders asked those who weren't high risk to defer to the old, young and sick? The result was that Minnesota couldn't administer all the shots they had. No one wanted to do something that might put the needy at risk.
Let's not forget role models. What a professional basketball player does today will be on a video game tomorrow, in the newspapers tonight. Movie stars, recording artists, journalists all have a tremendous impact on the citizens in an information age when nothing is secret any more. In the past some of these people have said they didn't sign up to be role models, only to do their job. They have argued that what they do off the clock is their business.
It's an argument that falls flat. To earn millions of dollars a year and think you only signed on for the nine to five is naive. To whom much is given, much is expected.
It would be nice for someone like Ben Wallace to do an interview and tell people how he came to be where he is today. Whether it is through avoiding the pitfalls, or in spite of them, it would be nice if he told people that irresponsible habits won't get you into the NBA.
I'd like my seventeen year old to hear that, my son with the tobacco smell on his school clothes.
David Blaine [8:10 AM]