I know it’s been years, probably decades, but just when did American culture devolve to the point where merely calling 911 makes you a hero?*
I used to think a “hero” was the person who went far above duty, above what one would expect of a really good person, at great risk to his self and probably life, to do the right thing.
A member of the military? Definitely not a hero just for being a soldier/sailor/airman/marine. Tell me what he did that went beyond duty. (Note: serving well is not sufficient; competence does not equal heroism; it’s the extraordinary thing you do with that competence.)
A cop on the beat? Not a hero; he’s paid to be on the beat. Well paid these days. Might the cop also do something heroic? Maybe; but so might you at work at your white collar job.
A fireman fighting a raging fire? Again that’s what we expect him to do; it’s his job. Now, if he races into a collapsing building to rescue a kid from otherwise certain death: hero.
A bus driver calling the cops for something wrong on his bus? Not a hero. Possibly even a coward, since he just wanted someone else to deal with it.
So threshold for “hero” has gotten pretty low.
And heroism’s range has become narrow. Once upon a time, if a man were out walking for exercise and encountered another guy beating up a helpless woman, it would have been no more than common decency — the everyday right thing to do — to try to stop the beating. Some years ago, I encountered just that situation. I didn’t simply rush in and punch out the goon; for all I knew, the woman might have started it and I just happened to see the man’s defensive response.
But I did approach, watching as I did, listening. I saw and heard enough to convince me that this was just a guy beating up his girlfriend because she hadn’t been complacent/compliant enough. So I yelled as I came closer, “Hey! Miss, do you need help?”
That distracted the thug, and the woman broke and ran. The guy looked at me, then ran the other way. That’s it; nothing more. End of story. Nothing heroic. Normal, everyday, common decency: offer assistance, if needed. Once upon a time.
For doing nothing more than yelling out an offer of help, I’ve been called a wanna-be superhero, a vigilante, a nut trying to be Charles Bronson.**
Doing one’s job and dialing a phone is heroic. Offering help is delusional, crazy. When did that happen?
Of course, I know how it happened: Years of public indoctrination day camp teaching to respect authority/don’t get involved/let the police handle it/people shouldn’t be capable of doing for themselves/you’re helpless sheep who must be cared for by the gov-approved-and-employed shepherds. All the better to control us.
So that’s why it happened. But why did “we” let it happen? Why and when did enough useless, helpless, frightened panty-pissers decide they’d rather be controlled than decent?
* I’ve called 911 exactly once in my life. That was just to cover my ass because I dealing with a known mentally deranged woman with a history of filing false reports on… everyone (and yes, the lunatic did file a report on me, claiming I was kidnapping little boys and hiding them in my tiny efficiency apartment; that’s what she usually reported on people according the officers that responded). It’s a medium-long story, and I’m morally certain that she killed her own child at some time in the past).
** Dear Bog, if you think that’s bad, you should see some of things I’ve been called when they learn that I actually fended off three mugging attempts. With an evil gun!