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Athletic. Beautiful. Charming. These are three beloved character traits that countless people expend endless energy aspiring towards beginning on their first days of formal education and persisting until the day they die. If you don’t believe this is a phenomenon limited to raucous high school hallways throughout the USA, you have not considered the generous support received by worldwide gold medal winning Olympians and barely-there fashion draped supermodels. And what about the CEO’s making six figure incomes while their overworked and underpaid (or slave) struggle to make ends meat. How do they get away with that?
The short answer: we admire them. They are all that we wish to become – strong, successful, and unbeatable. After all, they can’t be that bad if they made it all the way to the top, right? So we forgive their faults as we hope others might forgive ours. We turn a blind eye to the uncomfortable facets of their lives, and we label them with phrases like, “he’s basically a good guy, but the press really hates him.” Then we take the time to plead the tyrant’s case in the court of public opinion amongst our friends and family, both on social media and in person.
The ramifications of power-prop idolatry are manifesting in similar patterns across the globe. Military child rapists in the African DRC, purveyors of a financially corrupt American political system, and nationalist world dictators everywhere have perfected the science of acquiring whatever they want. They know how to compete and win. Their world is that of a perpetual high school popular kid, and they will do whatever is necessary to stay on top. Worst of all; they do so with our blessings because we wish we could do it.