Aaron Hernandez is in a lot of trouble. Before his life becomes a cautionary tale worthy of Afroman’s early 2000’s hit song “Because I Got High” , let us reflect a little bit on why his life is in serious trouble, even if he may beat the rap on the three murders that he is being charged with or investigated for at the moment . Not two weeks ago, Aaron Hernandez was a tight end for the New England Patriots, widely recognized as one of the most talented players at his position, in a contract worth tens of millions of dollars. Now he sleeps in a medium-security prison while police rummage through his home, his condo, and anything else they can find of him (including some long-term rental cars) in order to piece together a circumstantial case against him for homicide.
Without examining the legal case against him and its strength, let us comment a little bit on why the investigation is moving along so rapidly, given that the double murder case for the drive-by shooting at the club last year was definitely a “cold case” until this week when all of the sudden Aaron Hernandez’ name shows up for it. Like many people, Mr. Hernandez decided it was best to act with a posse, a group of people who were supposedly drawn to him and part of his trusted inner circle. In any legal case of this magnitude, when someone acts with others of lesser stature and importance, it is the desire of the prosecutor to gain a conviction by getting the lesser figures to agree to deals to turn on those who have the bigger names and are the bigger fish, so that the prosecutor can add to his luster and reputation by gaining high-profile convictions. It is easier by far to beat the rap when one acts alone (a la OJ Simpson I), but much harder when one commits crimes with accomplices who squeal and turn state’s evidence (OJ Simpson II, Michael Vick, etc.). It seems as if some people do not realize the dangers that their posses present to their own alleged illegal behavior.
At this point, barring a major turnaround, Aaron Hernandez appears well on his way to becoming a cautionary tale of a privileged football player whose college career at the University of Florida was greatly checkered with allegations of drug use and violence with guns already and whose immense skill appears to have been wasted by poor self-control and anger management issues, to put it mildly. His life has become a feast of vultures, walking the perp walk, having his life spilled out in an unfriendly fashion for the envy and hostility of the masses and for the parasitic media culture that loves to build people up for their gifts and then tear on them for their demons. Aaron Hernandez is not the first person who will suffer the whiplash of being build up higher than his character merited because of his ability to use his God-given gifts. Nor will he be the last to see his world fall around him in the frenzy of charges and accusations, whether they are true or not (though matters certainly look grim right now).
Let us reflect that it is not only people who behave as do the people in the Aaron Hernandez case. Just as is the case with people, so to with nations and societies are there areas where we are immensely gifted and productive as nations and institutions, and areas where we are definitely troubled with weaknesses. We too get built up by others, blessed individually and collectively, and may mistakenly believe that we have earned these privileges rather than possessing them on a conditional or provisional basis. When difficulties come, our own boon companions could easily turn on us in a (possibly vain) attempt to save their own skins, and those who might be envious of our blessings will be quick to rejoice at any sign that we are suffering divine judgment for our sins.
Such reflections ought to temper our enjoyment at the suffering of others. Just as it is easy for us to turn on those who have risen to great heights and then fallen under the weight of their own character flaws, none of us are immune from making the same kinds of errors of judgment (even if few of us would act in such a way as to be under suspicion, much less guilty, of multiple homicides). Likewise, our society, which has a casual disregard for God’s ways, including its own murderous rampage against its population of unborn, is certainly not in the place where it can look down on the possibly dark heart of Aaron Hernandez. If his own life has been a feast of vultures, the same is true for us and our society, to our shame. By condemning him, we condemn ourselves for the same sorts of sins.
Even as we take some popcorn, prop up our gouty feet, and watch the media circus that is the Aaron Hernandez case, we ought to soberly reflect on the fact that individually and collectively, we could easily suffer the same sort of fate. We ought to seek for the truth to come out, and for justice to be served, but also to use a situation like this to reflect upon the ways that we improperly idolize athletes, musicians, and other cultural figures (such as business leaders) for their particular set of skills in the absence of concern or knowledge about their moral character. We build people up far higher than they deserve, and when their character flaws inevitably lead them into trouble, we rapidly turn on them and our idolizing becomes ferocious (un)righteous indignation and envious hostility. Just as it is Aaron Hernandez who has taken the sad perp walk and is facing the rest of his life behind bars, so too all of us as a society may be characters like him, set up with an unmerited rise so that we may serve to warn others with our swift fall while others rejoice at our suffering because of their own dark and envious hearts. We too may be serving as a main course in a feast for vultures, and it ought to temper our conduct in the meantime.
 The lines would go something like this:
“I’m in jail for triple murder
Because I got high.
I bumped off another football player
Because I got high.
Now I’ve got life in prison,
And I know why
Because I got high,
Because I got high,
Because I got high.”