A few years back, some guy drove down from Murray County (if I remember correctly) on a tractor into the Worthington McDonald’s parking lot — at the time, in front of Northland Mall. If that wasn’t unusual enough, he was ultimately arrested for DWI. We simply had to run an account of this escapade in the paper, especially once we got our eyes on his mug shot taken at Prairie Justice Center. I don’t think I’d ever seen a person so apparently happy to pose for a booking photo.

That man — who I’ve affectionately referred to as “tractor boy” over the years — now just might have a rival in the jovial mugshot department. Justin Bieber got arrested the other night, and he looked downright pleased about it.

Bieber, for the pop-culturally ignorant, is a still-teenaged singer whose days as the heartthrob of tween girls are more or less over. After a small collection of hits about more-or-less innocent romance (“Baby, Baby,” “Boyfriend”), he attempted to grow up musically by pairing up with overtly sexual and frequently vulgar Nicki Minaj on “Beauty and a Beat.” Now, he’s grown up in far worse ways, with rampant drug rumors and other trouble preceding his arrest last week.

Seems as if Beebs, in a display of infinite un-wisdom, decided to have a few alcoholic beverages, do drugs and take some prescription medication before getting behind the wheel of a rented Lamborghini and drag racing down a residential street with a far-lesser-known musical artist. Justin wasn’t alone in his car, at least — he had the fortune to be accompanied by a model who was all over the Internet (with numerous images of her — scantily clad, naturally) the following morning. (Gentlemen, her name is Chantel Jeffries.)
Bieber, after getting busted for his lawbreaking, resisted arrest and reportedly used all kinds of nasty language with police. Still, he beamed for his mugshot … though he did look considerably more chagrined upon making his initial court appearance. Maybe he simply needed to sober up to begin to realize the multiple errors of his ways.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I almost feel sorry for the guy. After all, life as a young massive celebrity can’t be a walk in the park. (Thus, the need for the Lamborghini.) The story of a young idol’s fall from grace is nothing new, but these sorts of tales now tend to reach toward stratospheric heights thanks in large part to the proliferation of social media.
A few months back, many were talking about how the former Disney Channel heroine Hannah Montana was behaving as a grown-up Miley Cyrus. (Bec and I have told our kids, “She has been making bad choices.”) Another lesser-known Disney starlet, Demi Lovato, has been open about her struggles with addictions. And then there’s Lindsay Lohan, a cute child actress back in the day who has been reduced to little more than tabloid fodder thanks to repeated over-the-top exploits.

It’s easy to point at each of those folks and reduce them to someone who is merely making “bad choices,” but at the same time it’s difficult to comprehend what life in such an intense spotlight can be for someone so young. That’s not to say Justin Bieber should be pitied and excused for his behavior — obviously, he put his own life and others at risk with his recent antics — but as humorous as it may be for some to see a frequently ridiculed star get in trouble, it’s no laughing matter.

Grace, who at 9 would make an excellent reporter thanks to her accelerated eavesdropping skills, caught wind of Bec and I talking about Bieber’s arrest. “JUSTIN BIEBER WAS ARRESTED?!?!” she asked, stunned. Later, when she asked me why, I tried to explain to her the best I could, without saying too much for a 9-year-old. Grace’s take on this? “Well, Dad, if he keeps on doing stupid things like that, I guess I won’t like him any more.”

Who knows if Justin Bieber will indeed keep doing stupid things? I guess, if anything, it’s good that we have a daughter who realizes they are stupid, even though someone supposedly cool is doing them. If that outlook remains, we will have done at least one thing right.