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Commentary: Immigration and batting the pitcher eighth

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 7, 2010 - Just when did we decide to stop thinking for ourselves? What was the exact point in time when we abdicated the responsibility for examining an issue and making an informed decision based upon the facts, rather than simply adopting the opinion of a celebrity?

St. Louis Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa made the national news and caused a small uproar when he expressed the opinion that he supports Arizona’s new immigration law. According to published reports, including a piece in “USA Today,” La Russa said he supports the measure by Arizona because the federal government has failed to adequately address the immigration problem.

Apparently, La Russa agrees with me on this issue. But I am certain it is not because of my opinions on illegal immigration. And similarly, I do not hold my opinions and beliefs just because of what La Russa thinks. La Russa has an opinion. I have an opinion. But that is where the similarity stops.

La Russa is an educated man, a hugely successful baseball manager and, likely, a very nice person (I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Tony La Russa). And, for example, if I want to understand the pros and cons of placing the pitcher in the eight spot of the batting order rather than in the nine spot, I would seek his advice and give it considerable weight. But on immigration? No disrespect intended, but why do I care what he thinks?

And I am not suggesting that La Russa gave his opinion to sway mine or anyone else’s point of view. More likely, he was simply responding to a reporter’s question. That he gave an answer, that he expressed his opinion, is entirely appropriate. But why was this reporter asking Tony La Russa about immigration laws in the first place? What about the race in the National League Central Division? What about the injuries to the Cardinals starting rotation?

And having given his opinion, why all the ruckus? It isn’t as though he suggested trading Albert Pujols, something upon which he would have some influence and impact. It is very unlikely that either President Obama or Gov. Brewer will call Tony La Russa for advice, so we can all stop worrying.

Singer/musician Kid Rock was uncommonly humble (and insightful) about celebrity opinions, including his own, in a recent interview. According to Kid Rock, “I truly believe that people like myself, who are in a position of entertainers in the limelight, should keep their mouth shut on politics. Because at the end of the day, I'm good at writing songs and singing. What I'm not educated in is the field of political science. And so for me to be sharing my views and influencing people of who I think they should be voting for ... I think would be very irresponsible on my part.”

Thank you, Kid Rock. Are you listening Sean Penn? Can someone get the Dixie Chicks off the stage please? And it is not just liberal leaning celebrities that we overworship. There are Chuck Norris, Ben Stein, Steve Baldwin and Victoria Jackson on the conservative side.

A distinction should be made here, however, between celebrity opinions and celebrity-led causes. It is admirable to lend one’s time and talents to help find a cure for breast cancer, or to fight homelessness, or to build a park; it is much less so to provide only unsolicited exposition on social and political issues.

But at the end of the day, let’s not blame the celebrities. Instead, we need to stop allowing them to think for us. We need to take the time to become informed, ask questions of all sides, and come to our own conclusions. Turn off E! Television and turn on the BBC. Put down People magazine and pick up the newspaper. Who knows, maybe if we stop relying upon celebrities do our thinking, a heavy burden will be lifted from their shoulders. This just might make the difference come World Series time for Tony La Russa.

Jay Kanzler is a lawyer. 

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