June 4, 2015

What is Courage, What is a Hero?

If you've had a television or radio on in the past few days, you probably know that Bruce Jenner has decided that he is now a woman, blah blah blah.

Some people (not me, but some) are calling this "courageous" and "heroic" and what not.

Others, predictably, are bringing out the "But here's a wounded soldier... That's a real hero" line.

Now, what follows might piss you off, and if so, then that's your right.

I've got a great deal of respect and admiration for our men and women in uniform, fighting in combat to protect our freedoms, provide freedom for others, help in disaster relief around the world, etc.

But I don't necessarily think they meet MY definition of hero, and here's why:

They signed up for it.  They chose it.  They knew what they were getting into when they joined.  And let's be honest: Anyone who joined the military after, say, Septermber 12th, 2001, had to know what was coming.

That doesn't make them less admirable or worthy of our respect, but I don't know if it rises to "hero" status.

Who, then, meets the criteria?  Well, let's talk about that.

That single mom, raising two kids alone because she finally had enough of her ex-husband's drunken rage and violence and cut out with $50 in her pocket and two weeks to payday?  

The guy who, having never had more than a high school education, picks up a second job and works 14+ hours a day to make sure his wife and kids don't have to skip a meal?

A bystander who runs toward a burning car to pull out a family of total strangers before the car fire engulfs them?

The college kid delivering pizzas and barely making ends meet who still finds time and money to work at an animal rescue for stray dogs?

A middle-age couple, childless their whole life because of fertility issues, that decides to adopt an orphan, raise that kid as their own, provide a home and love and an education?

These, readers, are worthy of the title.  They are ordinary folk, going out of their way to do something extra-ordinary for another, without thought or want of reward or recognition.

They are the heroes.  Not an attention-monger who hasn't done anything since the 1976 Olympics.


juvat said...

Ok, I'll give it a shot.

First, I agree, being in the military doesn't make you a hero. Getting wounded in the military doesn't make you a hero. What makes you a hero are the actions you take when faced with a difficult situation. Do you sit in your hospital bed and vegetate, or do you put maximum effort into your physical therapy, driving yourself to recover as much of your abilities as is humanly possible and then using your recovery to inspire others in similar situations.

Getting killed while in the military doesn't make you a hero. Getting killed after running to the sound of the gunfire to try to protect your comrades from a terrorist attack probably counts as heroic.

Your civilian examples fit my model also. Life is chock full of times when the only options are bad and worse. Taking action based on your beliefs, following through with maximum effort and having the beneficiary of your actions be someone besides yourself are the hallmarks of heroes.

That's my $.02, YMMV

Jeff B said...

That's exactly what I was getting at.

Old NFO said...

+1 on Juvat... NOTHING heroic about Jenner...