Do people still have heroes? And I do not mean comic superheroes, those tiny-waisted muscle men and women who have remarkably similar histories of tragedy, misunderstanding, and injustice and similarly remarkable and predictable current obsessions and similarly pyrotechnic, technicolour battles against villainy. Sorry (not sorry), I supposed you’ve guessed by now that I’m not a fan.
Perhaps superheroes are popular because there are so few real human heroes in our midst. Remember when politicians like John F. Kennedy or Nelson Mandela or Tommy Douglas or Lester Pearson or Winston Churchill or Ghandi innovated and inspired? How about Neil Armstrong and the other astronauts, and those who devote their heart and soul to a pursuit despite tremendous obstacles, like Jackie Robinson or Jesse Owens, Terry Fox, Martin Luther King Jr., Oskar Schindler, Rosa Parks or Harriet Tubman? What happened to the kind of courage that left us breathless?
There are many unsung heroes, of course: Many of the “greatest generation” who endured the Great Depression and World War II, doing their duty with honour and without complaint even in the darkest of times. There are people who quietly and selflessly dedicate their lives to caring for the less fortunate, people who protest and even vote under dangerous circumstances, people who commit invisible yet meaningful heroic acts in their daily lives, like standing up to a bully or speaking up for the marginalized.
I think current political systems that value money, possessions, and personal power above all else create a wasteland in which it is hard for heroes to act or, when they do, to be recognized. Adversity is often a breeding ground for heroes, but the adversity most of us face today is dulled by distractions, drugs, ignorance, or hopelessness. In this atmosphere true heroes are desperately needed— who will step up?
On a lighter note and related to today’s prompt, “hero”, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons?
Peace and love,