Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our Heroes

By William G. Muir


The topic of heroes has been on my mind of late. Maybe this has to do with the fact that the anniversary of 9/11 has just passed. A sad reminder of all those that risked their lives, even gave their lives, on that tragic day. It could be because the Olympics took place this year, and the world turned into see these young men and women realize their life's dream. Could be that this is an election year and the Party Conventions took place recently; that meant people who had worked their whole lives for the public good were paraded before us on a nightly basis. Or it could be that my alma mater, Charlestown High School, crushed their opponents at last nights homecoming football game.

But what is a hero? According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a hero is an object of extreme admiration, devotion: idol. So that is that is how they define a hero. But how does the public-at-large define a hero? How does the average Joe or Jill define a hero? How is that I define a hero? What is it that makes someone a hero?

To me there are at least three different types of heroes. The first would be those that sacrifices their lives for others. These would be soldiers, firefighters and the police for example. They put their lives on the line for people they will never know or ever meet. There are the people that inspire us. Politicians, athletes, actors and teacher come to mind. They touch us somewhere deep down inside and inspire us to do great things as well. And then there are fictional heroes. We all know who they are. These are the individuals that we cheer for. The ones that are going to fight the dark forces and banish them from our universe. Until they show in the sequel that is.

Now these are not exclusive categories. A hero may fit into more than one of these groups. Nor are they the only categories on what a hero is. We all define a hero differently.

The problem with flesh and blood heroes is that they can let you down. How many of us have come face to face with our heroes only to discover that in person they are not who we imagined them to be? I believe this is because when we make a real life person a hero it's not really based on who they are as person. It because of something they accomplished. We only know that one aspect of who they are. This is not a window on their personality. It may not even be a peephole.

Real life heroes can let you down.

Not so with fictional heroes. Whether they be on the big screen, on a tv show or in a book, we become more invested with our fictional heroes. There is no aspect of their lives that we do not know about. We see them for who they are, warts and all. Who doesn't know that Superman was sent from his home planet of Krypton when he was just a baby because his the planet was about to be destroyed? Or that Spiderman received all his superpowers after he was bit by a radioactive spider. Or that the Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who stole a TARDIS and went off to see the universe.

What I am trying to say is that we rarely, if ever, are disappointed in our fictional heroes. We know to much about them. There is no hidden dark side to their character. Cause if there was it most definitely would have been used as an angle for a story somewhere along the way. Nothing, I mean nothing, is ever mysterious about the mysterious stranger. There can't be, the writer has to clue you in on who is, so that you have a vested interest in him.

So I think it is fair to say the only heroes that will never let us down are those that are not real, and those that have passed away before we ever got a chance to personally know them. The rest are likely to break our hearts one day.  

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