I lifted weights, fairly seriously I might add, throughout my high school experience and for a while into college. I enjoyed the activity and the sport. I read weightlifting and bodybuilding magazines, learned about fitness, and followed the careers of the sport's heroes. There was none bigger, in more ways than one, than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Arnold was not a weightlifter per se but a bodybuilder. He lifted to develop his fitness and physique, and he won every bodybuilding title worth winning, including Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe—several times. His over-sized but perfectly proportioned body was a wonder, as were the circumference of his biceps.
It was fun to read about his bodybuilding efforts, and it was even more fun when he relocated to America from his native Austria and produced one of the first notable bodybuilding-weightlifting-fitness films, “Pumping Iron.” Then came the movie career, the amusing if forgettable “Conan” films, assorted others including the silly comedy “Twins” with Danny DeVito and the enjoyable dramedy “Kindergarten Cop.” About the time a lot of people wrote Arnold off as a terminal B-movie actor he introduced a different kind of terminal: the global blockbuster known as the “Terminator” films. Arnold had proved them all wrong.
Clearly Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t just another muscle-bound dumb guy. He made it in a challenging industry, becoming box office gold in the process. He became one of those people immediately recognizable simply by their first name. He was just “Arnold,” known as widely in Japan as in the States.
Marrying Maria Shriver was a surprise. Now Arnold really seemed to have made it. He became an adopted son, so to speak, in the Kennedy family. The American political dynasty, Democrat no less, somehow made room for this huge Republican. Needless to say this only added to Arnold’s mystique, his brand.
Fast-forward twenty-five years: an apparently good marriage, the successful movie career, four children with Maria, and a term as California Governor. Good stuff to say the least. Then last week the Schwarzeneggers announce their separation. Say what? Why? It wasn’t long in coming. A few days later Arnold admits to having had an affair more than a decade ago with a household staff member, fathering a child. Making matters worse, he apparently conducted the affair at about the same time Maria was pregnant with their fourth child. Making it worse still, unless Maria knows more than she’s let on, Arnold somehow kept the affair and the child secret until last week. But, truth finally trumped the Terminator. Maria walked out. Now rumors are surfacing the marriage has been in trouble for years.
No one, me included, ever thought of Arnold as a saint. He was known early on as a womanizer. Just before he entered the Governor’s mansion he was accused of “groping” women and Maria had to defend him. No, we knew Arnold, as he put it in 2003, was capable of “behaving badly sometimes.” But we never suspected he was capable of lying to his spouse for more than a decade. Or that he was living a lie before the American public.
To my knowledge, Arnold has never made any pretense to religion. He is who he is. But herein is the disappointment. He is who he is, which means he is not who he claimed that he is. We thought he’d grown up. We thought he’d put his womanizing past in the past. We thought he was a smart fellow, which he is, but he wasn’t smart enough to make right choices or simply to do right by the spouse and the children with which he has been so richly blessed.
So Arnold isn’t much of a hero after all. He’s just another one of those guys who selfishly puts his own desires ahead of all others. He’s another one of those political leaders who, in the end, lacks character, not only marital fidelity but honesty. He is, ironically, a lot like several of the Kennedy men.
Arnold’s life isn’t over. He can make amends and rebound. But will he? I don’t know, and given that he’s one of the sports and entertainment figures I considered interesting, I find it all quite sad.
Arnold is just a man, not a machine, but because he is, there is hope. I trust that somehow in all this, through some friend perhaps, Arnold will discover the God of second chances, who expects sincere repentance, and who then forgives, heals, and reconciles. It would be a powerful story if the Terminator discovered his potential and his legacy don’t have to terminate here.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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