Sunday, March 23, 2008

Where are your Heroes now?

I'm not a believer in heroes. It's an involuntary, knee-jerk reaction to cringe whenever I hear or read about someone talking about their 'heroes' or 'idols'. It's in my opinion that by placing certain people up on pedestals and giving them a token of immortality we rather demolish their humanity, which is a dangerous crime in all of it's unintentional evil. What do I mean by using the word 'dangerous?' I say dangerous because in making idols and/or heroes out of others, we forget to bring out the best in ourselves because we cannot recognize it when our attention is focused on others. This defies the entire point of humanity and the state of being a humanist. There is absolutely nothing wrong with recognizing other's good deeds and giving awards and calling attention to it. What is dangerous and wrong is making that person seem perfect, a statue of virtue. The person who is a public hero or an idol is just as human as the homeless man on the street. And conversely, the homeless man on the street is just as much a potential (or unsung) hero as the person who the public decries.

A good society would look at every single person on the same level, no matter what class, race, or creed. This is an incredibly radical concept called 'smashing divisions.' Free-thinkers, hippies and tree huggers have been attempting to introduce this concept for the past couple of centuries but it just doesn't seem to be getting into anyone's heads, much less the American society.

Another dangerous thing to do when it comes to heroes and idols is that we as as a population of human beings seem to give them our responsibility as individuals. We hear about particular persons doing good deeds, and we leave it to them to do good. Good deeds have nothing to do with religion, party lines or ideals. They have to do with the responsibility every human being fundamentally has to reach out to others.

Think about it. You're having a rotten day, nothing has gone right. The dog ate your underwear, you locked your keys in your car, the kids are sick and your spouse is indifferent. You go into the supermarket to pick something up, and in the checkout lane you come up exactly three dollars short of the amount to pay. It's the final straw. Then the person behind you hands you three dollar bills. It's that little something that stays with you, that leaves an indelible mark, where a complete stranger showed you kindness in a moment of need. If that's what it takes to be a 'hero,' then why don't more people do it?

Where are you when the person in front of you is short of change? Where are you when you see the elderly woman struggling with her bags. Where are you when you hear about a homeless feeding or a soup kitchen volunteer opportunity? That's a good question, where are you? I know the answer to this question. You're waiting for another hero to come along and do it for you.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 in jail for battling against apartheid. He spent almost three decades because he wanted to give people of all colors equal opportunity. He is considered a hero/idol because he brought the radical idea that no matter your skin color: you are equal. No matter your gender, your nationality, your creed, your race: we are all equal. Ask yourself, do you honestly practice what Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for? Do you treat anyone and everyone as an equal with each interaction? I leave the answer to you.

Why are you waiting for others to take up the arms? Why are you waiting for others to do your good deeds? You read that an environmentalist in the newspaper has devised a better method to reduce America's waste consumption, yet you decline to put the newspaper you just read in the recycle bin.

You read about how Germans ignored the Nazi's horrific regime and systematic execution of the Jews. Yet you turn a deaf ear when you hear a racist joke. Or even worse, you contribute to the same prejudice that the Nazi perpetrated.

You hear about a volunteer opportunity to help with homeless children and you reason to yourself: "well I'm just too busy, I'm sure someone else will pick it up." You're wrong. It's your responsibility as a human, ethical human being to help.

You see someone drop their papers/change/books and you don't stop to help. In doing that, you contribute to a person's humiliation and helplessness. Does that sound ethical? Does that sound right? Or are you just waiting for a 'hero' to come along and help that person?

We all have the equal opportunity to be a hero. By looking past gender, skin color, or nationality, you are being a hero. By offering a helping hand to another in a time of their need. Or just a single friendly hand for no particular reason, you are defying every single boundary that society and human nature by default has placed on you. So many people talk about the decline of Western civilization, and we're all looking for a savior, a hero. What we fail to realize is that we are the heroes. We just simply have not yet picked up our capes and jumped off the ledge.

In writing this, I have come to a conclusion. The reason we have such select few people that we consider 'heroes' is because we are all too afraid, too self centered in our own miserable existence with no intention of improving it, to be on the same level as them. It is those few, select heroes (note I took the quotations out of that) that have the pure strength and bravery to do something tremendously good. And they have the same circulatory system, arms, legs and brain that every single one of us do. They are as human as any of us.

We are all equal.

Where are you?

"Kill your idols become your own."

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