The two paths to fame

There are two paths to becoming famous: You can be either very good or very bad. Guess which path is the easiest.

There were examples of both recently.

Wednesday was the public memorial for Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. He devoted his life to flight. He got his pilot’s license before he could drive. As a pilot, astronaut, engineer, and professor, he not only achieved humanity’s greatest dream, he helped produce innovations that benefit all of us. His achievements have earned himself a permanent place in history.

Then, there are the producers of “Innocence of Muslims.”

As the sordid details of how this movie got made become available, it becomes clear that its creators had ill intentions, if not outright evil ones. They certainly didn’t intend to produce a quality film. Low budget, poor production values, and a cast who were lied to about what characters they’re supposed to play. The creators intended to spark a reaction, and they got one. This does not excuse the violence, and it doesn’t mitigate the loss for the families of those who died. Still, the creators of “Innocence of Muslims” took the low path to fame and achieved it beyond their expectations.

Can you really compare Neil Armstrong to the creators of “Innocence of Muslims”? Consider that the space program costs billions of US dollars and decades of research and development versus “Innocence of Muslims” that was thrown together over a few weeks at a cost of USD 5 million. Compare how Neil Armstrong risked his life as a pilot and astronaut with how the creators of “Innocence of Muslims” made great efforts to conceal their identities. Compare how Neil Armstrong’s achievements furthered technology and benefited humanity as a whole with the damage “Innocence of Muslims” that has done in US international relations — as well as the deaths and destruction the violence has caused.

It is easier to cheat than achieve, instigate than reconcile, destroy than create. This is why evil is the quickest way to fame. It certainly was for Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Manson, and Timothy McVeigh. But is this the fame any of us want? Would we want people to remember us with hatred or love? Would we rather make the world worse or better?

The high path to fame is harder and certainly has no guarantee of success. It almost certainly will not get us in the history books or on CNN. What is certain is that we will earn the appreciation of the people we help along the path. They will carry on our legacy by using what we teach them to help others. We will be remembered with love, not scorn or hatred.

A little bit of good fame can accomplish much more than a lot of bad fame. And if enough people can accomplish enough of the good fame, we can make a positive impact on history, perhaps as much as Neil Armstrong did.

So if you are offended by “Innocence of Muslims,” here is your chance to achieve some good fame. Give the movie the reaction it deserves: Laugh derisively at the stupidity of it and then ignore it. Remember that faith is stronger than ridicule, and the “Innocence of Muslims” is not worth committing violence.