Once upon a time we were allowed to have heroes. Men and women capable of performing extra-ordinary feats. Discover new lands or new peoples, new science, new art, stand up to tyranny. Many in the past have risen to legendary status. But in the process of creating a hero we neglect the simple fact that ALL these individuals are, at heart, still only people. As ordinary people they are subject to all the same faults, sins of omission and commission, that the rest of us are. Nobody is perfect, nobody is without sin. We hold that as a basic truth and you reading this certainly know that if you look within yourself with honesty that this observation is true.
During the 20th Century the man pictured in this blog, Sir Winston Churchill, was considered one of the most influential and powerful heroes of the age. He is generally credited with keeping the United Kingdom in the war when all else was lost to the NAZIs. His patience and steadfastness kept that island nation in things long enough for the US to enter into the conflict and bring an end to plans for global domination by an implacable enemy. Yet he was just a man, he smoked and drank, was a mediocre student and had to wear special dentures to correct a lateral lisp. He was, and remains, the most important Briton by public acclimation. When histories of great men are written we eliminate or gloss over the negatives and highlight and emphasize the positives.
The Rev. Martin Luther King was a known womanizer but is honored today with a holiday, speeches of remembrance and has even been on US postage stamps. About heroes of the past even less is known of their negative aspects . . . if any are known at all.
Now the era of the internet allows us to create history, even rewrite history on the run. I watch as heroes are taken to task via Twitter and Facebook even as thugs are turned into heroes by whitewash and outright lies in order to further a political agenda. It is now, for some reason that I am incapable of understanding, permissible to allow a person or persons to accuse someone publicly for a crime that happened so long in the past that no evidence of wrongdoing can ever be presented beyond the word of the accuser. However, since the accused is a public figure we must accept that these accusations MUST be true. We are now allowed, even coerced, into making judgments about past heroes based on values of today or, even worse, science of today that didn’t exist at the time. We are expected to overlook the sins of the loser while enhancing the sin of the winner. In this environment is it any wonder that few are any longer willing to stick their neck out for others? Being a hero today is almost a sure ticket to public humiliation just as being a hero of yesterday has turned the dead into a viable target incapable of even the most basic of self-defenses.
Yes, once upon a time we had heroes. People so special that they became more fictional representations of themselves. But these people were used to teach and educate the current generations about what could be and was good about being human. By taking away the hero we are left with a legacy of bitterness at just how awful being a human truly is. We are a cancer upon our world and it would be so much better if we would simply die out and leave the world in blessed peace. Somehow I don’t actually think that is the case.
In the interim we still have Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all the other incorruptible fictional heroes . . . or do we? Last time I checked it is now fashionable to create negative back stories for the purely fictional too.
The “Age of Heroes” is past. How sad.