Heroes Are Good Despite Their Bad    -   October 24, 2020

What’s In a Hero – and Not

Heroes are not self made.  They’re created and idealized by the person or group that reveres them – family, organization, nation, etc.  They’re mostly ‘good’ because their ‘evil’ is stripped away.  And they’re reminders of virtues that are important to the person or group.

Each person is a mixture of good and evil, yet each has potential to become a hero.  Some actually seek to become heroes.  Many more become heroes at some level without seeking it.  But the making of a cultural hero is the same for all – they do something that a group considers to be positive and extraordinary, the group creates a narrative of the person and feat, and the group embellishes that narrative into almost mythical proportions.  An important part of the hero-making process is the submerging of personal attributes that do not support the hero myth.

It takes little more than cursory examination to see that this process holds true for heroes at all levels – parents and relatives, teachers and coaches, soldiers and astronauts, sports and theatrical figures, founders and explorers, cowboys and gunfighters, and more … even some fictional characters.

Like all people, American heroes of all stripes are mixtures of good and evil.  And yet, we’ve made them into constant reminders of virtues that define who we think we are and who we want to be.  Their efficacy does not require the absence of negative attributes, only that we remember and revere the positive; the message is clearest when the evils are submerged.  That doesn’t mean we deny the negatives, only that we do not allow them to diminish the positives.

Some people seek to cancel American heroes.  They focus entirely on attributes deemed negative by contemporary standards and deny or ignore the virtues these heroes represent.  What could be their motive?  Do they reject the virtues as wrong for our time?  Do they believe the virtues are less positive because the heroes lived them imperfectly?  Or do they have a different agenda?  Do they see the virtues and values represented by American heroes as impediments to a different concept of a future America?

We need to maintain our heroes and not let their weaknesses detract from the virtues they represent.  We must insist they continue to be significant in our culture and in our classrooms.  We must not let a cancel culture destroy our heritage.

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