Not long after Charles Ramsey became a sudden household name the other night when he crashed through the brick wall of our collective lives like Cleveland’s version of the Kool-Aid man, I remember thinking something along the lines of, “Oh man I hope this guy doesn’t have anything unsavory in his past,” because, as anyone who pays attention knows, no good deed ever goes unpunished in the age of the internet. You just knew that somewhere out there at least one pageview-hungry dickhead thought, “Let’s see what we can dig up about this Charles Ramsey guy!” and fired off a memo to his or her staffers, a memo laced with the sad underlying hope that they’d be the first to tear down the new everyman hero America had just joyfully embraced.
But yesterday, when roughly 24 hours had passed with virtually nothing bad in Ramsey’s past making news, I became hopeful, hopeful that maybe, just maybe, this guy was somehow untouchable — a straight-talking, working class average Joe type who just lived his life and somehow never happened to wrong anyone. Maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have to be subjected to the inevitable Charles Ramsey backlash, the distressing thing that always seems to happen whenever we turn our tired, weary eyes to some random person previously hidden from view of the general public who for some reason has inspired us and managed to stoke our inherent fascination with heroism.
In hindsight, I was such a fool for having hope. I should have known better. Allowing myself to have thoughts laced with hope was so naively idealistic on my part. Of course someone would dig up dirt on Ramsey. Someone always digs up dirt on guys like Ramsey, even if they have to track down still-scorned high school girlfriends to find people to speak ill of them, they’ll find something.
And so it came to be that late yesterday afternoon the Smoking Gun reported that our boy Ramsey has three domestic violence convictions on his record following incidents with his ex-wife that took place between 1997-2003, in addition to convictions for a handful of petty crimes in the early 90s. Soon thereafter, my Twitter feed was filled with tweets from people who seemed all-too-eager to be sanctimoniously shocked and appalled by such news, disavowing Ramsey’s heroism in the process, because the only thing we love more than building people up is tearing them down. In that vein, someone I follow tweeted, “Oh well, I guess he was too good to be true,” and I saw at least 100 variations of essentially the same tweet over the course of the remainder of the day.
Which gets me to this: just what the hell do whatever misdeeds Charles Ramsey committed a decade or more in his past have to do with what he did the other day? The guy paid his debt to society and has apparently cleaned up his life and stayed out of trouble for the last few years. Why should the fact that this week he saved three young girls from a life of utter sh*t be diminished because he’s proven himself to be, you know, a human being with flaws, like most of us are, in the past? Is “think twice before you help anyone if you have anything embarrassing in your past” really the message we want to send out here? Because that’s the message that’s being reinforced time and time again each time stuff like this happens.
In a recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner talked about how flummoxed he is that people seem so eager to judge the characters on his show for their moral lapses, saying this: “People have incredible morality when they’re watching other people do things.” He’s so right. People conveniently forget about their own moral failings when examining the lives of others. Show me a person who says they’ve never done wrong and I will show you a person who is full of sh*t. Charles Ramsey beating his wife a decade ago was a terrible thing, but he shouldn’t be condemned for the rest of his life for it. People can and do change, despite the misguided popular myth that they do not.
I don’t give a rat’s ass about who Charles Ramsey was ten years ago, because I pretty damn well like the guy he seems to be now. And anyone who embraced him initially but doesn’t like him anymore solely because he has a criminal record, well, just f*ck you.
Yeah, what he said.