By Travis Reynolds

We have a self-esteem problem in the United States. I think most people could have more confidence in their accomplishments, maybe a dab of extra pride, but as it turns out this nation has a built-in safety device for low self-esteem: celebrity worship.

What better way to make us feel better about ourselves than to nurse at the electric teat of Hollywood, envying and idolizing a group of fortunate multi-millionaires who don’t even know we exist as individuals?

I guess we could try living vicariously through them.

So there I was, as I sometimes am, standing in the checkout aisle at Kroger.

I stood patiently minding my own business, and the business of a few people who felt their cell phone conversations deserved an audience, and killed a bit of time by glancing at stacks of rag mags.

I loathe tabloids, but they make for a good laugh once in a while.

Imagine my surprise to see Angelina Jolie stinking up the covers of a solid 75 percent of them.

Angelina loves, hates, and gets over and under Brad. Angelina and her dad. Angelina lost/gained/drank/smoked away ten pounds. Angelina adopted a new gaggle of foreign kids.

Never mind the fact that I can’t remember an Angelina Jolie movie that didn’t suck like the prizewinner at a vacuum show.

If she’d star in something good once in a while I might change my tune, but “Tomb Raider” was awful as was the sequel.

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” was inoffensive but unspectacular, and any other brassy boob job could’ve played her part in “Gone in Sixty Seconds.” I could go on but I’m already sick with ennui thinking about it.

Even though her on-screen talents pale in comparison to the ones under her shirt, for some reason this woman’s personal life is so titillating that bored house-spouses across the nation snap up every little detail about her and “stars” just like her.

Tabloids wouldn’t make money otherwise.

We waste our free time discussing the lives of these people when they are, in fact, no better than any one of us.

Professional sports stars at least have an excuse. Netting seven-figure contracts for an athlete usually means reaching a state of unparalleled excellence.

All an actor has to do is look good and get lucky enough to be plucked from tens of thousands of hopefuls that could do the job just as well. Now, I’m not saying acting is easy. It isn’t.

It’s just easier than risking one’s life as a police officer or fire fighter.

As Americans we have every right to pride in what we do.

We interact with professors, university officials, cops, fire fighters and teachers all the time, and those people perform services that actually matter to the future of this nation.

They educate and protect us.

Jolie and her peers entertain.

Now you tell me why I should care more about a kajillionaire actress than I should an honest cop making $35,000 a year.

So our priorities are screwed up in America.

That’s not a real shock. But next time you reach for that tabloid to read the latest piece of gossip about a person who wouldn’t slog through your autobiography at gunpoint, think about saving that money.

Then, go do something that’ll make people give a damn about you instead of Angelina Jolie.