The United States of America is known as the Land of Opportunity. Anything or anyone who takes away or diminishes the opportunities we as Americans enjoy, should be of concern to all of us. While you may not view it in the same light, there is a modern day phenomenon that is robbing millions of Americans of their opportunity to achieve outstanding success or to make a real difference during their brief stay here on earth. I’m referring to something that has come to be known as “Celebrity Sickness.” The reason it is so devastating for the person who is obsessed with a celebrity, is that they lose too much precious thinking and planning time for their own career. This is truly a shame because they are forfeiting their opportunity for great success in some field of endeavor.

On a recent airplane flight into Dallas, I had this confirmed in a way that caused me to do some serious thinking. At this point you might be saying, “This is a free country and it’s none of your business if someone wants to be obsessed with a rock star, athlete, movie star, singer or other well known person.” Granted, I will give you that, but it’s one thing to be merely obsessed, and it’s an entirely different matter if that obsession leads a person to harm themselves or others in the name of their idol.

The most famous obsession case of all took place in March 1981, when John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a Washington hotel. Hinckley later said he shot the president to impress actress Jodie Foster. There have been countless other cases where some person was stalking a celebrity and had to be restrained. Here is the reason I wanted to share this with you and at least give you something to think about. You may have children, grandchildren or friends who fall into this category and you may be able to help them. Of course, there is a possibility this person could be you.

According to research at DeVry University and the Southern Illinois School of Medicine, 10% of the American public is developing an unhealthy obsession with celebrities that can lead to depression, anxiety and psychosis. Now I’m not that great at math, but with 290 million people in our country, if we divide that number in half to discount for the very young and the very old, we still have 145 million people. When you take 10 percent of that number, you have over 14 million people who fall into this most unfortunate lifestyle.

This research also discovered that 1 percent of the American public has such an unhealthy obsession with celebrities that they are prepared to harm themselves or others in the name of their idol. Obviously John Hinckley was one of these. In the past few days I have done quite a bit of thinking about why this has become a real problem. One of the basic reasons is because of increased technology we now have more time and money and most people do not have to work from sunup till sundown just to make a living. When people are dead tired, they go to bed a lot earlier.

Another reason is the proliferation of the media. First, the silver screen gave us access on a regular basis to beautiful people, and it was easy to fall in love with them. This also gave those with less beauty and physical strength a way to fantasize and to see themselves actually playing the parts or roles of the various actors. Then the clincher came along in the form of television. Television not only brought us beautiful and talented people, it also brought the games, right into our living rooms. This allowed us to see with our own eyes the World Series, the Masters, the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Stanley Cup and various other sporting events.

We now have so many choices of those who can be our idols and our heroes. When they come to our town or city and even if we have to travel long distances, we can go see them in person. If we are lucky, we may even get to meet them up close and personal with a handshake or a hug. We can buy their CD’s, tapes, books, videos, and hang their pictures on our walls. That’s the choice and the right we have as free Americans.

What I’m saying here may not make any difference to you at all, but I just wanted to make you aware that many people are in danger of an unhealthy obsession with some celebrity and the pitfalls that may result. Personally, I admire many people and respect many others, but I am not obsessed and do not worship any of them. Here is the real question. Is this celebrity a good role model for young people? If they are not, I will not support them or their career. Young people are the future of our country and they need good role models and celebrities they can look up to.

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Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.