December 10, 2016, Prescott- I spent the afternoon culling items from my clothes racks and getting rid of luggage, as well as other stuff for which I have no need. The dockman at the local Domestic Violence Prevention agency’s thrift store asked if I were giving up travel. No, sir, but I am giving up traveling with large luggage. It all has to fit in a backpack and a light handcart, which I will purchase in the Spring.
Now, on to the subject at hand: What makes an icon, and does anyone deserve the title?
The second question is answered in a word: “No”. We all, at various times, have feet of clay. I have had those moments, most notably for virtually the entirety of my 20’s, intermittently during my 50’s and the last time, in summer, 2013.
Many of us need iconic figures, though. Historical personages of this sort, abound: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, Ronald Reagan- each of whom has been yanked off the pedestal by one group or another. Sports figures come and go, and seem to have shorter shelf lives as icons, than do the above- although flesh and blood heroes, like Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Arthur Ashe and Muhammad Ali, have survived dethroning and controversy and withstood the test of scrutiny.
Icons come to mind for me, at this particular time, because of the passing, on Thursday, of John Glenn and the centenary, on Friday, of Kirk Douglas. First, Colonel/Senator Glenn: He would have been enough of a role-model, for his service to the U.S. during World War II, alone. In the 1960’s, though, every astronaut was larger than life, in the eyes of we who were in Middle School and High School. The magic of Space was being peeled back, and we were seeing that the likes of Alan Shepard and John Glenn were, indeed, going where no man had gone before- and that the Moon was well within Mankind’s grasp. John Glenn remained the Clean Marine, throughout two decades of service in politics, as well. No doubt, some will dish dirt on him; no one’s perfect after all, save Those sent directly from God. My guess, though, is that he, too, will stand the test of time, as a genuine hero.
Kirk Douglas at 100: His life, like that of many others in the film arts, has had its share of scrutiny, tragedy and suffering. His roles, though, have been varied and astonishing- from Spartacus to Van Gogh. For us boys in the period of Camelot, his performances defined manliness- both in appearance and in spirit. How many times did I stand in front of a mirror, and deliver terse rhetoric, with my jaw and chest thrust out?
His true greatness, though, has come with a fair recovery from his stroke, of twenty years ago. He showed no compunction about being videotaped and photographed, as is, at Friday’s commemorative event. I can only aspire to such a total lack of vanity, and wish him as many years more,as his quality of life permits. His final words to the media, on Friday, were: “I’ll give another interview, when I turn 200.” That’d be a marvel.
Let’s honour, and treasure, the tall ones among us, while not seeking to either exalt them beyond their levels of stamina or cut them down, out of a desperate urge to level the field.