This is not an article about Chris Brown. I mean, it is, but only because his recent public scandal exemplifies a lesson that everyone should learn at some point in their lives. (And I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not talking about the time he wore a baby-blue suit with a bow tie. That’s also a no-no, but that’s a lesson for another day.) In case anyone forgot, Chris Brown beat his girlfriend Rihanna in 2009 after an argument and was put on felony probation. Since then, he has been involved in a number of cases, most recently a hit-and-run that ended with Brown going “ballistic” on the other driver and refusing to give up his identification information. When Brown appeared in court this week to discuss the charges, the judge not only ruled that Brown was guilty but that his 2009 probation was revoked, which ultimately means the singer could face 4 years in jail.
Now, here’s what gets me. Society is responsible for teaching us what’s right and what’s wrong. We have police to enforce the laws, courts to determine the magnitude of our punishments, and jails to ensure those responsible are given enough time to realize their mistakes. Through these methods, we teach that no matter who you are, you cannot get away with your crimes.
At least, that’s what we want it to do. In today’s world, we’ve come to accept the fact that celebrities are born with a “get out of jail free” card when it comes to paying the price for their mistakes. Cases that would normally earn an offender jail time and hefty fines in the real world function differently for the privileged folk. People with money, people with connections: these are the people that get away. We’ve created two separate realms: one for the regular people and one for the privileged. Our society has failed us in that respect.
Because what happens when our moral compass fails to show us what’s wrong and what’s right? We never learn to take responsibility for our own actions. We shift blame away from ourselves or rationalize the situation until we’ve escaped culpability entirely. And this is not restricted to famous people who know how to wave their money around like a magic wand. When parents ignore the lessons of wrong and right, children end up spoiled, too. Then maybe someday, those kids turn into spoiled adults. Then those adults get rich and famous. And that’s how celebrities are born, people. (Don’t assume I’m talking about all celebrities, because I’m not. Not all celebrities are like this. Not all rich people are like this. We just tend to not hear about those as much, and whose fault is that, huh World?)
The problem with this is that mistakes make us who we are, almost more than our accomplishments. They make us human. If you pretend you don’t have any, you’re dehumanizing yourself. The harder you try to be part of this privileged, “flawless” group, the closer you are to becoming one giant walking mistake of a person.
I’ve done plenty of awful things in my life. I’ve written negative comments, I’ve talked about people behind their backs, I’ve made promises with no intention of keeping them. I’ve had bouts of self-righteousness that have lost me friends and gotten (got? Grammar…) me into numerous fights (but passive-aggressive fights because throwing punches just doesn’t hold too much appeal). And I’m glad. All of these things and the consequences of them sucked at the time but the lessons I learned as a result shaped who I am today. For example, I only know that it’s not okay to sleep in beds at the mattress store because I was yelled at one too many times by the workers there. As a result, I like to think I’m more responsible 20-year-old today. (This is an extreme example but you get the point.)
Long story short, if you don’t accept responsibility for the things you’ve done, or aren’t forced to accept them by a parents, guardians, or overly-demanding invisible friends, you end up like Chris Brown or Justin Bieber, peeing in a janitor’s bucket or committing a hit-and-run because you never learned to respect anyone other than yourself. (Celebrities can accept their own errors, too. Winona Ryder actually offered a very interesting perspective about her shop-lifting incident that sums up all the jumble above much more nicely.) We have to eliminate the existence of this “other” group, this undisciplined sector where children, teens, and adults who’ve learned, either by paying their way out of punishment or successfully shifting the blame away, that taking responsibilities for our actions is part of what keeps us grounded on Earth and keeps us human.
So, like I said, this article is not about Chris Brown. It’s about learning to accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all, because without them, you wouldn’t be you. You’d be Chris Brown, and no one wants that. (I’m totally kidding, but only about the Chris Brown thing. I was 100% serious about the flaws part.) Chris Brown should go to jail, even if for a little while, because if he doesn’t, the divide between “those who accept their mistakes” and “those who don’t have to” will grow and people will start to think that that’s okay. And for the record, it’s not.