Home>Highlight>The O’Toole Chronicles: John Belushi – What Belongs to the Public and What is Private?

The O’Toole Chronicles: John Belushi – What Belongs to the Public and What is Private?

By Kevin O'Toole, December 22 2020 12:01 am

I was watching the documentary, Belushi, which chronicled the life and tragic demise of one of my favorite actors – John Belushi. I was struck by a few things – one of them is some crazy non-linear line between John and his adoring public, and some of our political officials and the public.

Actress Carrie Fisher, who worked with John Belushi in The Blues Brothers and was one of his colleagues and friends, said about John: “he was just a big event and once you have that kind of television fame, you belong to people – you live in their homes and TV sets – everyone felt like they knew him and just come up to him and do whatever…”It got me thinking about the parallels between this amazingly gifted, albeit conflicted and sometimes tormented individual, and some of our elected officials.

Along the lines of what Carrie Fisher said about Belushi, when we elect our officials, we get a sense of familiarity and, in some part, a sense of ownership. In many instance, their private lives are just as much our business as the votes they cast. But is that fair?

I can’t tell you how many times when I was an elected official I was approached in a restaurant (while dining with my family), or stopped while shopping and asked questions about the tax structure of our state, forecasts on the next election, solicitation for a job, or just subjected to an opinion of some random constituent. While there is a time and place for these illuminations, I would suggest that the public allow elected officials to have some private time and respect personal space. We do have office hours and my sometimes less than patient kids don’t always appreciate their mom or dad not being able to finish dinner with them as someone walked up to the table and rambled about the US Constitution and state’s rights. Yes, voters pay their salaries and tax dollars pay for our government, but that doesn’t mean that you own or can dominate the personal time of elected officials.

In short, we should all be a little more mindful of the private space of our elected officials.

We lost John Belushi at a very young age and his friends wondered aloud if the crush of his adoring public and his circumstances significantly quickened his demise. While I don’t wish the demise upon our elected officials, this is how we lose the good ones from public office – often too soon.

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