For the two people out there unfamiliar with the story of Charles Ramsey — he is the man credited with coming to the aid of kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight in Cleveland. Apparently, there’s a little controversy in the case. Another neighbor of kidnapper Ariel Castro’s, Angel Cordero, says he, not Ramsey, was the one who was actually the point man in freeing the women.
“I helped her and I was first,” Angel Cordero said referring to Amanda Berry, the 27-year-old hostage who initially signaled for help. According to Cordero, Ramsey arrived after he was outside with the girl. “But the truth who arrived there, who crossed the street, who came and broke the door, it was me.”
Ramsey shot to temporary stardom after giving entertaining interviews to Anderson Cooper and others recounting how he broke down the door of Castro’s home to free the girls. Another neighbor, Wintel Tejeda, said Berry made her now-famous 911 call from his home. Cordero and Tejeda say they aren’t jealous of the attention Ramsey has received. From where I’m sitting, it seems that if there was no envy, both Cordero and Tejeda would’ve kept their traps shut.
Say what they will, like many people, Ramsey, Cordero and Tejada all must be a little intrigued by media celebrity (no matter how fleeting). But, should they? Ramsey is finding out what happens when the heat of the spotlight turns up. Along with notoriety comes scrutiny, and America loves the scandal that often results.
To be sure, no good deed goes unpunished. As soon as Ramsey became a media darling, that same media began to dig into his past. Some of it wasn’t good. It turns out the McDonald’s-loving dishwasher has three domestic violence convictions that resulted in jail time. The most recent, in 2003, ended with his wife filing for divorce. Ramsey also has prior convictions for drug possession, trespassing and receiving stolen property. Placed on the defensive, Ramsey said his brushes with the law made him a better man.
This case is instructive. It illustrates once again that we are a largely empty culture obsessed with celebrity. Everybody wants to be a star. Usually and unfortunately, this status is not reserved for the most intelligent or substantive citizens. Contrarily, it is the province of athletes, recording artists and reality TV stars. Everyday people crave it, though. We see their sad efforts to quench that thirst as they chronicle their every mundane activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They post photos of themselves posing in mirrors. They recount each and every outing, social event, date and thought with “status updates.” They change their “relationship status” immediately upon sleeping with their next “boo.” They even take pictures of their food.
Seemingly unbeknownst to them, social media maniacs are mimicking something that is quite empty. Unfortunately, at this historical moment, many of the personalities Americans revered sit at the heart of a popular culture wrought with messages that reinforce anti-intellectualism, shallowness, sexual and social frivolity, violence, successive foundationless romantic relationships, impetuous marriages, hasty divorces, decadence and materialism.
As Charles Ramsey is finding out, the only thing Americans crave more than popularity and success (or at least the façade of it) is watching falls from grace. What is to be gained by digging into Ramsey’s past? Whether he was aided by Cordero and Tejeda or not, the man did a good deed. I’ll tell you three people who don’t give a damn about Ramsey’s missteps: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
Maddening media scrutiny and the politics of destruction have led to many talented people in America refusing to do anything beyond their personal spheres or serve in public life. Think of how many good men and women have left politics or refused to even run because they don’t want to subject themselves or their loved ones to this type of meat-grinder. So, here we are — those who deserve the spotlight usually don’t get it and those who get it usually don’t deserve it. Such is the world in which we live. Maybe it’s only for a moment, but Charles Ramsey deserves a little positive attention and a pat on the back. I say, “Good for you, Charles Ramsey.” I’ll even post it on Facebook.
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