A few years ago, just before a previous polarizing presidential election, I was producing a television segment about a well-known pop star, and as a result was in close quarters with his band for extended periods of time. During a break in shooting I was chatting with his guitar player, also a highly visible musician, when the subject of politics came up.
“I’m voting for (conservative Republican candidate),” he said, with no trace of irony. I waited for the punchline or the smile that indicated he was joking, but it never came.
“Really?” I asked, trying to sound impartial but probably not succeeding. This man was a long-haired libertine who hung out in the orbit of a ’70s band legendary for its hard partying. I had once seen him staggering along a Lower East Side block known for its coke and crack dealers at 6 a.m. on a Sunday.
“Yeah,” he said. “Think about it. My business is entertainment. Whenever there’s a conservative in the White House, it depresses a lot of people and they look for ways to escape. They seek out entertainment, especially rebellious entertainment like rock n’ roll. Also, Republicans usually want to cut taxes on people in my bracket. So having (candidate) in office is good for my business, plus I get to keep more of the money I make.”
That conversation changed my perspective about the meaning of “rock n’ roll rebellion”. It also made me think more carefully about judging books by their covers.
Current case in point: the former FBI Director. In a very brief time span, he’s been a bad guy…until he was a good guy. He was cold and detached…until he was emotional and empathic. You hated him…until you liked him.
The second chapter of the Tao Te Ching addresses this paradox of duality. To place it in current context: we need to hear what he has to say, but it’s important to separate the man from the message.
There are a lot of flawed human beings in possession of useful knowledge. Sharing that knowledge does not make them any less flawed, even if it serves a greater good. The person is the same; the only thing that changes is the light in which the public views him.
The junkie Republican pop star makes great records that make you happy, but his motivation for making them is ultimately not in your best interest. By all means applaud the search for truth. But don’t glorify the truth-teller. Don’t judge an agent by his cover story.