Ventura Aside, a Good Man or Woman Not Hard to Find

By Berggren, Kris | National Catholic Reporter, February 12, 1999 | Go to article overview

Ventura Aside, a Good Man or Woman Not Hard to Find


Berggren, Kris, National Catholic Reporter


Until recently, my children remained blissfully ignorant of current events. I once asked my 6-year-old daughter whether she knew who Monica Lewinsky was. "Oh, yes," she delighted. "She's the 15-year-old who won the gold medal in the Olympics." (My apologies to Tara Lipinski.)

The question of morel leadership raised during the impeachment process has caused me to think hard about how the seeds of virtue are planted and nurtured in our children. "Where have all the heroes gone?" we moan. Even adults long for real life examples to encourage us to be better: to behave more selflessly, excel at something, heal wounds, make beautiful things, work harder, be kinder.

We are sick of entertainment and sports heroes who often seem so greedy and self involved. The saints, sometimes offered as a Catholic alternative, may seem too remote or steeped in historical context to be relevant. Youth seem to look up to our pope, who takes courageous and counter-cultural stands on issues like capital punishment, abortion and social justice for the poor, but I'm not sure many young people picture themselves waving from the pope-mobile one day.

In Minnesota, we have just elected a man who may seem a role model to some. But some of us have been peppered with E-mails and phone calls from our friends in other states to the effect of, "Do you people all have a terrible case of cabin fever?" (Just in case the reader, like my daughter, remains blissfully ignorant, Minnesotans chose Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura, former Navy Seal and prime-time wrestler, Arnold Schwarzenegger buddy and all-around macho Everyman to be our governor).

Ventura mildly sparked my interest with his earthy ways, and hey, I'm all for reform of politics as we know it. Ventura clearly respects Joe and Jane Sixpack, the folks who are just trying to make ends meet and have a good time once in a while, you know, fishing, jet skiing, the Vikings game, you betcha. His off-the-cuff speeches are full of personal anecdotes and "ya know's" in his Minnesota-voweled baritone. He touts personal responsibility and minimizing government's involvement in people's lives.

But listen closely and you'll hear restrained violence in that folksy growl. "My governor can beat up your governor," the T-shirts and bum per stickers proclaim. Ventura relishes his particular blend of egoism and iconoclasm. (His inaugural ball garb? A fringed buckskin jacket, Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and sunglasses.) Oh, he wore a suit to the actual inauguration. But he seems to take an almost adolescent pride in his might-makes-right, take-no-prisoners image.

Ventura favors eliminating student aid for higher education, claiming that if students are "smart enough to go to college, they're smart enough to figure out how to pay for it. …

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