According to The Los Angeles Times, John Wayne said, "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility," in 1971. As a result, people want Orange County's John Wayne Airport to be renamed.
We all have heroes, people who are larger than life, who we look up to. These people have done something which has inspired others on some level. In September of 2014, I wrote a blog about meeting one of my childhood heroes, Dirk Benedict.
Mr. Benedict, played the part of two action heroes on television when I was growing up. I was excited to meet him. When I did meet him he turned out to be a right wing nut job. I felt betrayed until I realized he didn't owe me anything. He played a role on TV and made a little boy happy, and that's all he was suppose to do.
We idealize our heroes. We assume that because they inspire us that they have no flaws. One could argue that FDR, JFK, and Bill Clinton were three of the best presidents of the twentieth century. Yet all three men cheated on their wives while in office. Does this flaw mean that they should not be honored for their contributions? Should we take their names off grade schools?
Heros are people and people have flaws. Yes, John Wayne made a stupid racist comment. I, for one, am glad he never ran for public office. However, his job was not to make laws or serve as a moral compass. His job was to make movies, and he did that. His body of work has entertained and inspired generations of Americans. The airport is named after the inspirational figure not the flawed man.
If we insist our heros be perfect before we honor them, we won't have any heros to look up to.