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I am a self proclaimed coffee addict and Executive Director of a non profit missions agency working primarily in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Ensenada. I've been married for over 30 years to Chelle, and we have one grown son, Joseph, a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheap Heroism? You Tell Me...

I am not sure when it started. This devaluing of the word hero. But it is running rampant.

Used to be someone had to do something heroic to be considered a hero. Like save someone’s life. Now they just have to die, sometimes just doing their job.

Let me give you an example.

I grew up hearing about a soldier named Audie Murphy, pictured here. This guy was a hero. During WWII in France, while fighting in 2 feet of snow, he single handedly held off an entire unit of German soldiers. Not single handedly as in Audie and his men. Single handedly! He had sent his men to the rear for their safety.

And then he fought the Germans himself. First with his gun, then using the guns on a burning tank and finally calling in an airstrike.

Audie Murphy was a hero, the winner of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars with Valor device, and three Purple Hearts.

I bring this up because of a disturbing trend I am seeing. I am sure it started further back, but I first noticed it during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Our soldiers and public servants are being called heroes when they die, no matter the circumstances. Soldier dies in a mess tent accident, he dies a hero. Motor pool mishap, another hero. A policeman is gunned down during a traffic stop and he too is now hailed as a hero.

How did this happen?

Now don’t get me wrong, every single one of those guys above was somebody’s dad, brother, mom, sister, son or daughter… and for that we mourn, offer our condolences, and thank them for their contribution and ultimate sacrifice to our country.

I just wonder if in our need to see everyone as a hero, we’ve devalued the term.

CNN has heroes, the fire department has heroes, the Boy Scouts have heroes, and here in Nevada, a likely unconscious pilot is somehow being called a hero for avoiding the grandstands and only crashing his plane into the box seats at the Reno Air Show.

If all those folks are heroes, what does that make a real hero like Audie Murphy?

A Super Hero?

You tell me…

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Comments on "Cheap Heroism? You Tell Me..."


Blogger BB-Idaho said ... (2:45 PM) : 

Interesting observations. A couple things driving the cheapening of 'hero'- the mass media and the
war in VN. The first, IMO draws
attention to tragedies that happen practically daily-we project heroism on victims. In WWII and prior, death on the battlefield was a more private family affair
(I'm old enough to remember the
Gold Stars hanging in grieving
Mom's windows); a brief note in the local paper. After Korea and
later Viet Nam, people began noticing our troops fighting in
combat and thinking what for?
One consequence was distain by
some towards returning veterans.
While such was misplaced, there
was a natural counter-reaction and some considered them all heros.
So media/recent 'police actions'
sort of fit the timeframe of the
process you note. As far as the
Medal Of Honor, the recipients
meet the definition of hero..then
and now.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (3:27 PM) : 

Certainly BB, the M of H people are, were, and always should be considered heroes!

I think your analysis, and certainly the times frames are about right.

I seem to remember it starting after Vietnam... remember, our history was not too good over there...

Relax righties, I am not apologizing, just stating a fact...


Blogger Doug said ... (7:49 AM) : 

I think sometimes people confuse the altruistic traits of heroes as qualifications to be a hero.

Wanting to serve your country, or save lives, or even believe a pilot would do what ever is possible to avoid killing people - even as evidence points to the fact that the accident was uncontrollable and he was in fact in no position to do anything about it - are traits that people should aspire to believe in.

These people are perhaps Idols, or Leaders, or Role Models, but not necessarily Heroes.

In the classic sense, the action should be not only heroic but also superhuman in some way as to defy the odds or be unbelievable in some fashion.

Audie Murphy and his heroic actions fit that definition.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (10:08 AM) : 

Amen Doug... it's like me, if I can be so bold.

I do what i do to help people, because I believe that is God has called me, and wants me to do.

Now in the course of that work, some, or perhaps a lot of people are helped and that is good.

But I do not consider myself a hero. I am just a guy trying to do what is right.

I think that is the attitude of many who are described by others as heroes.

It is the describers who seem to be the ones looking for people to anoint as heroes...


Blogger Leslie Parsley said ... (11:31 AM) : 

A very interesting question you pose, Dave - and ditto with the comments.

Here's a definition of "hero:"

"A person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities - a war hero

The chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize

(in mythology and folklore) A person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legends"

I suppose one day women will be included? ;)

I think BB is right that it probably started as a reaction against anti-war protesters, although most of us condemned the war and not the troops. The media, however, loved to emphasize the shouters and spitters, and the nubile young ladies placing flowers in the rifle barrels.

I think there's been this sort of natural progression to tagging everyone a hero, whether or not they are in the classic sense, because there are just so many people who feel alienated? - lonely? - lost? - unfulfilled? - and who desperately need someone in their lives to look up to. And, of course, the media is more than willing to jump in there and play on their emotions, helping to create modern-day mythological creatures.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (12:46 PM) : 

Leslie, I saw that definition and decided not to use it because of the man/woman thing...

I think man has for years desired to look up to someone and hence the cult of the hero.

For some reason, we have this innate need to have someone "above" or "better" than us to admire, but we tend, in my opinion, to go to far.

Thanks you guys for continuing to check in...


Blogger Themanwhoknewtoomuch said ... (10:14 AM) : 

There are pleanty other heros like Audie Murphy around these days, but the only problem is that our President can't seem to remember their names.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (6:48 AM) : 

The.... what does President Obama have to do with this post?


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