I remember writing an essay, oh, about one hundred years ago, about modern heroes. Ok, maybe it was more like twenty or twenty-two years ago, but with the condition my body is in lately, it seems like a hundred. In any event, my thoughts back then were wrapped around the notion that my generation had no hero. In the early 90’s I took a look around and noticed that the heroes of my grandfather’s time and my father’s time were not only gone, but there were no others around to carry on their legacy.
We had no Malcolm, no Martin, no Rosa. We had no JFK, no RFK…no one to make us feel really hopeful and safe. We had Jesse, but, well…yeah…we’ll just leave that one alone. Clinton gave us hope. Forty deuce came on the scene and cleaned some things up. Couldn’t quite keep his own house clean of course, however he still did some things. But that’s always the problem with modern would be heroes, they’re always followed by scandal. Even worse, that scandal then taints every good, heroic thing they’ve ever done.
These days, when we think about heroes, are minds go straight to comic books, television, and movies. Or possibly Hollywood and sports. We think of Superman, Batman, and The Avengers. Or we may think of Drew Brees, LeBron James, or Derek Jeter. Kids today know more about Iron Man and David Beckham than they do about Ghandi or Mother Theresa. Hell, I think the same could be true of me. But consider the times we live in. Being positive is a dangerous business. Saying that you’re going to do the right thing will most likely result in the end of your social, personal, or professional life. We now live in a world where the media digs up dirt on everyone. Feel good stories sell papers, but only for a few hours. Scandal though…scandal can increase circulation, viewership…and revenue! And there’s no better scandal than one that involves a would be hero.
So what was it that I was looking for? Well, I wanted a hero. And not someone to swoop down from the skies or speed through town to save us in the nick of time. No…nothing like that. What I wanted was someone who was a true hero. The Classical hero, the mythical hero follows a certain blueprint. He has an interesting origin story and then at some point in his life he experiences a great loss. It’s a loss that transforms him into…something else…something more. He wants revenge to some degree, but more than that, he never wants anyone to feel the pain he’s endured. He’s not necessarily a hero because he wants to be…but because he HAS to be. And then he realizes what it is he does for the people. He gives them hope. He inspires them. He makes them realize that all of them can be heroes because ultimately, it’s not just about what you do…it’s also about who you are.
I live in a world where I see ugliness everyday. I see drug addicts and alcoholics who prostitute themselves to get their next fix. I watch people go home to roach and bed bug infested SRO’s where they’re taken advantage of by building manager’s and the public in general because they suffer from cognitive deficits, mental illness, or some type of deep rooted trauma. And in extreme cases…they suffer from all three. Our local, state, and federal government believe it’s more important to allocate resources to programs or “needs” that generally benefit the groups that provide the loudest voice…and fattest donation.
I don’t want someone to come in and fix everything. I want someone we can look toward to give us hope in a scary world.
Someone who can inspire us all to be more and to not be afraid to try.
Someone who can remind us that we can all be heroes.