Words contain power– power that becomes diluted with overuse. The word hero gets thrown around so often it has completely lost its power. It’s become an expected title bestowed on anyone doing a good deed. Which brings me to my question… what is a hero?
The ancient Greeks gave us (along with concepts such as democracy) the word hero. Originally, a hero described someone who from a position of weakness displayed an act of courage or self-sacrifice for the greater good of humanity. So, breaking it down, a hero should:
- Come from a position of weakness (or in the face of great danger, adversity)
- Display an act of courage or self-sacrifice
- Do this act for the greater good of humanity.
Now, let’s look at some recent “heroes:”
Roselle died in June at the age of 13, but was posthumously given the top honor. She was honored for guiding Hingson down 78 flights of stairs in Tower One of the World Trade Center following attacks. Roselle died June 26, after the nominations were announced.
I have a daughter, so I went down to her to see if she was OK. I walked her back to her house and then we both called the cops.
Sullenberger appears to have landed a plane as safely as possible on the Hudson River, as all passengers survived, including one baby. Even the airplane’s manufacturer was impressed, telling the Daily News, “Ditching an aircraft is a significant accomplishment on the part of the pilot, as opposed to crashing one.” In fact, no one in 45 years has crash-landed an airplane in the water with no fatalities, the tabloid said. (We’re curious who pulled this off 45 years ago.)
Ok… to paraphrase Dennis Miller… I don’t want to go off on a rant here… but none of these people (nor the dog) are heroes. Instead, they did what they were supposed to do.
Doing what you’re supposed to do, does not make you a hero.
In contrast, not doing what you’re supposed to do makes you an asshole. I think this is the test we need to apply– the hero asshole test.
The Hero / Asshole Test
Yes, Captain Sullenberger had an amazing landing. Amazing. Landing on the Hudson was freaking amazing. He’s not a hero. He’s a pilot who made an amazing landing. That landing made him a great pilot– not a hero. What would the Captain be if he didn’t try to land the plane? He’d be an asshole.
The dog? The dog was a guide dog. Guide dogs are awesome– they go through a ton of training, develop and incredible bond with their owners, and are truly amazing. Now, what if Roselle said “holy shit” and ran down the stairs leaving her blind owner (who houses, feeds, and takes care of her) to fend for himself? Roselle would be an asshole.
The rape hero? He didn’t chase down the rapist. He heard what was described as a “blood-curdling” terrorizing scream. He opened his door and the rapist ran away. He saw the victim under a car, helped her home (a neighbor), and called the police. Now, what would he be if he ignored the blood-curdling scream? You guessed it– asshole.
True heroes deserve better
A hero doesn’t do what you’re supposed to do– a hero does what we wish we could do. Something we don’t do because of fear… because of self-preservation… because of complacency… a hero rises above everything, in the face of weakness, adversity, and danger and courageously fights for the greater good.
To me, none of the above incidents are heroic. They are great examples of humanity (even the dog)– but they are all examples of people doing what they are supposed to do.
You know, I’ve been bitching about the TSA for years now. You know who I think is a hero? Aaron Tobey.
Aaron Tobey, alone, stood up to the TSA, the man, and everyone pissing on our rights. While all of us shut our mouths and literally “take it,” this hero acted with courage and stood up to the violations of the TSA against our rights– rights other heroes have died to provide us. Rights which wars have been fought– rights which we just keep silent about losing.
When we recognize real heroes, we reward their heroism.